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The Podium Trainer Desk In-Depth Review

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As trainer season is in full swing now, so are the various trainer-focused items showing up on my doorstep.  And not just trainers of course, but separate trainer accessories.  Today’s product hails from Edmonton, Alberta (Canada).  I figure if anyone is to know about spending time on trainers, it’s people from Canada.

The company – Paceline Designs – has at present precisely one product: The Podium trainer desk/stand.  This builds a bit on the dedicated trainer stand concept that Wahoo initiated last winter with the Wahoo KICKR Desk.  But Paceline Designs has taken a little bit different spin on it.  First, they’ve added in both power outlets and USB ports, and then they shrunk the footprint – appealing to folks who may not have castle-like pain caves.

They shipped one over for me to try out a few weeks ago.  Note that while normally I would send the product back to them after trial, it’ll actually cost more to ship it back than its retail value – thus they asked me not to do that.  So instead I’ll be donating it to the local tri team where they can find a lucky recipient of it.

In any case, let’s get on with things!

Video Unboxing & Overview:

This time around I decided to go with a video unboxing approach.  In part because my unboxing table (as seen here), is too small for this package.  But mostly because I was feeling in a video-mood that day.

So not only do you get the video unboxing, but also high speed assembly sections (complete with music), as well as a look at how I wired it all up and some post-rides thoughts.  It’s like a Tim Hortons combo meal, minus the Timbits.

And yes, I actually did re-box it up after I found the camera had stopped recording.  Which explains why I couldn’t figure out how a mere five pieces fit so perfectly in that box before I undid it (I would have simply reviewed the footage).  Just like having a few leftover screws after putting back together the airplane.

The Details:

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As you can see the desk is essentially two flat pieces separated by a miniature stripper pole.  The tag-line the company uses is that the entire system fits into less than two square feet of real-estate, and sure enough, it seems to.

The baseplate is fairly straightforward, though you may have noticed four inset holes on the underside, within the video.  These are for future use, similar to how the towel pegs are inset holes (not drilled all the way through).  The company recommends in their online setup instruction that if you have wood floors, to consider putting furniture pads on it to minimize scratches (to the floors, not the stand).  Also, the base has a cutout such that your front wheel isn’t sitting on the base itself.

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Next, the height of the pole is adjustable using the silver collar at the middle of the pole.  As you saw in the video – it can go crazy high.  Like high enough for someone to ride on my shoulders and they’d be using the desk.  Alternatively, it can go short enough for even The Girl’s bike.  Technically speaking, the pole puts the desk at a height from 32″ to 52″ (81cm to 132cm).

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Sitting atop the pole is the desk portion.  You’ll see that all the way around the desk is a small groove.  This is to ensure M&M’s don’t fall off the table during the rougher portions of a trainer ride.  It likely won’t prevent Timbits from spillage.

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Additionally, there is a groove cut across the center of the stand.  This is for holding phones or tablets upright.  However, I found that doesn’t actually work, at least with a naked phone/tablet.  That’s because the groove is rounded, so they just flop over (the KICKR Desk has notched grooves to prevent that).  However, in talking with the company, they did this rounded design so that it holds phones/tablets in cases (which can be more tricky on the KICKR desk depending on your specific case).  To each their own.

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The surface of the table (and associated pole) is pretty strong.  The company claims it can hold a 27” TV.  But I think that’s probably inaccurate.  My guess is that it can likely hold a 96” TV or greater.  Seriously, it’s built like a tank. Albeit, a 96” TV might be a bit awkward and tempting the fate gods that nobody knocks it over when they walk within two blocks of you.

In my case though, I just put a laptop there, since that’s what I typically use (and all my TV’s are mounted to walls).  I also put a few other random electronics there like my phone, a GoPro, headphones, and a water bottle.  I ran out of M&M’s by the time I took this photo.

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But the real selling point of the Podium desk is the power ports hidden below it.  On the underside are two 110-220v power plugs, plus two 2.1Amp USB ports.  Don’t worry, they didn’t do anything courageous and leave you only with USB-C ports, or no ports at all.

