2016 Good Design Award Winner: Cubii Is Not A Hunk of Junk

One thing that stands out when you first see Cubii is its sleek design. From the beginning, we did not want to design a product that looks clunky sitting in your office or home or that would be covered in laundry. Hence, we placed an emphasis on designing a compact and beautiful product that fits with the interiors of your space. For us, it’s not just about a good product, but the entire experience that comes with it that helps keep people motivated to stay active.

Because of this commitment to superior design, we are excited to announce Cubii is a 2016 Good Design Winner in the Sports and Recreation category. The Good Design Award is the most prestigious design award in the world. It “honors yearly achievements of the best industrial and graphic designers and world manufacturers for their pursuit of extraordinary design excellence.”

*the following is a sponsored review originally published in a Design Milknewsletter. Design Milk is a premier online magazine dedicated to modern design and sharing what’s new in art, architecture, interior design, furniture and decor, fashion and technology.*

It began with a text message.

“Hey, would you be interested in a participating in a competition from home?”

Two weeks later – challenge accepted – Design Milk founder Jaime Derringer and I embarked upon a friendly week long contest, pitting our typically desk-bound behinds against one another with a Cubii Under Desk Elliptical as our stationary steeds in the spirit of competition and a shared desire to sneak in more exercise throughout the day.

Jaime and I conducted our first interview/meeting years ago with a trail run together along the San Diego coast, so it was safe to assume we’d share an interest in the promise of integrating physical activity throughout the day with the freedom to simultaneously answer emails, write posts, and conduct an occasional phone call without ever leaving our desk…sort of a productive, exercise-friendly version of desk-bound Homer Simpson. Both of us tend to log long hours behind a computer, thus the opportunity to negate some of the effects of being seated all day was a welcome proposition.

Jaime is a regular runner, more than capable of a respectable pace. I run irregularly – in schedule, not form – but I maintain the semblance of fitness lifting kettlebells and jumping rope to offset a disrespectable addiction to sweets. Tell either of us we can work and workout and you’ve got our busy all day, every day, multi-tasking attention. We agreed we would attempt to integrate the Cubii into our daily Design Milk workflow however we saw fit, creating our own private “Design Milk Challenge” group using the Cubii app to keep tabs on our efforts.

I decided from the onset I wasn’t going to attempt to work and pedal at the same time all day, recognizing writing requires my full attention…even my languid pedal-pushing extremities. Instead, I adopted the habit of pedaling any time I wasn’t writing.

Phone call: pedaling. Answering emails: pedaling. Browsing online: pedaling. Texting smack talk to Jaime: pedaling.

The Cubii proved easy and effective to use in this fashion. I’d liken the satisfyingly smooth motion closer to that of an elliptical machine than a stationary bike; each revolution is a compact and controlled arc, eliminating the exaggerated circular motion that results in the percussion of knees hitting the desk. Because of the fairly compact rotational travel of the pedals, it requires more time than expected to complete a mile’s distance; I abandoned watching the progress screen continually, instead focusing on my breathing and the repetitive sound of my motion resulting for more satisfying results. Thankfully, the Cubii is pleasantly quiet mechanically, producing a constant low volume white noise whoosh with every pedal that tended to put me into a mindful state of pedaling in place – quiet enough to use while conversing over the phone at moderate pace.

From a design standpoint, like-minded aesthetes will likely share an appreciation for the machine’s faculty to disappear from sight while under a desk; the sleek, almost all-black design offers a fairly inconspicuous presence in the shadows even in my small home office (squint hard enough and you might see a passing resemblance to the front end of a TRON lightcycle in its black and red iteration), appeasing a preference for exercise equipment to be best used, but rarely seen.

A handle adorning the top of the Cubii makes it fairly easy to carry the unit from room to room, though at 27 lbs its best moved only for short distances. That heft serves a purpose though, keeping the Cubii in place while in use; it also communicates a confident build that promises thousands of miles of use instead of the “as seen on TV” quality some might expect from portable exercise devices. The unit ships almost completely pre-assembled, only requiring the attachment of two pedals – assuring owners they won’t have to deal with IKEA-like assembly mishaps.

But back to our Design Milk competition: It didn’t take too long for our competitive natures to reveal themselves. I logged a measly 150 calories worth of pedaling on my first day, Jaime even less. By the third day I tallied a more respectable 330 calories in total, becoming quickly comfortable with the Cubii’s quiet elliptical motion, and stitching together those odds and ends during the day when my brain wasn’t taxed to balance motion with memory.

With the resistance dial set to mid-difficulty, 15-20 minutes “rides” from my desk proved the most beneficial. Using the Cubii Bluetooth-connected iOS app all my workouts were logged automatically: calories, strides, miles, minutes – and in our competitive case – the effort of a crosstown frenemy to (obsessively) keep tabs on. It is this social aspect of the Cubii experience that offers the potential to motivate users to use the machine consistently. I know it did for me.

Every morning I’d log onto the Cubii app to check upon Jaime’s earlier efforts, providing just enough competitive motivation to stay on course with pedaling. Intent turned into action any time I saw Jaime pedal ahead. It also led to a few amusing text message exchanges as I stretched an increasingly wider lead before travel and a subsequent illness knocked me off of my routine. I ended up nearly doubling her total numbers .

The Cubii promises to address a common dilemma for anyone who works from a desk: too little time compounded by too little physical movement throughout the day. I was curious whether pedaling throughout the day would prove an epiphany or an annoyance. After trying standing desks, under-the-desk pedal cyclers, exercise chairs, and even a treadmill desk, the Cubii stands out on aesthetics, ergonomics, and app integration…definitely an epiphany and only any annoyance when I couldn’t find enough minutes in the day to match Jaime’s efforts. We’re now discussing purchasing a few more machines to send out to our other colleagues at Design Milk to join in. Conference calls will surely never be the same knowing we’re all pedaling at once.