UPDATE 8/30/2020: COVID has changed my opinion on the Peloton, as it has changed the fitness landscape. See my updated post here: Your First Peloton Ride: What to Expect (COVID Update)
This past weekend, my friend let me come to her apartment’s gym and try out her Peloton (thanks, Erin!). I have been curious about it for a couple years, and wanted to get a sense of what it’s all about. When I go to spin classes, I go to Flywheel. Would I like Peloton more than Flywheel? Are the classes are engaging? I was pleasantly surprised.
With Peloton, riders can choose from live classes or one of the past live classes. Peloton a really large variety of options. Even knowing how popular Peloton is, I was surprised by not only how many classes there were available, but how many people were doing the pre-recorded class I chose at the same time as me (about 35 when I started my ride). While Peloton is best known for their at-home cycling programs, they also have running (outdoor and treadmill), walking, HIIT cardio, bootcamp, strength, yoga, meditation, and stretching programs. The strength classes are between 5 and 30 minutes, with a lot in the 10-20 minute range. I only tried a cycle class.
When choosing a class, riders can filter by length, class type, instructor, and music genre. I think it would take a little while to figure out what class type works best for me, and it’s not entirely clear when clicking into a class listing what to expect. While I can filter by class type (metrics, pro cyclist, low impact, power zone, intervals, heart rate zone, rhythm, beginner, live DJ, climb, or theme), I can’t tell the class type when viewing the class details. For instance, the class that I took (45 min Pop Ride with Denis Morton) is just described as “We dare you not to dance through this pop music theme ride focusing on all the best from the pop music charts,” and listed some artists that were played.
Most studios I go to have a Schwinn bike, or something very similar to it. The Schwinn bikes tend to feel more fluid overall. It’s not that the Peloton bike isn’t smooth–it’s very smooth. Even at zero resistance, though, the pedals don’t move as easily as Schwinn bikes or the Flywheel bikes, which makes it a different feeling when riding. It’s a tiny bit similar to the Expresso bikes (which I hate) in this regard, but not nearly as bad. I think I would definitely get used to the Peloton bikes, but it would take some time.
If you haven’t rode before, you can walk through the basics on setting up your bike. I skipped all of that since the bike seemed pretty straight forward after having done spin classes for the past 4 years. I was able to connect my AirPods for the audio, but I did have to google the steps and spend about 5 minutes figuring it out (hint: this post explains it).
I was dripping sweat at the end! Honestly I did not expect to have as good of a workout as I did, or sweat as much as I did, especially because the gym didn’t get as hot and humid as a class in a studio. It was a good workout, I felt like I got a quality ride with variety and similar to what you get in a boutique spin studio. It was challenging and engaging, the instruction was clear, and I found myself laughing with the instructor. The class is mostly just the instructor giving direction, although the one I saw did have one person riding along with them in the studio where they were filming.
The instructor Denis would give an instruction, and then it would show up on the bottom of the screen. He gave a target range to hit for cadence and resistance. When I am within that range, the range lights up in yellow. I really liked this as a guide (similar to what I love about Flywheel), and the gamification of it did push me to do more.
However, I am not an expert at spin, and I was at the middle of the pack for this class. Even being middle of the pack, I still found myself pushing past the suggested ranges for resistance. When I pushed above the suggested range, it no longer showed up in yellow–which miffed me a bit. I was going harder than what was suggested because I felt that’s what the ride needed, and wasn’t getting my instant gratification with the yellow.
Another thing that rankled me was that the instructor would give the target speed (let’s say 65 RPMs) that we should be around, which aligned with the music. The range that showed up on the screen did not have that target speed as the mid-range, and instead had it as the low-end of the range (65-75 RPMs). I’m someone who rides to the beat, and the beat is what keeps me going; it was driving me crazy to see my fall out of the range if I was still following the beat but at 64 RPMs.
Also on the screen are total output in kilojoules (a unit of energy) and current output in watts. For cadence and resistance, it also shows my averages during the ride and if my average is increasing or decreasing with my current settings. I liked the averages a lot, it helped me to benchmark within the class, and also added some additional gamification of wanting to increase these numbers.
During class, I could see where I rank (based on total output) with other people taking the class. I wasn’t sure how this would work for classes that aren’t live, but they accomplish this pretty well. Everyone taking the class at the same time has their scores up on the board, with an indicator for how far into the class they are. If I and other rider have the same score but they’re almost done their ride and I’m only halfway through, I know that I’ll eventually overtake them (and vice versa or people coming up behind you). I didn’t really find that the rankings caused me to push any harder like the leaderboard in Flywheel does, but I would imagine it would in a live class.