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The great thing about the 2.1A ports is that they are plenty to charge an a tablet, such as an iPad.  You could even charge both a tablet and a phone.  Or even power up my DCR Trainer Decibel Meter Stoplight on it, or heck, even your trainer itself.  Also, as noted by the voltage, the ports will work worldwide, since it’s 110/220V.  Though, it’s only North American outlets right now (but a simple $1 adapter solves that).  One minor area for improvement would be to use universal outlets, which makes the product more appealable globally.

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There’s also a bit of space in the metal piece under the desk for some moderate cable management depending on the types of cables you’re running.  In my case the laptop power adapter was too big to fit in (just barely), so I ended up Velcroing it to the side.  You’ll also have noted in the video that the power from the upper portion of the desk runs cleanly inside the stripper pole to the base area.  Nice and tidy.

Last but not least, there are two towel hooks on the front.  Though technically adding these hooks cost an extra $20.  The holes are pre-drilled.  The towel was not included, and I will not be donating my sweaty towel to the tri team either.

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So there ya have it – the desk in all of its technical detailed glory.

Wrap-Up:

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So how do I like it?  Overall, it’s pretty darn cool.  I love the power ports – especially having both physical outlet style as well as USB style (and being 2.1A). That’s cool.  So is the internal cable management from the top to the bottom of the pole, also well done.  And while the metal tube up top didn’t fit my laptop power supply (it probably would fit my travel power adapter though), it otherwise keeps cables out of the way rather nicely.

There are only two downsides that I’ve seen.  First is that groove across the center.  While I get that it’s designed for cases, I wonder how many people actually put their iPad in a case?  Phones I get, but tablets less so.  Next, as you saw in the video, it ‘carries momentum’ well.  Which is to say that if you’ve got a full water bottle on it, and bump the stand, the water bottle is going for a flight.  I did that multiple times on accident.  Obviously, the solution to that is either putting the water bottle in its appropriate water bottle cage on my bike (logical), or perhaps having a small bottle hanger off the side (less stylish).  Not a huge deal, but just a minor nit.

Of course – last but not least is the price. At $239USD, it’s pricey.  Plus, it’ll set you back another $20 for the towel pegs.  It’s in the same ballpark as the Wahoo KICKR desk (at $229USD), though with a different take.  Obviously I prefer the power enablement of the Podium desk over the Wahoo desk. I actually also like the towel pegs more on the Podium than the KICKR (just easier to hang back up mid-ride).  On the flip-side, I kinda like the larger size of the KICKR desk, as it gives me a bit more real estate for laptops, ice cream, etc… mid-ride.

None of which mean that you can’t build these yourself, or come up with cheaper alternatives.  There are plenty of suggestions in the KICKR Desk post comments section.  But it’s like many consumer goods: You can invariably Google for DIY versions of anything and save money, they just may lack the polish or purpose-focused functions of a more pricey model.  No worries, choice is good.

With that – thanks for reading!

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46 Comments

  1. Andrew

    I hate to nitpick, but Edmonton and Calgary are both cities in Alberta :). Just wondering where Paceline Designs is located.

  2. Scott Harding

    Love the Timbit reference…

  3. Robert

    The base plate is poorly designed imo because you can’t easily move it forward or backward, which is something I found myself often did. And $239 seems to be quite excessive for such a low tech gadget.

  4. Cool table, but way overpriced. There are 30 dollar tablet stands on amazon that will do the job.

  5. Kevin Rooney

    Without wheels it’s a no go… I’d be dripping all over my laptop when I get out of the seat if I didn’t have the ability to push it back. Wish the wahoo had the power option though.

  6. Alan

    Looks like a well-thought-out design and solid construction. Certainly looks more stable than the $20 music stand I use for watching a tablet. Not sure I would trust the music stand to hold my laptop without rotating, since it’s not really designed to work flat. I might take a cue from their design and strap an outlet strip to the music stand, though.

