An Exercise with Exercise Machinery

Dual Exercise Bike Elliptical Trainer
Dual Exercise Bike Elliptical Trainer

Seven years ago, Winnie and I invested wisely in an indoor exercise machine. By then we had lived in this semi-Northern climate, with four distinct seasons, long enough to learn we did very little physical activity during winter months. So, we thought that having an exercise machine would give us the option to stay physically fit.

Over the years since, our machine has been helpfully parked in our basement den, readily available whenever either of us get the urge to use it. However, a couple of weeks ago our exercise machine suddenly stopped working, and getting it repaired has been a different kind of exercise.

The History

We purchased a no-name-brand elliptical-style machine, advertised as a “dual trainer exercise bike or elliptical cardio machine.” However, this machine has had more use as an auxiliary laundry rack than for exercising. During this past year’s pandemic stay-at-home I’ve made an effort to use it on a regular basis. With the lack of commuting, and not performing much other physical exertion, I’ve ended up using the machine on average three out of every four weeks this past year.

The Breakdown

So all was well until two weeks ago. On this red-letter day I was happily pedaling away on our exercise machine while watching a movie when suddenly, there was no tension on the machine’s treadles. I instinctively knew that wasn’t right. So, I did the only thing possible under the circumstances; I got off, moved to the couch, and watched the rest of the movie.

Once the movie was over I started troubleshooting the exercise machine. I still had the owner’s manual and even the special tool set that came with the machine. The manual included some helpful troubleshooting, but there was nothing about “no tension on the treadles.”

I was pretty sure a belt had broken inside the body of the machine marked “not user serviceable.” So, I took the machine apart and sure enough, inside the body there was a broken belt. There was a part number written on the belt, “370J 2F,” leading me to believe this would be an easy repair job.

Dual Trainer Exercise Machine Taken Apart

Phase One Repair

I quickly located a belt with matching part number on and placed an order. The belt arrived several days later, and several days after that I continued my repair. I took apart a few more not-user-serviceable components and happily hooked on the belt, only to discover it was too small.

I did some more parts research and determined the “370” in the part number was belt length. After some online discussions with belt companies I decided to buy a belt one size larger. I also purchased a belt two sizes larger, reasoning there was safety in numbers and I could return the unused belt. Once again I placed an order through, and within a few days the two items arrived.

Phase Two Repair

This morning was rainy and dreary, meaning Winnie and I weren’t going anywhere. I still had the disassembled exercise machine sitting in the middle of our den, and new belts, so I decided today was a good day to try again. This time Winnie decided I needed some technical support and supervision.

I tried fitting the smaller of the two belts and it seemed a bit too small. I next tried the larger belt, and this was obviously too large. Winnie provided some sound technical insight by advising me that bicycle chains needed to be tight because she learned that back in China with her bicycle. With her helpful suggestion I put the smaller of the two belts back on. After a bit of trial and error I correctly aligned it between the two pulleys, and figured out how to tighten it.

I discovered that if the belt was too loose the treadles tended to “bounce,” so I kept tightening until the treadle motion felt right. Then Winnie and I spent about an hour testing the machine’s tensioner. This exercise machine has programmable exercise patterns which increase and decrease treadle tension. In the process of replacing the belt, I had unknowingly dissembled the tensioning unit.

We figured it out and with the help of some duct tape got the tensioning unit working more-or-less correctly. Test complete, I buttoned up the body of the machine and put everything back together. I ended up with no extra parts, and did use duct tape, so I think this came out a fairly good repair.

Now I need to pop in another movie while I exercise.

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