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Publication numberUS20020077221 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/738,872
Publication dateJun 20, 2002
Filing dateDec 15, 2000
Priority dateDec 15, 2000
Publication number09738872, 738872, US 2002/0077221 A1, US 2002/077221 A1, US 20020077221 A1, US 20020077221A1, US 2002077221 A1, US 2002077221A1, US-A1-20020077221, US-A1-2002077221, US2002/0077221A1, US2002/077221A1, US20020077221 A1, US20020077221A1, US2002077221 A1, US2002077221A1
InventorsWilliam Dalebout, Brad Ellis, Richard Evans
Original AssigneeDalebout William T., Brad Ellis, Evans Richard O.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Spinning exercise cycle with lateral movement
US 20020077221 A1
Abstract
This particular invention includes an exercise system having (i) an upstanding support member; (ii) an exercise mechanism coupled to the upstanding support member, wherein the exercise mechanism is configured to support a user above a support surface; (ii) a base configured to be mounted on the support surface; and (iii) a movable coupler movably coupling the upstanding support member to the base, the movable coupler allowing movement of the upstanding member while allowing the base to remain stable on the support surface. One example of the exercise mechanism is a stationary exercise cycle that can move laterally in a side-to-side motion to generate a natural bicycle movement. This lateral movement exercise cycle can be a component of a virtual exercise system that employs additional visual display and media components.
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Claims(33)
What is claimed and desired to be secured by United States Letters Patent is:
1. An exercise system, comprising:
an upstanding support member;
an exercise mechanism coupled to the upstanding support member, wherein the exercise mechanism is configured to support a user above a support surface;
a base configured to be mounted on the support surface; and
means for movably coupling the upstanding support member to the base, the means for movably coupling allowing lateral movement of the upstanding support member while allowing the base to remain stable on the support surface.
2. An exercise system as recited in claim 1, wherein the means for movably coupling comprises means for flexibly coupling the upstanding support member to the base.
3. An exercise system as recited in claim 2, wherein the means for movably coupling comprises a flexible coupler and means for adjusting the flexibility of the coupler.
4. An exercise system as recited in claim 3, wherein the means for adjusting the flexibility of the coupler comprises a removable dampening insert.
5. An exercise system as recited in claim 3, wherein the means for adjusting the flexibility of the coupler comprises a knob configured to compress a dampening insert.
6. An exercise system as recited in claim 2, wherein the means for flexibly coupling comprises a pivoting member and an elastomeric member configured to gradually arrest the movement of the upstanding member.
7. An exercise system as recited in claim 2, wherein the means for flexibly coupling the upstanding support member to the base comprises at least one dampening wing coupled to the upstanding support member and at least one dampening insert configured to be mounted between the dampening wing and the base.
8. An exercise system as recited in claim 2, wherein the means for flexibly coupling the upstanding support member to the base comprises an axle coupled to the base, a pivot tube coupled to the upstanding member and pivoting about the axle, first and second dampening wings coupled to the pivot tube, and first and second dampening inserts mounted between respective first and second dampening wings and the base on opposing sides of the pivot tube.
9. An exercise system as recited in claim 1, wherein the means for movably coupling the upstanding support member limits the movement of the upstanding support member to movement about an axis.
10. An exercise system as recited in claim 1, wherein the exercise system simulates bicycle exercise.
11. An exercise system as recited in claim 1, wherein the means for movably coupling is a pivotal coupling that allows lateral movement.
12. An exercise system as recited in claim 1, wherein the means for movably coupling allows side to side and front to back movement.
13. An exercise system as recited in claim 1, wherein the means for movably coupling comprises a flexible dampening insert that allows side to side and front to back movement.
14. An exercise system as recited in claim 1, wherein the exercise mechanism comprises a crank movably coupled to the upright member and a pedal coupled to the crank.
15. An exercise system as recited in claim 1, wherein the means for movably coupling comprises a dampening wing and a dampening insert.
16. An exercise system as recited in claim 15, wherein the dampening insert comprises an insert selected from the group consisting of a spring and an elastomeric material.
17. An exercise system as recited in claim 1, wherein the means for movably coupling comprises first and second dampening inserts and wherein the inserts are each compressed when the upstanding member is in a substantially vertical position.
18. An exercise system as recited in claim 1, wherein the upstanding support member remains in a substantially vertical position in the absence of a force introduced to move the upstanding member from the substantially vertical position.
19. An exercise system as recited in claim 1, wherein the exercise mechanism comprises first and second bicycle cranks movably coupled to the upstanding support member, each crank having a pedal coupled thereto.
20. An exercise system as recited in claim 19, wherein the exercise mechanism further comprises:
an upstanding support beam;
a seat proximally coupled to the upstanding support beam;
a handlebar; and
a flywheel structure.
21. An exercise system, comprising:
an upstanding support member;
an exercise mechanism coupled to the upstanding support member, wherein the exercise mechanism is configured to support a user above a support surface;
a base configured to be mounted on the support surface; and
a movable coupler movably coupling the upstanding support member to the base, the movable coupler allowing lateral movement of the upstanding member while allowing the base to remain stable on the support surface.
22. An exercise system as recited in claim 21, wherein the upstanding support structure is flexibly coupled to the base via a pivotal coupling comprising:
an axle mounted on the base;
a pivot tube movably coupled to the axle; and
a compressible dampening insert mounted on the base adjacent the pivot tube.
23. An exercise system as recited in claim 22, further comprising a bushing extending between the axle and the pivot tube.
24. An exercise system as recited in claim 22, wherein the exercise cycle further comprises:
dampening wings affixed to the sides of the pivot tube; and
dampening structures between the dampening wings and the base to restrict the lateral motion of the upstanding support member.
25. An exercise system as recited in claim 24, wherein the dampening structures restrict lateral motion through tension of the dampening inserts
26. An exercise system as recited in claim 24, wherein the dampening structures are urethane inserts.
27. An exercise system as recited in claim 22, wherein the dampening structures cause the upright member to remain upright until a force is placed against the upright member.
28. An exercise system as recited in claim 22, wherein the dampening insert structures dampen the lateral movement of the upright member through compression.
29. An exercise system as recited in claim 21, wherein the base comprises a center beam and front and rear support beams orthogonally connected to the center beam to enhance resistance to tipping as a result of lateral motion. The exercise system as recited in claim 0, wherein the flexible coupler means comprises dampening insert structures placed between dampening wings on the sides of the vertical support structure and the base.
30. An exercise system as recited in claim 21, wherein the movable coupler comprises a flexible coupler flexibly coupling the upstanding support member to the base.
31. An exercise system, comprising:
an upstanding support member;
an exercise mechanism coupled to the upstanding support member, wherein the exercise mechanism is configured to support a user above a support surface;
a base configured to be mounted on the support surface; and
a flexible coupler flexibly coupling the upstanding support member to the base, the flexible coupler allowing lateral movement of the upstanding member while allowing the base to remain stable on the support surface.
32. An exercise cycle system with lateral side to side cycling movement generated in part by the weight distribution of an operator working out on the exercise cycle, the exercise cycle comprising:
a support base that resists tipping of the exercise cycle system;
an upstanding support member;
an exercise mechanism coupled to the upstanding support member,
a crank movably coupled to the exercise mechanism; and
a flexible coupler flexibly coupling the upstanding support member to the base, the flexible coupler allowing lateral movement of the upstanding member while allowing the base to remain stable on the support surface.
33. An exercise cycle as recited in claim 32, further comprising means for adjusting the flexibility of the coupler.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. The Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention relates to exercise equipment such as exercise cycles that simulate the action of pedaling a bicycle.