    • Dan

      I also use a music stand, a Manhasset, and I can report that with a little bit of tightening on the swivel screw, a laptop (Mac Air) sits just fine.

  7. SteelTownRunner

    Can you devote a post on your workout room/ how you stay organized?

  8. I get that the Wahoo Kickr Desk is a more substantial desk, albeit lacking some features in version 1. But this paceline desk reeks of the $30-50 desks. Now there is nothing wrong with those $30-$50 desks, I actually use one regularly and it rocks, but has pneumatic up-down, and was $50. I would not pay $250 for the same desk.

    I won’t be spammy and mention the specific product but I can’t for the life of me see why you send your readers to this desk company. I realize the margins must be fat, but why can’t you help out your readers and just point them to the less expensive alternatives? Instead of telling them to google it or look in the Kickr Desk post. Help them out, link to the post, link to the specific comments, or link to the product on Amazon. I know you have channels setup to monetize it and still make some $$$.

    Hopefully you approve of this comment and hopefully the rest of your readers do to.

    • Hi Thomas-

      I don’t actually make any money off of the Paceline Designs stand (indirectly, directly, or any other way). They don’t have any agreements with Amazon or others for resell of the product. They simply sent a unit over to check out, and I checked it out. So your comment about “margins must be fat”, seems a bit…

      I’m not ‘sending’ them to this company. I’m not sponsored, and thus I don’t much care whether people buy from them or not. I review plenty of random things simply because it’s interesting and different from just being GPS watch review. I think it’s fairly obvious from my comments the pros and cons of it. As well as my comments about alternatives. I was pretty clear where to look (comments section of the KICKR desk review, which I linked to) for numerous reader suggestions including photos, and not just force feed one option down peoples throat.

      Still, here’s a link to one of the sub-$50 bedside tables on Amazon: link to amzn.to

      Cheers.

    • Hi Thomas,

      Mike here – one half of Paceline Designs. My response is I can’t disagree – there are absolutely lower-cost (and zero-cost), functional alternatives out there. And we saw as we prototyped The Podium that for the majority of riders, those alternatives would meet their needs in terms of cost and utility.

      We went ahead anyway because we believed a niche of people might want a fixture that is purpose-built, powered, yadda yadda yadda. Not trying to redo the marketing pitch here.

      A couple months in, we can quantify from our own sales – all of which gained traction before Ray said he wanted to get a look at it – that such a niche exists.

      So while you and most folks may not be in our niche, we do have one, and we think we can serve it in parallel to the overbed desks, music stands, bar stools, and nifty DIY setups out there.

      -Mike

      ps. our product is Made in Canada at not-quite-automaker levels of economies of scale in aluminum and machining. So the margins? Not “fat.”

  9. Craig

    Do you not ride with a fan on? If so do you just put it under? My go-to is still a card table with a Surface in front and a fan behind it.

  10. Tim

    Too expensive, there is definitely a market for a decently priced laptop podium!

  11. Rod Kelly

    As always, thanks for the write up. This table review came at the right time as I have been looking for a small table while on the trainer. As many people have mentioned here that this is very expensive for a table. Do you have any recommendations for inexpensive (> $50) functional ones? I have heard about using a music stand? Thanks again, your reviews and site is awesome!

  12. Ismo

    IMO all trainer desks have the same flaw: with a desk it is not possible to set up the fan in front of the bike. A good fan is big, as wide as the handlebars, so it really needs some space. I guess the only option would be to set it below the desk, blowing up.

  13. Matt

    I just use a music stand. Not this one specifically, but identical in design.Less than $30 and works great with my laptop, towel, phone, etc.

    link to amazon.com

  14. I need this too in my office! Awesome! This’ll solve my all problems of lack of movement. Thank you for the idea!

  15. Steven Knapp

    21USD – link to ikea.com

    Add some 3M Command cable organizers…

  16. Stuart J

    My key use case for an iPad case = a wonderfully inquisitive toddler with a propensity to drop stuff. Rear side scratch vanity aside, that possibly does it.

