Build an exercise bike pedal generator

Here you will find everything you need to for an easy to build, powerful, quiet stationary spin bike pedal generator. I’ll cover tools and parts needed, along with diagrams for wiring and things I’ve learned along the way that can make your build a success. Let me start by saying that I am not an electrical engineer, nor a mechanical engineer, this was just something I was interested in and wanted to go about building. If you have suggestions or a better way to build it, I’d love to get your feedback!

Let’s get right to it! First you’ll need a spin bike, also known as a stationary bike or exercise bike. If you don’t have one already, check eBay, Craigslist or garage sales. Otherwise, there are several  models from Sunny Fitness that should work. Be sure to get one with a chain drive (not belt).

The next key component is a e-bike hub motor. Hub motors come in many different models, front, rear, 24 volt, 36 volt, 48 volt, 350 watt, 500 watt, 1000 watt and so on. For this to work, you’ll need a front hub e-bike motor, as front hub motors will fit between the typical spin bike front braces. You’ll also need to have  a disc brake mount on the hub motor. More on this in a minute. For my build, I went with a 24 volt setup, using a 24 volt 500 watt motor. You can use a 36 or 48 volt brushless gearless front hub motor with disc brake mount if you can’t find the 24 volt variety, just make sure you get an appropriate step down converter to match.

Now you may be wondering how we plan to drive the e-bike hub motor with the chain drive of the spin bike. This took me a little while to figure out, but it just so happens that some people use the disc brake mount on a bicycle to mount a ‘fixed’ gear. There are a few companies that sell sprocket kits just for this purpose. The one I recommend is the 16 tooth sprocket from Origin8. Just take off the free hub adapter parts (the red things) and bolt the sprocket on the disc brake mount on the motor. Some Loctite might be advised.

Once the sprocket is on the motor, pull the original flywheel off of the spin bike and replace it with the hub motor, ensuring you route the chain over the newly installed sprocket.

When you turn the e-bike hub motor the permanent magnets pass over the the copper coils of the stator in the motor, generating alternating current electricity. To convert to more usable direct current, we need simple component called a 3 phase bridge rectifier – it sounds really complicated, but it is really just a basic circuit which takes the 3 wires of alternating current from the hub motor and converts it to direct current. The fat wire coming out of the hub motor consist of the 3 wires just mentioned, and some thin hall effect sensor wires used by a typical e-bike controller to determine RPM of the motor. These sensor wires can be clipped and/or tucked out of the way. For the remaining thicker 3 wires, we’ll put female spade connectors on the ends and connect them onto the 3 posts of the bridge rectifier marked with the “s” squigglies. The other two posts on the bridge rectifier deliver positive (+) and negative (-) direct current. The side of the bridge rectifier has a map of the posts.

Next challenge – the voltage coming out of the bridge rectifier is anywhere from 20 to 40+ volts. This is assuming a 24 volt hub motor spinning anywhere from a leisurely pace to frantic sprint . We’d like this power to be a steady 12 volts so we can charge cell phones, iPads, and run things like fans and coffee makers. With 12 volts output, we could also use a DC to AC converter to charge our laptops, cordless drills or power a TV. Enter the step down converter! If you go with a 36 volt motor, you may want to get a 36 volt step down converter. This critical component is often used in electric golf carts to “step down” the 48/36/24 volt battery power in the golf cart to 12 volts to run fans, radios, lights and other things that plug into a 12 volt car socket. Here’s a diagram of the wiring, including an optional multi-meter – it really is very simple.

Wiring diagram for pedal generator

That’s it! Those are your basic components to make it all work.

This really is a fun project. With most of the challenges of how to make it all work spelled out above, what’s stopping you from building your own pedal generator?

Some optional components, basic tools and supplies you may need to complete this project:

Project box to make it look nice
Fuse and Fuse holder to protect components
Multi-meter to quantify watts and watt-hours being generated
12v car sockets – I like to use 2 of these
Anderson Powerpole Connectors
12 Gauge Speaker Wire
Wire Crimper Stripper
Adjustable wrench
Metric Allen Wrenches
Multi-meter, can be handy

Please support this site by purchasing any needed components through the links above. It will help pay for hosting this site, and will fund future adventures in alternative energy projects I’d like to pursue.

Check out the latest updates I’ve done to this design!

21 Replies to “Build an exercise bike pedal generator”

  1. VERY helpful.

    I have an art project/exercise bike/musical performance machine that I need to add a pedal generator to.
    Being that I already have a drive sprocket and chain, could I not just
    use a REAR hub motor, and related sprocket????
    Thanks for posting this thorough walkthrough.

    1. Hi – the rear hub motor should work fine as long as the width of the exercise bike you are mounting it into will accept the ~150mm width the rear hub motor requires. My older style exercise bike will easily accept a rear hub motor, but the newer spin bike I have will only fit a front hub motor (~100mm). Carefully measure the inside width where the wheel mounts and verify the width of the motor you plan to buy. Good luck! I’d be interested in hearing how it goes – send pictures!

