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My Exercise Wheel

Exercise Bike/Spinning Wheel
Exercise Bike/Spinning Wheel

So here is my exercise wheel:

You saw it before in my video on YouTube. I took it apart and reconfigured it using better wood for the base. In addition, I painted the base and finished the wood to resemble an antique sewing machine. The motifs are patterns I learned from Totally Tangled by Sandy Steen Bartholomew. I used Jacki and Laydee for the vines. I love Zentangles and this is one of the best books.

The main reason I took the bike apart is so I could take photos of the process for this blog. So I guess it is on with the show!

The Pieces and Parts

So you want to make a wheel from your exercise bike. Here is a list of things you will need.

  • An Exercise Bike - No, really. You do need one of those. Specifically, you need an older one with a bike wheel in the front with a tire. Most exercise bikes today have an encased fan instead of a wheel. You can find old stationery bikes on Craigslist cheap.

  • Spinning Wheel Parts - I was lucky. I have owned an Ashford Traditional Spinning wheel for years. My awesome husband, knowing I liked to spin fine yarns, gave me a Lace Flyer for Christmas the year they came out. I replaced the pieces and save the old ones in case I built my exercise wheel. You may find an antique that is in pieces and you can salvage from that. You, however, may not be so fortunate and will have to buy the parts.

  • Ashford Standard Flyer Unit, Single Drive - Make your life easy and get this. It would have made what I did a heck of a lot easier. Everything is pre-measured and drilled. this unit contains a flyer, maidens, base for the maidens, brake band and knob.

  • Ashford Standard Bobbins for the Traditional - buy at least three.

Base & Hardware

  • Inkeeper plaques from my local craft store. One was 9" x 19", and the other was 6" x 13". If you buy the unit above, you will not need the smaller base. I needed both.

  • Hinges (2) - you will need to hinge the top base to the bottom base.

  • Drawer pull (if you did not buy the flyer unit)

  • Cup Hooks or eye hooks (if you did not buy the flyer unit)

  • Dowels - here you have to measure. Remove the handlebars from the bike and measure their diameter. You will want dowels to the same size to replace the handle bars and to give the flyer unit a base to mount it. In addition, a 1/4" dowel for the pulleys and for the brake if you did not purchase the flyer unit.

  • Screws - use the ones from the jar that you have been storing all the ones you find around the house.

  • Flanges (2) - I used these to prevent the wood from snagging the drive band

  • Sava CBL-990 Steel Pulley Wheel For cable size to 3/16, Bore (A)=1/4 Diameter - You will need 2. I searched long and hard for a ball bearing pulley and this was the best I found.


  • Measuring Tape - the most important tool of all. Measure twice, drill once!!

  • Power DrillDrill bits - one needs to be the diameter of the dowel above (mine was 1"). I also needed a drill bit to match the screws of the hinges, the cup hooks, and bottoms of the maidens (5/8"). 1/4" drill bit that can drill metal is essential.

  • Screwdrivers - flat and phillips

  • Hammer

  • Wine - for celebrating your success or easing your frustration.

The Flyer Unit

If you bought the flyer unit, finish the wood and put it together and go to the next page. If you didn't, this is what you have to do:

Cut off the tire.

Take the handlebars off the bike. Put in your large dowel rods as far as they will go. Then, measure an inch from the top of the bike tubes. Take the dowels out and saw them at the mark you just made. Put the dowels back into the bike tubes. You want the dowels to be level so you may have to hammer them down a bit.

Mark the centers of the dowels above and drill pilot holes. Measure the distance between the pilot holes.

On the back of the large wood base, mark the distance between the pilot holes. Drill, using the largest bit halfway though the wood. Use a small bit to drill though the center of the hole you made all the way through the wood.

Set aside the bottom base for now. You will need the maidens, flyer and top base. Put the flyer on the maidens. Measure the distance between the centers of the bottoms of the maidens. For me, it was 8-5/8". When you are absolutely sure you have the right measurement, drill 5/8" holes along the center of the sign.

Note: the top base was thinner than the peg on the bottoms of the maidens. My husband took an antique thread spool, drilled a 5/8" hole through the spool and cut it in half. That allowed extra depth.

Cut the head off the screw that came with your drawer pull with a hacksaw. Wet the inside of the drawer pull, shake it out, and put in a few drops of Gorilla Glue. Screw the drawer pull and screw together and let dry. This will be your tension knob.

Screw the maidens into the base and put in the flyer with a bobbin.

Tale a level or straight edge and mark where the groove in the back of the bobbin would hit the base on each side of the bobbin. Drill an 1/8" pilot hole for the cup hooks. Mark on the right side a point about an inch back from the from maiden parallel to the right cup hook. Drill a 1/4" hole. Cut a 1/4" dowel 2-1/2" long and drill a 1/16" hole through one end. This is your brake band path. Thread a non-stretchy yarn (I like seine twine for this) though the hole in the dowel and tie it. Tie the other end to a small spring or a covered ponytail elastic. Put the elastic on the cup hook on the left side, take the yarn across the back grove of the bobbin, pull the yarn through the cup hook on the right side, and insert the dowel into the hole. Twist the dowel to take up any slack. This is your brake band.

Mark a point on the right side about halfway between the cup hook and the brake dowel. Depending on the width of the base, this point can be in front or behind the brake band. Drill a hole to match the size of the screw that goes with the drawer pull. Screw in the tension knob. Take the flyer unit off the top base.

Putting the Bases Together

Put the top base with the flyer unit on top of the bottom base and center it. Mark the bottom base and the left side (the thin part) of the top base for hinge placement. Drill the top and bottom base and screw in hinges so the top of the base can open like a book.

Put the flyer assembly back on the top base and screw it in. Look at the front of the flyer unit where the flyer meets the front maiden. Mark on the bottom base parallel to one of the whorls, about 1" from the outside edge of the bottom base on each side. Drill a hole to match your flange size.

On the right side of the bottom base, on the side, drill a 1/8" pilot hole towards the front for a cup hook (to hold your threading hook).

Now take the whole thing apart. Sand and finish all of the wood. I suggest using Danish Oil or a good quality polyurethane. Take a few days to get it right.

If you notice, on the bottom base, I wrote the typical yarn sizes and their wraps per inch. If you decide to do the same, stain the wood first, write on the wood (I used a Micron Pigma Black Marker size 01), then use the polyurethane.

Put the whole unit back together. 

Final Assembly

Take the flyer unit on its bases over to the bike. Put the bottom base onto the dowels. Screw the bottom base onto the dowels.

On the main part of the bike, behind the tension knob on the frame, drill a 1/4" hole all the way through the frame. I suggest taking a large nail and a hammer to mark where the hole is supposed to be. Otherwise, the drill cannot get a good surface to drill and it will skitter across the round surface.

Take one of the pulleys and insert the 1/4" dowel cut to about 6" in length. Thread the dowel through the hole in the bike. Put the other pulley on the other side. You may have to pound the pulleys a bit on the dowel to get them close to the bike frame.

Take some good twine or cotton yarn and thread up through the flange on the left side over the flyer, down the flange on the right side, behind the pulley, through the front of the wheel, around to the back of the wheel, behind the left pulley and up through the left flange again. Tie it really tight. You may have to adjust the tension drawer pull to increase the tension. If the drive band tends to fall off the pulleys, pound the pulleys closer to the wheel. It will likely take some fiddling to get the drive band to catch and start turning the flyer. But once it does, you will be on your way to making yarn!

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