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This is our 1991 NordicTrack Challenger Ski Machine folded to a vertical configuration I enabled for storage in a hall closet. We now live in a smaller home and do not have space in a basement room for a NordicTrack ski machine to sit ready for use, as would be required in the second photo. Click on the third photo for a full view. It shows this NordicTrack ski machine stowed away in a closet.

This Instructable will show several modifications I made to our basic NordicTrack ski machine and give enough information that the reader could make similar modifications to his or her machine. 

Step 1: Add Detachable Wheels

In 2011 I did an Instructable on how I added removable wheels so our NordicTrack ski machine could be moved up and down steps by one person without difficulty. Since I have added springs with hooks I can grasp for attachment or release. These serve two purposes. They keep the axle for the wheels in place, and they block the skis from sliding when the ski machine is stored vertically or being moved. 

I experimented with using the ski machine while the wheels are in place and after the springs had been released so the skis can move normally. But, the ski machine can move forward and backward a little on the wheels. That creates havoc with the protective floor pads at the rear of the machine. Earlier I found a broken weld on the rear support, but it was probably unrelated to putting wheels under the front of the machine.  

Step 2: Support Foot

The key to upright storage of our NordicTrack ski machine is a support foot that acts in concert with the wheels mentioned in the previous step. Once the wheels were attached, I could bring the ski machine to a vertical position and find the place where it was balanced so that the machine did not want to fall backward or forward. Then I measured from a suitable point on the frame to the floor. I cut a piece of pipe long enough to allow coping one end to fit the contours of the frame tubing. I used the process in this Instructable to cope the pipe to fit before welding. I allowed for a square steel foot. (Please excuse my sloppy welds. They really do not need to hold much in this application.)

Step 3: Secure the Upright Column for Storage

NordicTrack ski machines do fold or collapse for shipment and for storage. On our Challenger there is a pivot bolt and a retaining bolt. Remove the retaining bolt and the main post can be laid back so it rests on the ski machine flywheel. I experimented with holding the main post against the flywheel with two bungee cords connected end-to-end and then to each other in a loop. That worked, but I wanted something more permanent. So, I welded a piece of steel a little thicker than 1/8 inch to the frame of the ski machine near where the main post pivots and drilled a hole to align with the hole for the retaining bolt. 

There is an electrical cord inside the main post. Sometimes this cord blocks the hole for the bolt and I need to wiggle it out of the way with the end of the bolt.

Step 4: Make the Bolt Easy to Use

Originally, the retaining bolt required two wrenches to remove it or put it into place. I welded a lever onto the bolthead and onto the nut. In the absence of a shorter bolt, I welded a piece of square tubing to the nut to reduce the amount of twisting I would need to do to tighten the nut on the retaining bolt. 

The head of the bolt does not need to turn 360 degrees as long as the nut can. But, there is a restriction that would block the nut if the lever on it were as long as the lever on the bolthead. I tighten the nut finger tight. Then I tighten the handle on the bolthead.

Step 5: Tray for an Audio Player

I bounce around too much on a ski machine to read comfortably, so a reading rack is of no interest to me. But, I do frequently listen to an audio player while exercising. This tray is made from sheetmetal that was part of the outer cabinet on our old washing machine. It came from the lid on top of the machine. Two sides already had a lip. I folded two other sides up and the tray will hold a personal CD player. Two screws fit around the square tube on the abdomen pads. Another piece of sheetmetal with two holes fits over the ends of the screws. Nuts hold it all in place.

Step 6: Cord Rests

Some NordicTrack models come equipped with rests for the hand cord ends. Ours did not. I bent a piece of 1/8 inch rod and welded two thin "L"-shaped pieces to it to fit around the square tube on the drum arm. At first I let tension hold the rests in place. Since, I have drilled a hole and added a sheetmetal screw to hold the rests securely. Fish tank tubing or a rubber fitting protect hands from roughness on the ends of the rod.

Step 7: Exercise Computer

Our ski machine came without the official exercise computer. These have changed over the years, but we found this one on eBay. Even at that, the feature I most often use is the timer. Still, it can measure one's heartbeat, calories allegedly burned, speed, and distance covered. 

Our eBay computer came without any connecting cords. See the second photo. The electrical line that picks up pulses from a reed switch operated by a magnet on the flywheel is a simple 1/8 inch mono audio cable. 