  17. Josh

    Ray, recommendation for an iPhone 6 bike mount as Zwift works great on it with my new KICKR? For Some reason it just wasn’t smooth on my iPad.

  18. Tyler Ross

    Do you think this would work as a (small) standing desk? Looking for adjustable height for the Surface Studio.

    • That might be tough. It’d be very close to the limits for the size up top, and also I wonder if the fact that it swivels around might be problematic (meaning, it might move in circles as you tried to use the pen/etc on it).

  19. Mike Tropea

    Any recommendations for when you are in the TT position? I have a podium desk and like it but when I am in the TT position its doesn’t go low enough to view a monitor running Zwift. I also have to have one of these cheap stands to hold my laptop nearby.

    • Oddly enough, the Ikea desk may be the better answer if it’s not low enough for you. The ‘problem’ with the Ikea desk is that it doesn’t go very high for everyone else, but may actually work in this case.

  20. Jon

    Great timing, as mine arrived today and I’m heading home to assemble and use it.

    Pricey? Sure. But I’d rather buy a finished product than begin building my own Franken-table. Given two working parents (one travels a lot) and two kids (7 and 5) I prefer spending my free time exercising than building a less-expensive product. Something that cost $50 in materials and costs $100+ in creation time begins to look not-to-affordable.

    YMMV, of course.

    • Jon

      So after assembly I’m a tad concerned. With a 24″ monitor on it, the platform eclectic-so-slightly leans away from the support pole. See the photo to see.

      Would appreciate feedback from the Paceline people about this. It isn’t a giant monitor, but I am thinking this will be annoying over time.

    • Mike Cabigon

      Hi Jon,

      Message received. I have the same size monitor I think (see pic) and never had this issue, but I think we can help.

      Will email you direct to resolve.

      Mike

    • Jon

      Thanks Mike. I appreciate it.

      Like the concept overall but the lean is a bit of a concern.

    • Phil

      I wonder how you are able to fight gravity here, everything seems to hold up so well!

    • Jon

      FOLLOW-UP TO PLATFORM LEAN

      After emailing with Jim and Mike (12/27-29), they determined that there might be an issue with the base of the unit I received. They quickly got another base into the mail to me, and I got it last week (1/6). Biz travel prevented me from installing it until yesterday (1/12).

      Suffice to say, it seems my original had a slight bend to it, and the replacement base has shown no tilt at all. Everything lines up perfectly. Monitor is straight and there is no wobble.

      Maybe there was a production issue with some of them, but Jim and Mike said they took a base from their warehouse and sent it out to me — it wasn’t a special order/creation. So I wouldn’t have any qualms about ordering one. They’re aware there was an issue with one or two and seem to have addressed it.

      I didn’t get any refund or anything, and they didn’t ask me to write this follow up. So no “coaching” or fakery going on.

  21. Great idea! Since I already have a IKEA sit/stand desk, it is now a sit/stand/cycle desk.

  22. My solution that I got number of years ago – a tilting over the bed table. I see that Amazon offers a couple of models with a fixed tray plus the tilting tray – mine the whole tray tilts. At least with the flat part you can have a flower vase – DC’s complaint about not pretty. grin
    I use it with a Schwinn recumbent bike – flat for a laptop, tilted if I am reading. It only works with a Nordic Track off to the side. I started with a music stand. For just reading, especially with a Nordic Track, a music stand is probably better.
    Better not show an over the bed table to TG (The Girl), otherwise she will be expecting breakfast in bed every day. grin
    On separate note, a number of employers here in the States are adding shared exercise work stations to their offices. A treadmill with a keyboard on a table, monitor, PC case on the side, TV on the wall. Bring your own Bluetooth headset.

  23. Ryan

    Wow, that looks just like what I built using old speaker stands and and piece of wood that was lying around the house. I’m amazed that these guys (and Wahoo) try to charge so much for something so simple.