[0003] 2. The Prior State of the Art

[0004] Exercisers who wish to keep physically fit without venturing outside can use a vast array of exercise equipment to augment or provide physical workouts. One of the most popular of these exercise devices is the stationary exercise bicycle, because it provides the exerciser with a thorough low-impact aerobic workout.

[0005] Early exercise bicycles were real bicycles mounted on stands that prevented the wheels from contacting the ground while the exerciser pedaled. Modern sophisticated bicycle-simulating equipment includes bicycle cranks movably coupled to a flywheel to provide resistance to the pedal motion driven by the feet of the exerciser. Some of these modern exercise devices resemble standard bicycles and provide similar physical benefits. For example, recumbent exercise bicycles provide many of the same physical benefits of exercise on standard bicycles.

[0006] One of the significant problems with modern bicycle-simulating exercise equipment, such as spinner bicycles, is the traditionally stoic and rigid nature of spinner devices. These exercise devices are typically non-responsive to the extra workout efforts of the operator. To minimize these problems, bicycle simulating exercise equipment utilizes various performance enhancements to more accurately simulate a bicycle ride. For example, some bicycle-simulating equipment alters the crank resistance according to a virtual bicycle path so that the workout resembles hills and mountains.

[0007] Another example is a bicycle-simulating device, which includes a large base pedestal with four resilient rubber feet that support the pedestal about four inches above the floor. The rubber feet are spaced around the periphery of the pedestal at approximately 90-degree intervals. During exercise use, the resilient rubber feet allow the cycle to rock in a circular motion along with the movement of the exerciser. One problem with this design, however, is the increased wear with each rubber foot that is caused by continual contact with the support surface. This circular motion can also result in sufficient instability in the device that may cause the device to tip over.

SUMMARY AND OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION

[0008] It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide an improved exercise device.

[0009] It is another object of the present invention to provide an improved exercise cycle.

[0010] It is another object of the invention to provide a moving, flexible coupler that couples an upright member of an exercise system to a base.

[0011] It is another object of the present invention to provide an exercise cycle with lateral movement.

[0012] The present invention relates to exercise equipment that allows lateral (e.g., side to side) movement while the operator is exercising, so as to more accurately simulate the dynamic of side to side movement. The present invention provides an exercise mechanism flexibly coupled to a support base in a convenient and efficient manner such that the coupling allows lateral movement and other movements made during exercise without compromising base stability. One embodiment of this particular invention is drawn to any stationary exercise cycle that is supported by an upstanding support extending up from a base (e.g., a platform) that rests upon the floor. The stationary exercise cycle of the present invention allows for a more natural exercise experience by enhancing the natural bicycle movements on the stationary bicycle frame. Allowing the stationary exercise frame to move laterally in a side-to-side motion generates such natural bicycle movement.

