Hands-on: Cubii Jr. Desk Elliptical overview

As someone who is constantly sitting at a computer desk during an eight-hour day job and then several more hours at home freelancing, I’m always looking for ways to multitask. Since I’ve been reading about how sitting is the new smoking lately, I’ve considered combining exercise with desk work. Recently, I’ve been using the Cubii Jr., which is an elliptical machine that’s meant for under-desk use. After several weeks, I’m not convinced that it’s the right solution for me, but I can see its benefits, like keeping blood flowing through the legs all day.

The Cubii Jr. is not a compact machine and will not go unnoticed under your desk at work unless you have a private office or cubicle. The equipment measures roughly two-feet deep when oriented for use, so you’ll need a deep desk or a keyboard tray that extends out if you plan on getting work done. Fortunately, the Cubii Jr. features a low profile relative to other under-desk pedal machines, which allows for less knee bumps into the underside of the desk. The machine is colored matte black with teal highlights and is constructed with a metal base, rubber feet and grips, and a plastic housing for the internals and the pedals.

Eight resistance levels are available, and resistance is controlled by a knob at the front of the machine. There’s also a plastic monitor that provides basic information, like number of strides, RPMs, time, and calories burned. The small LCD display only shows two rows of numbers, so the user can decide what metric to display by pressing a single silver button until the desired metric is selected.

Quality and Design

Despite the abundance of plastic, the Cubii Jr. does not feel cheap. In fact, its quality relative to expectations is surprising. All of the parts that are meant to take punishment, like the pedals and base, all feel sturdy and look like they use durable material. This is probably why the machine feels so heavy. Picking it up by its convenient handle situated in the center of the machine will remind of a 40-lb. dumbbell. Once it’s placed beneath a desk, it’s unlikely that it will move. Generous rubber feet provide plenty of friction to keep the Cubii Jr. from sliding around on low-profile office carpet as well as help protect hardwood floors. Users will definitely feel like they purchased exercise equipment and not just a gimmick.

Smart design touches throughout show that thought and care were put into the Cubii Jr. For instance, the rubber grips in the center of the generous pedals aren’t simply slapped on top, waiting for an errant shoe to catch on its side and rip it up. Instead, the designers molded a recess to accommodate the rubber, giving the grip just a little more longevity. A raised lip around the toe and heel of each pedal also ensure proper footing even when shoes break friction with the grips. The only design criticism I have is the teal accents. I’d rather have something more understated, like grey or no accents at all. I want the machine to draw as little attention to itself as possible.

Performance

The Cubii Jr. is whisper-quiet, and its motion is smooth and fluid. Its low-profile design functions as intended, and my desk never interfered with my knees. Additionally, I have a special setup at home that allows me to mount my keyboard to my chair directly over my lap, and the Cubii Jr. still didn’t direct my legs into any furniture.

Nevertheless, I did have some difficulties using the Cubii Jr. Using a five-spoke computer chair that rolls, one of the pedals did occasionally hit my chair while pedaling. Additionally, sitting in a chair with wheels while using the Cubii Jr. on hardwood floors would consistently cause the chair to shift out of place, forcing me to reposition every so often. This experience happened less at the office and was further reduced at the lowest resistance, so your mileage may vary. The Cubii Jr. also comes with wheel stoppers to further reduce the slipping issue.

Since the rotation mechanism is situated toward the back of the device where the user’s toes would be, the motion is mostly constricted to the calves and the feet. The experience takes a little getting used to, but, like all workout equipment, a few repetitions will get your body into form. After using it for 30-minute sessions throughout the workday with hour breaks in between, I could feel the fatigue in my legs and my heartrate elevated. I didn’t build up a sweat, but I’m assuming this device wasn’t intended to do that.

My biggest complaint has less to do with the Cubii Jr. and more to do with office “workout” equipment. Any real exercise requires some focus on the movements. However, the Cubii Jr. and similar equipment are intended to be used when your focus is elsewhere. Thus, I would find myself pedaling slower when I was drafting marketing copy. There were moments when I would pedal incorrectly, missing the rhythm because I was focused on work, which would send my chair out of position. As a result, I could feel my productivity suffering. Ultimately, I found the Cubii Jr. worked best when I was consuming information, like reading an email or watching a video, rather than when creating content. In fact, I enjoyed using the Cubii Jr. the most while sitting on the couch, watching television.

I have a standing desk at work, so I already get much of the health benefits that the Cubii Jr. ostensibly offers. For everyone else with a stationary desk, the Cubii Jr. is an elegant and robust solution for workplace health – provided you have the room underneath your desk.

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