  2. Hi . I’ve got the PeaceFair model pzem-031 multi meter , same as Drok , and it doesn’t show anything with a DC in from the output of the rectifier ( same as your ) . If I connect this multimeter to simply an AC to DC mural adaptor ( with a claimed output of 12 volts -15-16 v for real ) . The multimeter react and show the voltage ( 15-16 : ok ) and I could roll into the menu . I can only ask myself why it does not display anything with the rectifier output. I still respect all polarities ( input and output ) . And as you mention the order of the 3 wires entering the rectifier do not matter . What happens?

    1. Hi Pierre – I have found some multimeters behave this way, and I am not certain of the reason. Adding in a battery to the circuit seems to solve the problem, often with a switch to complete the circuit between the meter and the battery. I’ve been adding 12v AGM batterie(s) lately as a buffer, rather than as targeting them for energy storage as they aren’t very efficient (~85%) at it.

  3. Hi,
    I’ve read your instructions and seen your videos but unfortunately I don’t understand where I have to put the charge controller? I have a 12V motor, I bought this one in 12V (not in 36V):
    I have this charge controller:
    The thing I don’t get is the charge controller has 3 wires to connect the motor but in my case the 3 wires of the motor are already connected to the bridge rectifier.
    So how do I connect the charge controller?
    I’d be grateful if you can explain to me. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Beatrice – I just realized my notifications were off and I didn’t get a few messages. Many apologies for the late reply. In your case, you don’t need the bridge rectifier, the charge controller will take care of the AC to DC conversion.

  4. Thank you very much for your reply. Now I am stuck with another problem. About the drock dc multimeter. Sorry if my question looks kinda stupid to you but I don’t see wires coming out of the multimeter -just 4 “holes”. How do I add the 4 wires? Did you weld them directly inside the “holes”? And put the powerpole connectors at the end? Everything in your video is very detailed except this. I’d be glad if you can explain it to me. Thanks!

    1. Hi Beatrice, there are 4 screws that you should unscrew from the bottom of the meter, then insert the wires into the side of the meter in the appropriate places per the wiring diagram, then tighten each screw. It can take some fiddling to get the wires in and screwed tight but with patience will come together. Let me know if pictures are needed.

  5. Wow! Thank you for replying me so quickly! Really appreciate! So I saw the 4 screws on the side of my meter but then I realized I purchased the wrong meter! It seems my meter is AC! I should have purchased a DC meter, right? What if I buy this one?
    But this one seems a little bit different it has 6 holes and no screws! And also I don’t know what a shunt is. Is it necessary? And also in your configuration you added a usb charger at the end but me I’d like to add a 12V battery. Is it same configuration? Thanks a lot if you can help me!
    NB: I saw your 2 videos “750 Watt Human Powered battery charger”. That’s somewhat what I wanna achieve but unfortunately you didn’t gave the plans.

    1. Yes, the DC meter is what you want. The shunt isn’t needed from the levels we humans generate 😀
      If you want to charge batteries, then I’d go with this charge controller – it will take DC voltage up to 60 volts and lets you adjust volts and amps output to match the battery you are trying to charge. I’ve been using it to charge a couple LiFePO4 batteries, but you can target lead acid or whatever as long as you adjust to the batteries limits. I made a video but didn’t publish it, might help you: Pedal Powered Battery Charger

  6. Thanks again for replying me so quickly! Did you take it with or without the usb communication board? Yes, your video is helpful for the settings but for the build up what gauge wires did you take and which connectors? How long did it take you to charge your 2 batteries?

    1. I actually have a couple of these charge controllers, one with the USB and one without. Both work functionally the same but hoping to try to control settings with the USB interface. I usually don’t fully discharge or charge the batteries so can’t say exactly how much time it would take to charge. Probably a couple hours.

  7. Hi ,
    very nice explanation . Just one thing I need to know can we use normal bicycle wheel with spokes with hub generator ? Getting metal flywheel and mounting it seems to be difficult , what would be disadvantage of having normal bicycle wheel over metal flywheel or what would be advantage of metal flywheel ?
    If metal flywheel is used , what should be its weight or size that can be used ?

    1. Using just a bicycle wheel should work, a heavier tire can help too. Without the flywheel you’ll lose a little momentum, but it should be workable.

  8. Hi ,

    Instead of multimeter ,if I want to use Arduino to measure voltage ,current and other parameters etc. ,then how should I power Arduino ? Currently i am not using any battery . Should I use some buck converter to power arduino ? Could you suggest some good converter to power Arduino or some other way/module for powering Arduino .

    1. Some Arduino modules will accept up to 21 volts, so depending on the voltage you are generating, you may not need a charge controller. If you are generating higher than that, or just want to protect the Arduino, I’d suggest a charge controller like one of these:

  9. Thanks for quick response. I try using the same module to power up Arduino .Arduino measure correct voltage , current readings etc. but as soon as I power up the load through 12V car socket (which is connected through another buck converter ) , Arduino start giving wrong readings of voltage and current etc .Difference in actual value and arduino measured value is more than 5 units . I thought these charger controller module like LM2596 might give rippled output which affect arduino readings or there may be some other issue.

  10. Thanks for replying , I’m also software engineer with some knowledge of electronics stuff … Just trying to build exercise bike generator and liked your post a lot …Thanks again

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