Staying home doesn’t mean you can’t keep climbing, surfing, or riding your bike. It just means you have to get creative—and finally finish those indoor training tools you’ve always wanted, including hangboards, balance boards and bike trainers. Extra time at home also means you can cut the often hefty price tag for these somewhat simple gadgets, if you have access to tools and some materials. Building these outdoor fitness optimizers at low cost lets you productively feed your stoke until you can gear up and head out once again.
Here are four DIY guides to inspire home-built training tools for your outdoor activity of choice. Like the outdoor sports themselves, constructing and using any of these trainers is at your own risk. Be smart and use proper safety measures when building (and recreating) indoors.
Many top climbers swear by hangboard training regimens. A hangboard isn’t just about building upper-body strength like a pull-up bar. It more importantly builds finger strength, which makes it possible to crimp small holds or keep your hand slapped to a sloping rock face.
Wooden hangboards can get elaborate. If you have the tools to make pockets and install a sloping angle up top, have at it. What is great about this portable board build by Mani Hubär, though, is the simplicity. Hubär shows you don’t need a woodshop stocked with routers and radial saws. A couple of rails of varying thickness glued and screwed to a board, and you are ready to hang. You can also seamlessly turn this portable option into a fixed wall system by screwing it over a door frame. Just be sure you use another board as a backer, choose adequate-length screws, and drill into wall studs for secure mounting. Once you have it ready to go, watch this elaborate hangboard training video by Scottish Climber Dave Macleod.
Rail-To-Rail Balance Board
Rail-to-rail balance boards use a roller that runs the length of the board underneath (rather than perpendicular). This means you transition from edge to edge (toe to heel, rather than left to right), while daydreaming you are going down the line at your favorite wave. You can also work on surf skills like walking the board or snappy pop ups.
This video by Ian Black, of Black Timber Company, shows the basic steps to cutting out a low-cost balance board with little more than a good piece of plywood and a piece of 3-inch diameter PVC pipe. The stoppers under each rail are helpful to prevent hard wipeouts. If you don’t have woodworking tools, an old skimboard collecting dust in the garage and a length of that 3-inch PVC pipe is a good workaround. Just be sure to rough up the glossy finish on the bottom of the board or wrap the pipe with duct tape.
If you prefer supporting a manufacturer rather than tackling a DIY project, check out the designs by Ebb & Flow (starting at $170).
Bike rollers are a spicier way to cycle indoors. It might be the closest you can get to the feeling of riding a bike outside. With both wheels on the rollers, you need to maintain smooth pedaling to keep the bike balanced while it slips along. It certainly makes for an exciting, slightly sketchy, experience compared to more commonly used bike trainers.
Mountain bikers looking for a bumpy ride mimicking singletrack will appreciate this roller buildout video by Seth Gebel. We’ll admit his construction is borderline frontiersman. While we don’t expect anyone to head out in the yard to fell and strip a cedar tree, Seth shows the important aspects of putting all the pieces together. Including, mounting bearings, building a frame, and setting up a belt system. You could swap out cedar logs for PVC pipes with inserted wood discs and a threaded rod. Another key takeaway from Seth’s roller build video: He’s wearing his helmet.
If you prefer supporting a manufacturer rather than tackling a DIY project, check out the Tacx Antares roller system ($219).
Kayak Balance Trainer
Core strength is key to confident paddling. A good balance trainer for paddling puts you in a similar seated position and teaches you how to separate the movements of your upper and lower body by engaging abdominal and lower back muscles.
Check out this straightforward build by Dave Dolak, using not much more than a 15-inch tabletop disc, a length of 2-by-6-inch lumber, and some scrap wood for a seat. If you want something more elaborate, Dolak sells plans for a homemade kayak ergometer using wheel and rope systems from old NordicTracks at davethekayaker.com.
If you prefer supporting a manufacturer rather than tackling a DIY project, check out Kayak Pro’s compact ergometer ($2650).
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