I'm looking for a way to have a bicycle based workout in the middle of the COVID-19 quarantine.

I do not own a roller trainer of any type, nor materials good enough to make one myself. In my country there is a full(ish) lockdown and I cannot go out for training.

I live on a building complex that has a mid-sized parking lot but it is almost completely flat.

I'm searching for a way to increase resistance to the bike to get a meaningfull training out of a 40-60 ride.

The first idea thar I have is to put a rubber band to depreess the rear brake lever to make it act as a drag brake. (disk brake) (Would it damage or excesively wear the brakes pad/rotor?)

Another idea is to put some sort of "fins" into the rear tire to make it generate air drag (Maybe attached to the spokes perpendicular to direction of travel).

The goal is to get a decent workout at a moderate speed, the parking lot is not big enough to accelerate a lot, and does not provide a loop path, (I'd be like making a 'C' shape going back and forth.) Also, as it is a parking lot, I do not want to go full speed to avoid hitting or scaring a neighbor who may be walking to/from their car ans suddenly pops up in front of me.

The fins idea could also be adapted to a simple stand that lifts up the rear tire to make it trainer like.

Any additional ideas on how to get a workout are appreciated. I'd also appreciate anecdotal information if you wave opted for such an approach sometime.

I'm DIY oriented and Currently I have with me a bike with street tires, and a bike with mtb tires. A spare worn out wheelset and some tools, and I cannot go out shoping for parts, materials nor extra tools.

EDIT: Here I cannot buy online parts nor other goods than food or medicine. There is simply no such comerce stablished in this country. Any online buying I've done involves shipping to a P.O. Box and paying a second carrier to bring it from USA to my country. Currently such service is not active as only health/food/journalism workers are authorized to move on the street.

I did read some applicable ideas on this answer: https://bicycles.stackexchange.com/a/61837/2177

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    Ride on the largest flat tires you can find. (Seriously, a heavily treaded MTB tire will give you more rolling resistance, and they generally are run at a lower pressure.) Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 3:24
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    How about finding something to drag behind the bike? Tie a rope around the seat post and lead it back to something of the proper weight. Find a weight that simulates a reasonable hill. It's probably less boring than a true trainer. Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 3:28
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    Consider non-bicycle training for a bulk of the exercises. Body weight exercise - standard things like Squats, Burpees [bicycling.com/training/a20042589/… here)
    – mattnz
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 10:17
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    Can you order goods online for delivery? Honestly a set of rollers with some kind of resistance will do you a lot more good than back-and-forth in your carpark.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 11:47
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    I'm voting for non bike exercises. You can find good indoor programs for cyclists without special equipment online. If you want cardio then just running around the parking lot is going to be more effective and much less awkward than trying to use the bike. Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 16:45

5 Answers 5


Consider constructing a parachute similar to those worn by sprinters: https://www.amazon.com/SKLZ-Speed-Chute-Resistance-Acceleration/dp/B002CLK21C

This would generate significant drag at moderate speeds. Just be sure not to get it tangled up in the rear wheel! Perhaps install an emergency release to avoid getting tangled yourself. It's been discussed here: https://www.bikeforums.net/33-road-bike-racing/273066-anyone-ever-use-sprinter-s-parachute-added-resistance.html

Another option is to wear bulky clothes that would act as a parachute/sail. I often achieve this effect unintentionally with rain gear. Throw your bike into high gear and grind away!

