This Programmer Is Bringing Bricked Flywheel Bikes Back to Life

Flywheel bikes, a victim of the internet of broken things, are slowly being unbricked thanks to a Raspberry Pi and an open-source program.
August 3, 2020, 3:59pm
Screen Shot 2020-08-03 at 11
Image: Getty Images

Earlier this year, the stationary bike company Peloton sued its competitor Flywheel into oblivion. Peloton accused Flywheel of stealing its intellectual property and Flywheel shut down its remote classroom service. Suddenly, customers who’d bought $2,000 bikes to use Flywheel’s service had obsolete machines. 

But now, some previously bricked Flywheel bikes are coming back to life. A Flywheel user wrote Gymnasticon, a program to free their Flywheel from the tyranny of bricking. They’ve released the program for free via Github.

When Flywheel bricked its bikes in February, users only had a few options. They could swap out their Flywheel for a refurbished Peloton and join the Peloton ecosystem, use Flywheel’s new app, or sign up for a service like Zwift—a biking MMO. Every option had drawbacks. Flywheel users may not want a Peloton after the company bricked their bikes, Flywheel’s new app doesn’t include virtual classes, and Zwift requires you to buy extra equipment to make it work.

Gymnasticon author ptx2 wanted to avoid all that. They wanted their Flywheel bike to work with Zwift and other apps without the need for extra equipment. “The primary goal is to make the Flywheel Home Bike work with Zwift,” they wrote in a post explaining the project. “It would be great if it also works with other cycling apps like TrainerRoad and Rouvy. The solution should be easy to use for a non-developer and non-destructive to the bike.”

Ptx2 used a Raspberry Pi 4 running Linux and a Bluetooth adapter to act as an intermediary between the Flywheel bike and Zwift. The Flywheel has a USB port and they used that to power the Pi. Running their simple program, the bike transmits data to the Pi which sends it along to Zwift.

“This has been in daily use for over 2,000 miles and works really well,” Ptx2 wrote on their blog. “Zwift is a lot of fun. TrainerRoad and Rouvy work but I haven’t used them much. The Raspberry Pi Zero W is very versatile and affordable. It’s great that it can be powered by USB. The Flywheel Home Bike is a very solid build quality bike. I’m glad to have found a way to reuse it.”