The machines, installed in November 2011, were then modified by Green Revolution, a company that specializes in installing generators on bikes and hooking them to an inverter, which allows energy to flow back into the grid.
Company representative Mike Curnyn says that over the course of a year, a standard installation of 20 generators, used 20 times per week, could potentially generate 3600 kWh enough to light 72 homes for a month.
The CAC bikes had only generated about 45 kWh since the start of January, and while the bikes' estimated 5-year lifespans probably won't be enough time for the equipment to pay for itself in saved electricity, Curnyn says there are other benefits. He cited potential carbon reductions for those who live close to their gyms most people are within 10 miles, according the company and added that the novel nature of the idea can also attract extra users to a gym.
That seems to be the case: CAC supervisors say the machines have complemented a normal post-holiday rush of fitness clients.
Judy Reese, who runs bike programs at the Columbia gym, credits the new, site-specific equipment with a larger-than-usual number of people coming from the other Columbia locations.
"I can tell you that we've had a lot of people from other facilities for the first time," she said. "We're a service industry, so we get the good comments and the bad comments. Ever since we got the bikes, it's been nothing but good."
Yolanda Rosado, biking at a noon session on Saturday, was one of the newcomers.
"I just started cycling maybe a month, 20 days ago," the Columbia resident says while peddling in the mostly-dark room. "[The generators are] why I came here. A friend of mine takes this class, and she told me. I came out here out of curiosity, and it's exciting to help our community our environment."
Nicole Cysneiros, another workout participant, has more experience at the gym but also likes the new machines.
"They ride really nice," she said. "I think they're awesome. I wish that there were other exercises that helped the environment."
That attitude was one of the reasons why Green Revolution approached Columbia, Curnyn says.
"As part of our early adopter program, we actively targeted Columbia," he says: The community's environmental initiatives were "well known" to the company. Curnyn, whose company is now working to expand from bike modifications into work with rowing machines and elliptical trainers, says the community did not get a discount. "They're good customers."