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    Instead of/as well as an emergency release, you the thinnest thread that will do the job. The thinner lines could be ordinary sewing thread with something thicker but not as much as paracord for the biggest lines. I've snapped some fairly strong cords with my back wheel before, without too much disruption to my riding (badly designed pannier, now retired)
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 7:32
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    A fairly roomy jacket, unzipped but clipped shut at the top and bottom will fill up like a parachute without the risk of entanglement. The downside of relying on air resistance is that it's more effective at higher speeds, and the question implies mostly low speed riding.
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 10:29
  • The quick release can be made out of small patches of velcro (wich I have). The rest can be constructed from cord and an unused bathroom curtain. Those materials (cord, velro, fabric) are easily harvestable from common household items. +1.
    – Jahaziel
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 14:41
  • @Jahaziel is Velro what Scooby Doo uses to tie his shoes? ;)
    – Swifty
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 15:28
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    When I was young, I had a rain top which had no arms. It was basically a cone of water tight fabric with a hole and a hood in the middle for the head. The hands were supposed to protude through two small holes near the forward edge of the cone. It was "made for biking", putting those two holes at a distance that matched where the grips on the handle bars were located. I hated riding with that thing: The fabric triangle between the hands, arms, and neck acted like a perfect sail, providing a ton of drag. It might have served the OPs purpose, though. Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 22:48

This problem has been solved by many intrepid flatlanders, just tow an old car tyre.

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    Being a carpark, you could borrow one, should have plenty to choose from in size and weight....
    – mattnz
    Commented Apr 19, 2020 at 2:21
  • Interesting idea, but it would mark up the asphalt, and could collide with someone else's car.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 19, 2020 at 6:27
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    It won't mark anything, car tyres are incredibly tough, but the rope should be as short as is practical. stickybottle.com/latest-news/…
    – Noshy
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 4:08
  • bicyclenetwork.com.au/newsroom/2020/03/04/…
    – Noshy
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 4:15

As your description implies that you'll be spending a lot of your time building up speed (i.e. stop-start riding), adding weight will add a fair bit of resistance. Ideally you'd fit 4 panniers with something like 10-20kg in each, plus something on the frame, but unless you've got a touring bike you probably won't be set up to carry that much (my touring rear rack is rated to 40kg total, but the front rack is limited to about 2x5kg).

A bike trailer would be better still, if you had one and could get round your course. Here we're currently allowed to exercise in public with no explicit distance limits; if we do get distance limits my trailer is going to see some use.

  • Due to the current lockdown I can't order online the required parts or materials for panniers. I have a small rack rated 15 kg. I have loaded that bike with tools and 3 water bottles. They don't add up to significant amount. However I like the working principle of you idea. No doubt It'd be useful for anyone that already has the setup.
    – Jahaziel
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 14:50
  • Have you got hand weights and straps? Weight plates and long bolts? I can visualise ways of attaching that sort of thing with what I've got here. Or a bag of sand /gravel /soil up to the weight limit for the rack with another strapped to the toptube? I can buy heavy duty plastic sacks and duct tape in shops that are still open because they sell food
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 19:31

Here are a couple of options I can think of.

If you have access to some lumber and some blocks, you could build some ramps to provide you with a bit of incline to give you extra resistance. This won't be much, but since the lot sounds like it's not that big it could be better than nothing. You could also possibly make do with any such inclines you might find nearby, such as a little hill, steps shallow enough to ride up, etc.

Of course exercising in or near your apartment complex is problematic in any case because, as you say, there are people around, and even without a virus spreading it's not a good place to exercise. On the positive side, there shouldn't be as much car traffic.

If I might, I would like to suggest a possible frame challenge. People are supposed to stay at home because the normal alternative usually involves going where there are other people. Is it possible for you to get out of the house and go to some isolated place where nobody is at? I don't know of any details of your local rules at the present time, or if you live somewhere near (even if not in) a less populated area, but in my location while there are "stay at home" orders people are not actively discouraged from getting out and getting exercise as long as they maintain a safe distance from other people. Unless the police are actively out stopping people who are by themselves and maintaining proper distance (and this seems somewhat counterproductive if they are!) you might get away with simply riding wherever you can go that seems the most deserted while going out of your way to avoiding coming within 20 feet or so of anybody on the street, such as crossing to the other side to go around any pedestrians.

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    This. The heavy restrictions some countries have even on sports activities are well-intended, but restricting outside cycling is outright counterproductive (except insofar as it avoids injuries; definitely everybody should be extra careful these days). Commented Apr 18, 2020 at 19:10

Let as much air out of your tires as you can get away with. Not totally flat of course, which would damage the tubes and/or tires.

If you do this, be extra careful to avoid pinch flats.

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