Upgraded Treadmill Desk

Treadmill desk made with $600 treadmill, $150 Ergotron LCD arm, and $30 worth of wire shelving. Prominently featured is my coffee mug from the Atomic Testing Museum.

Upgraded treadmill desk with coffee mug from the Atomic Testing Museum.

My treadmill desk has been such a success, I decided it was time for an upgrade. I put my little netbook spare back into mothballs and bought a Dell Inspirion 2020 all-in-one desktop ($400 at Best Buy). I outfitted this with a wireless mouse, a Microsoft Arc ergonomic keyboard, and a Logictech touchpad T650.

Then the fun began.

My improvised wire rack desk has worked well, but I knew it couldn’t stand up to the additional weight (It did, barely, but with a slightly scary wobble). So I ordered an Ergotron LX desk mount LCD arm. This is a well-made monitor arm, but left me with two problems: 1) how to mount it to my treadmill, and 2) how to mount my non-VESA monitor to it.

The Ergotron arm is designed to mount to a desk, either by clamping to the edge or bolting through a hole. The mounting hardware is extremely well made and could easily have been adapted to bolt onto one arm of the treadmill, but this would have eaten up four inches of usable space.

Instead, I needed to mount the arm’s riser to the treadmill’s handle grip, really a steel crossbar that stiffens the frame and has no other function but to hold two palm grip pulse sensors that I never use.

Rota-Lock perpendicular clamp.

Rota-Lock perpendicular clamp.

Rota-Lock makes a clever, $15 pipe clamp used to form perpendicular joints in scaffolding and light bar rigging for theatrical work. A continuous loop of heavy steel rod is bent and bent again to form perpendicularly opposing saddles. A forged seat rests between the pipes to be joined and is cranked down with a locking bolt until it forces the pipes apart–firmly locking them between its own recesses and the outer saddle. Because the 35mm riser and the treadmill handle are both a bit smaller than the smallest Rota-Lock is designed for, I left the plastic palm sensor in place and fit the riser with the rubber sleeve from a $3 plumbing pipe repair clamp. I also replaced the clamp’s locking bolt with a slightly longer one from the hardware store, just to give it a little more travel.

Pictured here (right), the black, Ergotron riser stands vertically in front of the horizontal treadmill grip. The locking bolt is on the left and can just be seen digging through the plastic of the handle sensor. This installation is not good for the 1,800 pound foot rating of the clamp, but should have more than adequate safety margins for my 20 pound computer. Anyway, it seems rock solid. Edit: Clamp has remained rock solid for over 3 years, with one removal and reinstallation for treadmill maintenance.

VESA Plate modified to fit Dell Inspirion mount.

VESA Plate modified to fit Dell Inspirion mount.

At the other end of the arm, problem #2 was easily solved. The Dell computer stand bolts on with an odd but heavy-duty steel plate that clips in such that the weight of the monitor tends to lock it in place. The Ergotron arm is pre-drilled to fit a standard VESA mount–that is, four bolts at the corners of either a 75mm or 100mm square. The VESA plate is sturdy enough, I simply drilled new holes to accommodate machine screws passing through the VESA plate (shown), through the Dell mounting plate (click to enlarge) and into the computer. Slightly longer metric machine screws (shown in top two holes) ensure that the mount will hold. Edit: Mount has remained trouble-free for over three years.

This only left me with the work surface to settle. The open wire shelving has its advantages, but it really isn’t a very good work surface. While testing out the new system, I found a handy scrap of 1/4″ plywood just the right width to fit the wire shelving. This was actually left over packaging from the treadmill, but was perfect for completing my desktop. The table saw cut it to length and nibbled away the recesses needed for the upper shelf to lock into the base shelf. A little sandpaper and spray varnish and voila!

Click to enlarge work surface detail

Work Surface

Click to enlarge Ergotron arm detail

Work Surface

Finished Treadmill Desk

Finished Treadmill Desk

The result is strong and sturdy and doesn’t shake at all. I can type at a comfortable level, swap out the keyboard for a laptop if needed, and even keep my coffee within reach. What’s not to love? So far, using this treadmill desk a few hours a week and using MyFitnessPal to track my calories, I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds.

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