One question I was curious about is, “Do you burn more calories with Peloton or Flywheel?” According to my Fitbit, for this Peloton ride, I burned 232 calories. For my last Flywheel class, I burned 213 calories (also according to my Fitbit). While the Fitbit may not be accurate, I think the comparison in readings is helpful as a gauge, since it’s a consistent method of measuring calories burned. I burned about the same amount of calories with Peloton and Flywheel. I will note that the 232 calories my Fitbit said I burned was significantly less than the 427 calories Peloton said I burned. Flywheel’s estimates were much closer, saying I burned about 281 calories versus the 213 my Fitbit showed.
As someone who loves data and measuring my progress, I really liked the visualization of the ride after it was finished. As a comparison, I definitely found it superior to the Flywheel metrics interface (bring back the 2015-2018 interface). The workout dashboard includes my overall stats, and then breaks down the different metrics (output, cadence, resistance, and speed) over the ride. What’s also really helpful is that across the top, I have the different portions of the ride so I can see what was going on. In the below, the stages were warmup, ride, weights, ride, and cool down. My output dropped with the weights part, and I love that I can see that.
In my opinion, Peloton is good for:
- Those with limited time due to family or work constraints
- People who cannot make it to a good spin class location
- Quick guided rides
- Those who do not like working out in public
- Anyone currently spinning multiple times a week and looking to save money
If I had a family to shuttle around to soccer practice, piano lessons, tutoring, and playdates, I would be looking for a way to maximize my time. Peloton allows people to work out from their home, which saves commute time to the gym and means they don’t have to find babysitters for your kids. Because it has the different length of rides, they can also do whatever they have time for. I think this is a great option for people in those situations.
There’s nothing worse than going to a spin class and expecting to leave invigorated but instead leaving feeling like you just wasted your time. Although only doing one ride is not enough to judge the large portfolio of classes available, my friends who have a Peloton love it and love the classes. No one has been kind of “meh” about them, which is impressive. If someone doesn’t have a lot of spin class options around them, Peloton would be a good choice.
I also know that some people do not like working out in front of other people. I get it, I keep my head down at my work gym because I don’t want anyone I work with to see me all sweaty. For those people, the Peloton would be a good way to get a similar workout to the spin studios.
If someone is going to spin class at a studio multiple times a week, they’re shelling out a lot of money. $28 classes 8 times a month means they’re paying $224 per month. While not cheap, Peloton is cheaper than that. You might be getting different things out of the studio that make it worth it, but if not, maybe the Peloton is for you.
If I was looking for an apartment and the building’s gym had a Peloton, it might be a swaying factor in me picking that building, because I think I would use it. I would love it if my work gym had a Peloton, I would definitely use it (and it would be something I considered when looking for a new job, to be frank–I wouldn’t want to lose it).
For me, I’m not going to be getting a Peloton any time soon. I don’t think I would use it enough to justify the $2,200 upfront and $39 per month price tag. At most, I would want to use it once a week (realistically probably every other week, based on how much I spin now). I also find it very difficult to get motivated enough to work out at home–I need the external pressure of having to be somewhere else to do it. While I think Peloton does this nicely with live classes, I don’t think it would be enough of a pressure for me.
Let’s assume that the life of my interest in the bike is two years (which honestly is generous with the 2-3 times total I’ve used my pilates reformer machine that I bought 3 months ago). That would put the cost of the bike at $91.67 per month, plus the $39per month cost of the streaming classes. It puts me at $130.67 per month, just for spin classes. If I took 4 classes a month, it would be $32 per class; if I took 2 classes a month, that’s $65 per class
Currently, I use my ClassPass credits to do spin classes at $55 per month after tax. While it’s not unlimited, it does allow for me to take up to 5 classes a month. If I’m paying $130 per month, I could become a member at a gym with spin classes. $130 per month would give me a membership to a high end gym like VIDA, and for a little bit more I could become a member at the ultra-luxe Equinox with top instructors, cold towels (seriously, those towels!), and weightlifting options. For less than that, I could get a membership at Bodysmith, the Y, Crunch, or Washington Sports Club (all of which are convenient for me and have spin classes).
Peloton is a good product, and it really resonates with people. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. But with that price tag and me going to a spin class only occasionally, I can’t justify the cost.
I have no affiliation with Peloton.