[0013] This improved exercise system may be part of a virtual exercise system that provides a sensory environment compatible with the cycling activity via a media interface.

[0014] Accordingly, one advantage provided by the stationary exercise cycle of the present invention is that it allows for a more natural exercise experience by enhancing available natural bicycle side to side movements on the stationary structure. The exercise cycle of the present invention is responsive to the extra workout efforts of an exerciser, such as side to side movements, by providing lateral motion of the upstanding support structure. Further, the exercise system may be adjusted to accommodate for various operator attributes, such as height and weight that produce performance inconsistencies with existing exercise equipment.

[0015] Another advantage of the present invention is the use of an integrated virtual cycling-type exercise system for an improved motivational stationary exercise device. The exercise system advantageously provides wireless or network communication with other external networks or communication systems, such as iFit.com, to allow data and other information to be shared or exchanged with the virtual exercise system. The virtual exercise system uses a visual display and a media component to enhance the operator's workout experience. In one configuration, the virtual exercise system is responsive to the lateral movements of the exercise cycle creating a synchronous sensory workout experience. Exemplary visual display devices include but are not limited to wide screen glasses, an LCD screen affixed to the frame, and/or a large LCD screen or projection TV. Exemplary media components include DVD, VHS, streaming video, iFit.com exercise session, and/or other media performance medium.

[0016] This improved virtual exercise system provides the operator with a wider variety of motivation. For example, in a simulated Tour de France, the operator is allowed to participate in the preliminary, hill climbing, sprints, and other stages. As operators compete, they begin turning the cranks with greater force, moving the virtual cycle with greater force than normal and as with normal cycling, this results in greater lateral movement. In the responsive configuration, this additional movement is reflected on the visual display with the view rocking with the bicycle. Yet another configuration would alter the playback of the course displaying the course at a rate corresponding to the operator's efforts. The audio media can also reflect a sound speed increase or decrease to reflect what a cyclist traveling at the operator's virtual speed would hear.

[0017] An alternative configuration appeals to the participants of spinning classes because it allows every operator to finish the course at the same time regardless of how much work they have done individually during the class. This allows operators of various abilities to work together without competing directly with each other.

[0018] The present invention also relates to a variety of other exercise mechanisms in addition to exercise cycles that can be coupled to an upstanding member movably coupled to a support base.

[0019] Additional objects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the description which follows, and in part will be obvious from the description, or may be learned by the practice of the invention. The objects and advantages of the invention may be realized and obtained by means of the instruments and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims. These and other objects and features of the present invention will become more fully apparent from the following description and appended claims, or may be learned by the practice of the invention as set forth hereinafter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0020] In order that the manner in which the above recited and other advantages and objects of the invention are obtained, a more particular description of the invention briefly described above will be rendered by reference to specific embodiments thereof, which are illustrated in the appended drawings. Understanding that these drawings depict only typical embodiments of the invention and are not therefore to be considered to be limiting of its scope, the invention will be described and explained with additional specificity and detail through the use of the accompanying drawings in which:

[0021]FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an exemplary exercise system that provides a suitable operating environment for the present invention;

[0022]FIG. 2 is a cross sectional cutaway view of a flexible coupler of the system illustrated in FIG. 1;

[0023]FIG. 3 is a cross sectional cutaway side view of a flexible coupler of the system illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2;

[0024]FIGS. 4a & 4 b are views of the coupler illustrated in FIGS. 1, 2, and 3 during lateral motion;

[0025]FIG. 5 is a cutaway view of another embodiment of a flexible coupler of an exercise system illustrating coupling between the base and the upstanding support structure;

[0026]FIG. 6 is a cross sectional cutaway view of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 5;

[0027]FIG. 7 is a cross sectional view of an alternative embodiment of a flexible coupler;

[0028]FIGS. 8a and 8 b are cross sectional views illustrating lateral motion of the coupler illustrated in FIG. 7;

[0029]FIG. 9 is a cross sectional view of another embodiment of a flexible coupler of the present invention;

[0030]FIG. 10 is a cross sectional side view of the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 9;

[0031]FIGS. 11a & 11 b are cross sectional views illustrating the lateral motion of the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 9 and 10; and

[0032]FIGS. 12 and 13 demonstrate alternative embodiments of adjustable flexible couplers of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0033]FIG. 1 and the following discussion are intended to provide a brief, general description of a suitable exercise environment in which the invention may be implemented. FIG. 1 demonstrates an embodiment of an exemplary cycling-type exercise system 8. FIG. 1 is intended to be illustrative of a system 8 that may utilize the present invention and is not to be construed as limiting. Exercise system 8 can move in a natural lateral motion without adversely affecting the reliability and stability of the system during a workout. Exercise system 8 illustrates a cycling-type exercise device having a base 10, an upstanding support member 12, and a flexible coupler 13 flexibly coupling base 10 to member 12. Flexible coupler 13 is configured to allow lateral motion of upstanding support member 12 when the operator engages in side to side movement.

