My idea of mounting a digital drum controller on a stationary bike didn’t make much of a splash when I recently posted it on Make: Projects, but for me, at least, it has been absolutely revolutionary. It makes the 30-45 minutes I spend on the bike five days a week, now, not only bearable, but actually enjoyable. It’s a step beyond “gamification” of the workout chore (or “exergaming,” if you like), because I feel like I’m not just jumping through arbitrary hoops in a game to distract myself—I’m learning an instrument. Or re-learning, anyway. I was a pretty fair drummer, in high school, and it feels great to be dusting off those skills again.
And I just upgraded it, a bit. The Yamaha DR-55c controller comes with two 1/4″ phono plugs for foot switches for “hi-hat” and “bass drum” pedals. The box included one such switch, and there’s a second port for an aftermarket add-on. Unlike the dynamically-sensitive percussion pads on the controller itself, the foot switches are simple momentary switches that do not respond with louder or softer sounds depending on how hard you hit them.
Because I’m using my feet to operate the bike pedals, however, they are not free to operate foot-switches, so I wired up a simple arcade cabinet momentary switch (the odd member of the pair I bought for my secret garage door opener project) to a 1/4″ phono plug and mounted it inside a screw-top black plastic vitamin powder container. There’s a “large” size broom clip on the bottom of the container, as well, which secures it to the bike’s handlebar. I went all out and installed a rubber grommet on the cord exit hole, too.
In practice, the arcade cabinet button is no more difficult to strike than the pads themselves, and the static volume isn’t much of an issue since the dynamic sensitivity on the pads is not all that great to begin with, especially when you’re playing without drumsticks (as I do) using the DD-55c’s “hand percussion” setting. It is mechanically much louder than the pads, however, due to the button’s “clicking” action, which detracts the system’s “quiet mode” operation: Playing just on the pads, wearing headphones, I can exercise at 3AM and not disturb anyone in the house, rocking out all the while. Add in the arcade cabinet button on the pedal trigger switch, though, and the noise could start to be a problem.
Still, it’s worked out well enough that I will probably build another one ,to almost exactly the same plan, to mount on the left handlebar. Just need to score another arcade cabinet button. Since I’ll probably have to buy one, this time, I may opt for a pair, and look for buttons that are specifically designed to operate quietly.