Step 8: Heart Monitor

The heart monitor is not state of the art for today, but it gives a comparative reading that can be useful, but, the user pretty much must stop exercising to take a reading. After we bought our used NordicTrack, my wife decided she wanted the heart rate monitor. Treadmill Doctor sells them. (I have no connection with Treadmill Doctor.) This heart monitor clips to one's ear lobe. 

If you are using a ski machine for weight loss, etc. and heart rate is important, your breathing rate can be used well, and without a monitoring device. A good target heart rate for endurance exercises, like bicycling, that can lead to weight loss is about 70 to 75 percent of one's theoretical maximum heart rate. Co-incidentally, when I used a heart rate monitor on my bicycle, I found that rate of exertion happens at about the point at which you need to open your mouth to breathe while exercising, or just below it. 

A better heart rate monitor would be one that involves a strap around the skin on your chest with a readout you can see while exercising. Various companies make such devices in various price ranges.

Step 9: An Irritation

The way the cords feed onto the drum vary on NordicTrack ski machines. Ours was pretty basic with no idler pulley guides. The cords often wrapped over themselves so that there was sometimes a snapping noise and feel in use. I found it irritating and unsettling. I improvised these guards so that the cord on the left winds from the lower half of the drum while the cord on the right winds on the upper half of the drum.  There is no more snapping sensation. The cords do not appear to be wearing from riding over the 1/4 inch steel rods I welded to the cage for the cords. The second photo gives another view, although only from the left side.

Step 10: Normal Wear

The drive rollers each contain a one-way needle bearing that allows the rollers to turn smoothly in one direction, but lock onto the shaft in the opposite direction. In time, these one-way needle bearings stop working. The user will notice inconsistent performance. The rollers may not fully release when dragging one foot forward for a new stride, or they may slip on the shaft and not grab it during the push stroke when the foot is moving backwards.  Before you replace the rollers or the ski machine, try cleaning the bearings in the rollers with a very thin penetrating oil, like Liquid Wrench. I have not tried WD-40, the old standby, but it should work, too. For a more complete discussion of this and how to do it, see this Community Post at Instructables. I have found cleaning the drive rollers an effective way to restore them, as have others. At the least, this is a temporary fix. It is difficult to know how long this fix will last, or how many times it may be repeated before it is no longer effective. (The photo shows one side of the ski machine removed for removal of the drive rollers.)  


Step 11: Something Else

I did two Instructables on dismantling and rebuilding the adjustment knob mechanism for a NordicTrack Achiever model. These knob assemblies use plastic and cast metal parts that wear. It is possible to rebuild these, but it is quite a bit of work. The attraction of these knob assemblies is that the tension drag on the flywheel can be changed while in use. Our Challenger has a metal clip that must be set while not exercising. 

Step 12: Steps for Using or Storing Our Ski Machine

In case you are wondering, here are the steps involved in setting up our ski machine after removing it from storage in the closet.
  1. Lay the machine down so it is in its normal position on the floor.
  2. Pull the spring hooks from the frame.
  3. Lift the front of the machine and remove the wheels and their axle.
  4. Loosen and remove the retaining bolt on the main post.
  5. Raise the main post and secure it with the retaining bolt.
  6. Raise the arm with the drum.
  7. Raise the arm with the abdomen pads. 
Readying it for storage is similar, but in reverse.
  1. Lower the drum arm.
  2. Lower the abdomen pads arm.
  3. Remove the retaining bolt and lower the main post.
  4. Secure the main post in the storage position with the retaining bolt.
  5. Raise the front of the ski machine and slide the axle into place. Lower the ski machine onto the axle.
  6. Push the front ends of the skis back and attach the spring hooks.
  7. Lift the back of the ski machine from the floor and roll it to the closet.
I hesitated when I prepared my first Instructable related to a NordicTrack ski machine. Although they are offered for sale new, people have drifted to other exercise machines, like an elliptical trainer. Still, cross country skiing remains a very good and popular form of exercise, and the NordicTrack ski machine replicates cross country skiing. The Community Post I submitted on rebuilding the drive rollers has drawn a surprising number of views. It appears interest in these ski machines is still relatively strong. 
Interesting
Thank you for looking and for commenting.

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Bio: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying ... More »
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