[0034] Base 10 can have a variety of different configurations, as will be appreciated by one skilled in the art in light of the disclosure herein. Base 10 as shown in FIG. 1 comprises a central support member 15 and front and back elongate members 22, 24 coupled thereto. Central support member 15 comprises a front beam 17 a, a rear beam 17 b, and a plate 18, coupling front beam 17 a to rear beam 17 b. A variety of other means may be employed for coupling front beam 17 a to rear beam 17 b. Thus, base 10 may be constructed in a variety of fashions, so long as the design maintains overall stability for the exercise device and reliability with regards to the coupling.

[0035] The base components are configured such that an operator exercising on the device will not tip the spinning cycle over—even during side to side (or front to back) movement. In one configuration, the elongate members 22, 24 extend at least to the farthest point of potential lateral movement from the upstanding member 12. It is further anticipated that in one embodiment, the lateral movement will not exceed about 20 degrees in both directions, and may be limited to about 10 degrees, for example. Although configurations exist in which the lateral movement is extended even further, this range of motion is generally unnecessary to simulate bicycle exercise. As a general rule, the design of the support base is based in part on the allowed lateral movement of the exercise device and the expected force to be exerted by an operator in this position.

[0036] In the embodiment of FIG. 1, flexible coupler 13 comprises a pivot tube 14 pivotally coupled to base 10, dampening wings 16 coupled to the pivot tube 14, and dampening inserts 20 on opposing sides of pivot tube 14. The dampening inserts are preferably an elastomeric material, such as a resilient urethane insert, but may be any material which diminishes the movement of the upstanding support structure via compression and/or tension of the insert by the wings and base. Flexible coupler 13 thus allows upstanding support member 12 to remain stably coupled to base 10, while nevertheless enabling natural lateral bicycle movements of upstanding support member 12. It will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art in light of the disclosure herein that modifications can be made concerning the dampening mechanism while remaining within the scope of the present invention.

[0037] In the embodiment of FIG. 1, upstanding member 12 extends forwardly and slightly upwardly from base 10 and coupling 13, enabling the seat support beam to position the seat support post and seat roughly above the coupling.

[0038] In the embodiments shown in FIG. 1, upstanding support member 12 has an exercise mechanism coupled thereto that allows the user to exercise his or her body. In the embodiment of FIG. 1, the exercise mechanism comprises a seat support beam 33 having seat 34 coupled thereto. Seat support beam 33 has a telescoping extension member 39 therein to which seat support post 37 is slidably coupled. The horizontal position of seat support post 37 relative to seat support beam 33 is selectively locked in place by a pin 36 mounted within beam 33 and spring biased into engagement with one of a series of holes formed in telescoping extension member 38. The head of pin 36 is formed into a knob that aids in grasping the pin to pull it back against the spring bias when it is desired to change the barrel extension position.

[0039] Seat 34 is mounted on the seat support post 37 and the height of the seat relative to the base 10 can be adjusted through the use of pin 38 coupled to extension member 39 and spring biased into engagement with one of a series of holes formed in the seat support post 37. As with pin 36, the head of pin 38 is formed into a knob that aids in grasping the pin to pull it back against the spring bias when it is desired to change the seat position.

[0040] In addition to the seat structure, the exercise mechanism of FIG. 1, futher comprises bicycle-type cranks 25 movably coupled for rotation on opposing sides of upstanding member 12, the cranks being rotatable about a first axis so that the bicycle cranks rotate in the typical bicycle fashion. Pedals 27 are coupled to respective cranks on opposing sides of member 12. Cranks 25 with pedals 27 thereon can support a user above a support surface as the user places his or her feet on the pedals 27.

[0041] Flywheel 28 is also coupled to upstanding member 12 and is rotatable about a second axis, which is parallel to the first axis. The bicycle-type cranks 25 are movably coupled to the flywheel 28, such as through the use of a drive mechanism. In one embodiment of the exercise device of the present invention, the drive mechanism comprises a direct gear drive that does not use a chain. This allows the exercise device to have a smaller footprint so the flywheel can be placed closer to the cranks. In another embodiment, however, the drive means uses a chain to couple the flywheel and cranks. By placing the flywheel behind the crank, a more natural lateral motion is generated via a gyroscopic motion caused by rotation of the flywheel on the flexibly coupled upstanding support member.

[0042] The exercise mechanism of FIG. 1 further comprises a handlebar 30 mounted on a handlebar support post adjustably coupled to upstanding member 12. The vertical position of the handlebar support post and thus handlebar 30 is locked in place by a pin mounted within member 12 and spring biased into engagement with one of a series of holes formed in the handlebar support post. The pin 32 is spring biased into engagement with the holes in the handlebar support post. As with pins 36 and 38, the head of pin 32 is preferably formed into a knob that aids in grasping the pin to pull it back against the spring bias when it is desired to change the handlebar position.

[0043] A media display device 35 may optionally be affixed to the exercise machine, such as to the handlebar support post. Device 35 may be positioned as shown in FIG. 1 or may be moved downwardly toward member 22 such that a user can comfortably view device 35 while leaning toward handlebar 30.

[0044] Device 35 may include part of an improved motivational integrated virtual cycling-type exercise system, such as the display portion, for example. The integrated exercise system advantageously provides wireless or network communication with other external networks or communication systems, such as iFit.com, to allow data and other information to be shared or exchanged with the virtual exercise system. The virtual exercise system uses a visual display and a media component to enhance the operator's workout experience. In one configuration, the virtual exercise system is responsive to the lateral movements of the exercise cycle creating a synchronous sensory workout experience. Exemplary visual display devices include but are not limited to wide screen glasses, LCD screen affixed to the frame, Large LCD screen or projection TV.

[0045] Exemplary media components include DVD, VHS, streaming video, iFit.com exercise session, or other media performance medium. This virtual exercise system is discussed in more detail in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/349,608 (SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR PROVIDING AN IMPROVED EXERCISE DEVICE WITH MOTIVATIONAL PROGRAMMING, to Watterson, et al., filed Jul. 8, 1999); Ser. No. 09/641,627 (SYSTEM FOR INTERACTION WITH EXERCISE DEVICE, to Watterson, et al., filed Aug. 18, 2000); Ser. No. 09/641,600 (COMPUTER SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR INTERACTION WITH EXERCISE DEVICE, to Watterson, et al., filed Aug. 18, 2000); and Ser. No. 09/641,220 (SYSTEMS AND METHODS FOR INTERACTION WITH EXERCISE DEVICE, to Watterson, et al., filed Aug. 18, 2000), each of which are incorporated herein by reference. It will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art and others that certain modifications can be made concerning the virtual exercise system while remaining within the scope of the present invention. For example, the media display device may be remotely affixed, such as through a wall mounting. In fact, one configuration allows multiple bicycles to use a single large media display system. Another acceptable configuration uses VR media glasses worn by the operator to provide a media playback consistent with the operators activities on the exercise device.

[0046] In one embodiment, the virtual cycling-type exercise system comprises a sensor coupled on or adjacent to the crank 26 and/or flexible coupler 13 (e.g., embedded within, below, or above the dampening insert), such as a reed switch, for example, such that the virtual system can monitor the amount of movement of one or more moving parts, such as the lateral movement of coupler 13, for example. Optionally, the virtual system is configured to control one or more parts.

[0047] Thus, one embodiment of the present invention is a virtual exercise system comprising: (i) a stationary exercise cycle 8 that allows for natural lateral movement, the exercise cycle 8 comprising a base 10 that rests on the floor, an upstanding support 12 extending from the base 10, and a flexible coupler 13 that couples the base 10 to the upstanding support structure 12 so that the upstanding support structure 12 moves in a lateral motion responsive to cycling efforts of an operator; (ii) a visual display; and (ii) a media interface electrically coupled to the visual display, the media interface providing a conduit for media information to be relayed to the visual display and the operator.

[0048] The virtual exercise system can be responsive in part to the lateral motion of the stationary exercise cycle 8 and in part to the cycling efforts of an operator, for example. The display (e.g., display 35) can further comprise an audio speaker. The media interface can further provide motivational music or other messages to enhance the operator's workout. In one embodiment, the visual display is a motivational visual display following the course of an actual bicycle ride to assist the operator in simulating a bicycle ride.

[0049] Thus in one embodiment, the system of FIG. 1 comprises a virtual exercise system that provides a sensory environment compatible with cycling activity via a media interface. The media interface may comprise a visual and/or an audio display device based in part on the movements of the exercise system 8. The virtual exercise system may comprises a communication connection to an external network to supply data for the sensory environment, for example, such as an internet based system. The communication connection may be a wireless connection between the exercise system and the external network, for example.

[0050] As discussed, the embodiment shown in FIG. 1 provides an exercise system that simulates the action of a bicycle while remaining stationary. However, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the invention may be practiced with many types of exercise mechanisms, including spinner, recumbent, bicycle, tricycle, or treadmill devices, climbers, stair steppers, multi-function exercise systems, arm exercise systems, for example, and other exercise mechanisms. Such exercise mechanisms can be coupled to the flexible coupler 13 in a manner that allows these mechanisms to be flexibly coupled to a stable base.

[0051] Reference is next made to FIG. 2, which demonstrates: (i) a cross sectional view of plate 18 of base 10; (ii) upstanding member 12; and (iii) flexible coupler 13 for coupling base 10 to upstanding member 12. Pivot tube 14, first and second opposing dampening inserts 20 a, 20 b, and first and second dampening wings 16 a, 16 b of flexible coupler 13 are shown. Upstanding member 12 and dampening wings 16 a and 16 b are affixed to pivot tube 14 such that they move in unison according to the lateral force exerted by an operator.

[0052] With continued reference to FIGS. 2 and 3, flexible coupler 13 further comprises an axle 19 coupled to base 10 above plate 18 of base 10. Pivot tube 14 is movably coupled to axle 19 such that as pivot tube 14 pivots, upstanding member 12 is moved laterally, i.e., in a side to side motion. Proximal and distal bushings 15 may be mounted between pivot tube 14 and axle 19. As shown, axle 19 is coupled to respective upstanding walls of opposing front and rear beams 17 a, 17 b above plate 18 and, in one embodiment is parallel to the central support beam 15, enhancing the stability of the system. Consequently, opposing spaces exist between dampening wings 16 a and 16 b and respective sides of plate 18.

[0053] Dampening inserts 20 a and 20 b fill the spaces between the dampening wings (16 a and 16 b) and plate 18. Dampening inserts 20 a, 20 b ensure that the side to side movement of upstanding member 12 is gradually stopped, rather than being stopping in a sudden, halting motion. The dampening inserts of the present invention act as cushioning members. The inserts 20 a, 20 b also dissipate the lateral forces before the exercise device is moved into an unstable state.

[0054] Dampening inserts 20 a, 20 b preferably comprise an elastomeric, urethane-based material. Other insert compositions, known to one skilled in the art, are considered within the scope of the present invention including rubber, gel packs, bungee cords or other elastic members, air modules, springs, and other compressible inserts, for example. Dampening inserts 20 a, 20 b may be coupled to plate 18 and wings 16 a, 16 b via means for coupling known to one skilled in the art, including via slots, grooves, removable VelcroŽ tabs, adhesive(s), bolts, or other suitable means for coupling the inserts between the dampening wings and the base plate 18. Such means for coupling may include means for removably coupling the dampening inserts to the base and/or wing(s), such as selectively removable hook and pile (e.g., VELCRO) tabs on the wing and/or base and one or may dampening insert(s) for example.

[0055] In one embodiment, only one of the two inserts is being compressed in any operational position. However, one configuration places both inserts under compression when the upstanding member 12 is in the substantially vertical position so that the upstanding support member 12 self-corrects its alignment to the substantially vertical position when there are no forces introduced by the operator. For example, both inserts 20 a, 20 b can be configured to be slightly compressed when upstanding member 12 is in a substantially vertical position such that member 12 is retained in the vertical position unless a user moves member 12 to one direction or another. Thus, the upstanding support member can be configured to remain in the substantially vertical position in the absence of a force introduced to move the upstanding member from the substantially vertical position. This configuration also contributes to a more natural riding experience as a bicycle in motion traditionally defaults to a more stable substantially vertical alignment.

[0056] Yet another advantage of using the dampening inserts is that they may be optimized for the operator. For example, a heavy operator will exert greater force on the exercise device making the cycle move laterally with less exercise. To some degree, the extra weight may be mitigated through the use of a more rigid dampening insert.

[0057] Thus, one example of a means for adjusting the flexibility of the coupler 13 of the present invention comprises one or more removable dampening inserts that may be replaced with inserts having greater or lesser flexibility. Hook and pile material, such as VELCRO, may be employed to selectively mount the removable dampening inserts between the base and dampening wing(s) of the present invention, for example, as mentioned above.

[0058]FIGS. 4a and 4 b illustrate the dampening inserts in both compression and tension states when the upstanding support structure is rotated to opposing sides. In this embodiment, the dampening inserts are physically attached to the dampening wings and base 10, thereby allowing the dampening inserts to contribute counter-force in both the compression and tension positions. The compression and tension positions occur when upstanding support structure 12 is rotated around the axis of axle 19 from a substantially vertical position into a flexed position.

[0059] For example, in FIG. 4a, dampening insert 20 b is being compressed while dampening insert 20 a is being extended. FIG. 4b illustrates dampening insert 20 a under compression and dampening insert 20 b is under tension. When the dampening inserts are not physically attached to both the wings and the base, they only substantially contribute to compression forces.

[0060] In yet another embodiment, only a single dampening insert is employed and is coupled both to the base plate and a dampening wing. In this embodiment, when upstanding member 12 is moved toward the single dampening insert, the insert compresses until the movement is stopped. When the upstanding member 12 is moved away from the single dampening insert, the insert extends until the movement is stopped. Thus, the dampening effect of a single or multiple inserts can be achieved both through compression and/or extension of the dampening insert.

[0061] With reference now to FIGS. 5 and 6, another example of a flexible coupler 48 of the present invention will be described. Coupler 48 flexibly, movably couples upstanding member 12 to a support base 10 a. Coupler 48 comprises a block 58 that is movably coupled to a dual arcuate slotted base 10 a. Upstanding member 12 is affixed to block 58 (e.g., by being directly coupled to an arcuate member 54, which is coupled to block 58, or, in another embodiment, by being directly coupled to block 58). First and second axles 56 extend through block 58 and arcuate slots 50 of base 10 a and are movably coupled to base 10 a by fastening mechanism 52, such as a nut or rivet, as shown in FIG. 6.

[0062] Axles 56 extending through block 58 move upwardly and downwardly within respective arcuate slots 50 in base 10 a as a user moves in a side to side motion. One axle moves upwardly within a respective slot 50 while the other moves downwardly. The dual arcuate slotted walls 17 a, 17 b of base 10 a enable these side-to-side motions.

[0063] In the embodiment of FIG. 6, dampening inserts 60 a and 60 b are mounted between moving block 58 and base plate 18 a of base 10 a. Dampening inserts 60 a and 60 b restrict the side to side motion of upstanding member 12 through compression and/or tension of the dampening inserts. Dampening inserts 60 a, 60 b may be in tension and/or compression, depending upon a desired embodiment and depending upon the movements of a particular user. The dampening inserts are preferably made from urethane, but may comprise other dampening materials as known to one of skill in the art. Axles 56 can extend through dampening inserts 60 a, 60 b or may be mounted beside inserts 60 a, 60 b, for example.

[0064] In another embodiment, slots 50 are configured to allow front to back and/or side to side movement, such as by having an oval shape with sufficient space for axles 52 to move front to back and side to side. In this embodiment, there is sufficient space between block 58 and walls 17 a, 17 b to allow for front to back movement.

[0065]FIG. 7 is a cross sectional view of a configuration of an alternate flexible coupler 60 of the present invention comprising a single dampening insert 80. Coupler 60 further comprises a single dampening wing 64 coupled to upstanding member 12. Dampening insert 80 fills the space between dampening wing 64 and plate 18 of base 10 (see FIG. 1). This configuration enables front to back and side-to-side motion according to the forces generated by the operation of the exercise device. Structure 54 transfers the operational forces across the dampening wing 64. Insert 80 is preferably made from a durable and compressible material, such as urethane. Other insert compositions, known to one skilled in the art, are considered within the scope of the present invention including rubber, other elastomeric materials, gel packs, air modules, springs, and other compression inserts. As with the previous configurations, the insert 80 may be affixed to the dampening wing 64 and/or base plate 18 via means known to one of skill in the art, including via slots, grooves, removable VelcroŽ tabs, adhesives, bolts, or other suitable means to affix the inserts between the dampening wings and base. An alternative configuration prevents the upstanding support member from front to back motion.

[0066]FIGS. 8a and 8 b are cross sectional views illustrating lateral motion of the exercise system in both compression and tension states when upstanding member 12 is rotated to opposing sides of the device. The movement of upstanding member 12 translates to substantial movement at the seat and handlebars of the exercise system. In this configuration it is preferable for insert 80 to be affixed to dampening wing 64 in a manner that enables dampening insert 80 to be under tension and compression. FIG. 8a illustrates one side 80 b of insert 80 under compression and an opposing side 80 a under tension. FIG. 8b illustrates side 80 a under compression and side 80 b under tension. Another configuration places the entire insert under compression so that when the upstanding support member reaches the maximum lateral motion from vertical, the insert on the opposite side is uncompressed.

[0067] With reference now to FIGS. 9 and 10, yet another embodiment of a flexible coupler 90 of the present invention comprises: (i) a pivot tube 14 movably coupled to an axle 17; (ii) first and second dampening wings 16 a, 16 b coupled to pivot tube 14; and (iii) first and second dampening inserts in the form of springs 40 a, 40 b coupled to respective dampening wings 16 a, 16 b. Axle 17 and bushing 15 allow lateral motion of upstanding support member 12. The configuration of coupler 90 can be similar to that previously described in association with FIG. 2 with the notable exception that calibrated springs 40 a, 40 b are used in place of the dampening inserts shown in FIG. 2. Specifically, springs 40 a and 40 b are placed between base plate 18 and the dampening wings 16 a and 16 b.

[0068] One or more springs can be removable such that springs having differing compression and extension capabilities can be employed. Such removable springs are additional examples of means for adjusting the flexibility of the coupler. Another example of a means for adjusting the flexibility of a coupler comprises a screw that is selectively threaded within the spring along the contours of the spring to thereby decrease the flexibility of the spring. In one configuration, an elastomeric membrane is placed between the wings and the base plate to prevent exposure of the springs to fingers, toes, or other objects during exercise.

[0069] Axle 19 is mounted on base 10 so that pivot tube 14 may freely rotate about a horizontal axis substantially parallel to the central support beam. Pivot tube 14 surrounds the bushing 15 and is affixed to pivot wings 16 a, 16 b. The axle 19 holds pivot tube 14 above base plate 18, enabling free lateral rotation about axle 19.

[0070] A row of calibrated springs 40 are placed on opposing sides of pivot tube 14 between the base plate 18 and wings 16 a, 16 b. As with the dampening inserts of FIG. 2, inserts in the form of springs 40 may either be slightly compressed or uncompressed in the default or resting state. If both sides are slightly compressed in the neutral, resting state, upstanding support member 12 is centered under the forces of the springs. Thus, in one embodiment, both sides are slightly compressed in the resting state in order to place upstanding member 12 in the neutral position. The wings 16 and base plate 18 provide stable surfaces for the springs to exert force against when the support structure moves laterally.

[0071]FIGS. 11a & 11 b are cross sectional views illustrating the lateral motion of the upstanding support structure relative to the springs. As with other dampening inserts, various configurations may use the springs 40 a, 40 b in both a state of compression and tension. For example, FIG. 1 a illustrates springs 40 a in tension and springs 40 b in compression. FIG. 11b illustrates springs 40 b in tension and springs 40 a in compression. Acceptable alternative configurations as known to one of skill in the art include a configuration in which springs located on both sides of the exercise devise are kept compressed within the acceptable operational range. In some configurations the compression is physically limited to lateral rotation of about ten degrees on either side from a substantially vertical position into a flexed position.

[0072]FIGS. 12 and 13 show additional embodiments of flexile couplers 100, 110 respectively of the present invention that flexibly couple upstanding member 12 to a support base, such as base 10. Each of these flexible couplers include means for adjusting the flexibility of the coupler.

[0073] Flexible couplers 100, 110 are adjustable such that the amount of lateral movement achieved by a user can be selectively adjusted. For example, the flexibility of the flexible coupler 100 of FIG. 12 can be adjusted by selectively turning one or more knobs 102 a, 102 b to adjust the amount of compression of one or both sides of dampening insert 80 x. By compressing one or more of the sides of dampening insert 80 x, the flexibility of the side(s) is decreased. For example, by twisting knob 102 a further downward onto post 104 a, and/or by twisting knob 102 b downward onto post 104 b, dampening insert 80 x is compressed and thereby becomes less flexible on both sides.

[0074] Similarly, by twisting knobs 112 a, 112 b coupled to inserts 20 c, 20 d, the flexibility of inserts 20 c, 20 d and hence the lateral movement potential of coupler 110 is adjusted. Insert 20 c is shown in FIG. 13 as being adjusted to the compressed position. Thus, knobs 102 a, 102 b and knobs 112 a, 112 b and their respective associated threaded posts are each examples of means for adjusting the flexibility of their respective couplers.

[0075] Other adjustable cushioning mechanisms may be incorporated in the coupler of the present invention to act as adjustable dampening inserts, such as the adjustable cushioning members disclosed in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/160,947 entitled “Treadmill with Adjustable Cushioning Members” to Dalebout, et al that was filed Sep. 25, 1998, which is incorporated herein by reference. In addition, the adjustable hub mechanisms disclosed in a U.S. patent Application to Dalebout, et al, filed Dec. 15, 2000 entitled “Selectively Dynamic Exercise Platform,” which is incorporated herein by reference, may be employed as (or as part of) a flexible, adjustable coupler of the exercise system disclosed in this application.

[0076] Additional mechanisms that may be employed as (or as part of) a movable coupler of the present invention include a universal joint that moves in a variety of different directions and rotates about more than one axis. Upstanding member 12 and a support base such as base 10 can each be coupled to the universal joint. Additional mechanisms that may be employed as (or as part of) a movable coupler of the present invention include a ball and socket type joint, to which member 12 and a base, such as base 10 can be coupled.

[0077] As discussed above, the embodiment shown in FIG. 1 provides an exercise device that simulates the action of a bicycle while remaining stationary. Cranks 25 are one example of a exercise mechanism that may be coupled to the upright member 12 and support a user above a support surface. However, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the invention may be practiced with many types of exercise mechanisms that are coupled to the upstanding support member 12 that is movably coupled to the support base of the present invention. These exercise mechanisms may include a variety of different mechanisms configured to exercise a variety of different portions of a users body, such as the legs and/or arms of a user. Thus, while cranks are shown in FIG. 1, a variety of different exercise mechanisms may be coupled to the upright member that allow a user to exercise, such as a stepper configuration, moving stairs, a moving belt, one or more poles, bands, or cords moved by a user's arms, and a variety of other mechanisms with which a user can exercise. Preferably at least one of the exercise mechanisms coupled to the upstanding member is configured to support a user above a support surface.

[0078] The coupling of the exercise mechanism to the upright member can be direct or indirect. For example, a cross member to which the exercise mechanism is coupled may be coupled to the upright member, such that the exercise mechanism is indirectly coupled to the upright member.

[0079] The flexible couplers discussed herein, e.g., couplers 13, 48, 60, 90, 100, 110 are each examples of means for movably coupling an upstanding support member to a base. Each of these flexible couplers are also examples of means for flexibly coupling an upstanding support member to a base. The flexibility of the dampening inserts prevents sudden halting of the dampening wings, a major advantage of the present invention.

[0080] The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. While a preferred embodiment of the present invention has been described and illustrated, it will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art and others that certain modifications can be made to the illustrated embodiment while remaining within the scope of the present invention. The described embodiments are to be considered in all respects only as illustrative and not restrictive. The scope of the invention is, therefore, indicated by the appended claims rather than by the foregoing description. All changes that come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are to be embraced within their scope.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification482/57
International ClassificationA63B22/16, A63B26/00, A63B22/08
Cooperative ClassificationA63B22/0605, A63B26/003, A63B2022/0641
European ClassificationA63B26/00B, A63B22/08
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