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a woman standing in a room: Peloton


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Peloton

  • Peloton’s new Bike+ is a big step-up from the original version, both in terms of its price and features.
  • It features a swiveling screen, automatically shifting resistance levels, and even syncs with an Apple Watch to monitor your heart rate.
  • The Bike+ delivers an effective, fun workout but its seat physically pained me, which is unfortunate for a $2,500 bike.

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The biggest challenge with Peloton’s new Bike+ isn’t the high-energy classes but how hard it is to actually get one. Though it released several months ago, there’s still a 10-week delivery wait – and that’s on the good side. Thankfully, once it does arrive, setting it up is easy and its touchscreen directions are intuitive enough even for those brand new to the Peloton world.

The new Peloton Bike+, released in October of 2020, has three key differences from its popular predecessor: It comes with a bigger, rotating 24-inch touchscreen, it allows you to sync the bike with an Apple Watch to monitor heart rate activity, and now features automatically adjusted resistance. It’s also quite a bit more expensive.

At $2,495, not including the $40 a month membership fee to access the classes, it’s a pricey investment – and a substantial increase over the original Peloton Bike that’s now just $1,895. It’s worth it for serious spinners and the live classes offer that competitive adrenaline rush many of us are missing from in-person group classes.

After purchasing one myself, and spending the last several months riding it, it’s been an up and down experience. It’s a great exercise bike that offers a huge library of engaging, interactive classes but it does have a few drawbacks, namely the high cost and genuine, physical pain that comes from adapting to the bike seat (more on this below).

The new Peloton Bike+

Peloton offers two interactive bikes called Bike and Bike+. The Peloton Bike+ has the same dimensions as the original, standing 4 feet high and 2 feet wide and at 140-pounds, it’s not something you’re going to move around very easily – it’s a hefty piece of equipment, made of carbon steel and tested to handle riders up to 297 pounds. That sturdy construction also means there’s never been even the slightest wobble, no matter if I was getting on or off the bike.

The machine comes with two slots for water bottles and space in the back specifically designed to hold a pair of weights. Riders will need to wear specific biking shoes with Delta-compatible cleats, too. The Peloton site offers shoes for an additional $125, as well as water bottles for $25. A selection of one- to three-pound weights are also available for $25, as is a floor mat for $59. It’s convenient to get the Peloton-offered gear, though users could also look elsewhere for cheaper alternatives.



All available accessories for the Bike+ in the Family Set Peloton


© Peloton
All available accessories for the Bike+ in the Family Set Peloton

A set of easy-to-use knobs make it simple to dial in the right height for both the seat and handlebars, even for someone like me who had no prior experience using it. If you do run into any trouble, the bike’s home screen offers walkthrough videos on moving the seat up and down and front and back, as well as tips on lifting the handlebars.

It also offers tips for proper positioning. For instance, the seat should be about elbow to fingertip distance to the handlebar, and the walkthroughs work great for showing you how to specifically set that up.

Figuring out how to adjust the screen takes just a few minutes, as well, as it only requires a gentle push back and a tilt upright before it starts to easily swivel. This is key for any workouts that take you off your bike, as you’ll want to be able to quickly move the screen as you transition to a workout mat.

Setting it up

One benefit of paying for a Peloton is the convenience of having it delivered to your door, brought into your home, and professionally set up. I was told it’d be less than 20 minutes in and out but unfortunately, there was a problem with the Peloton server the day my bike arrived – and no one told the delivery team.

They proceeded to spend over an hour, while masked, trying to connect the bike and activate it, even going so far as to try different bikes they had on-hand (to no success). Because of the pandemic, they also weren’t able to adjust the bike for me and at 5’3″, I’m still trying to find the right setup, but it’s easy to make adjustments.

The delivery snafu was, of course, no fault of those dropping it off, though it was unfortunate the server issues weren’t known. If everything had gone smoothly, I saw no reason they wouldn’t have been able to meet the original, 20-minute estimation.      

Navigating the Peloton app



graphical user interface: Peloton


© Peloton
Peloton

On the bike and off, it’s fairly simple to maneuver through Peloton’s class options. The home screen offers live schedules, on-demand classes, and a range of beginning to advanced levels and programs. Each requires a simple tap on the screen and you’re in.

You can also follow friends on the platform by typing in their nicknames or by following specific groups – these encompass everything from groups for teachers, age-specific categories, and even an HBCU grouping.  Newcomers can pick low-impact rides or short five to 10-minute rides to get used to the bike, and there are plenty of advanced options, as well.

Gallery: 6 Best Peloton Alternatives That Are Just as Good (Men’s Health)

There's no question that Peloton took the crown as the hottest piece of exercise equipment in 2020. As people continue to avoid the gym and exercise studios, the at-home spin bike has become a must-have for people looking to safely get their sweat on. The downside? These bikes ain't cheap. Peloton prices start at just under $1,900 — and on top of that, you're looking at a $40-per-month membership fee. If you're asking if there's a cheaper alternative to Peloton, the answer is yes and we did the research for you. Read on for six peloton alternatives — most at least half the price of the original — that don't sacrifice quality. But first, consider these three questions as you shop.  Will I still be able to stream Peloton classes on my alternative bike?One of the most notable features of a Peloton is the included 22-inch HD touchscreen monitor that holds access to the service's full library of classes. As we mentioned above, the service will cost you $40 a month, but here's a pro tip: You can access Peloton's digital app for just $13 per month, giving you the same access to both live and previously recorded classes on your smart device. You won't be able to access Peloton's famous leaderboard, which ranks riders in the class in real time based on their output, but if the competitive aspect doesn't interest you, the $27 per month in savings might be worth it. Here the caveat: You will need an iPad, a smart TV, or another device to stream Peloton classes on the digital app while you ride, and not every bike's resistance and heart rate monitor will be able to sync with Peloton's service. On top of that, some alternatives are only compatible with their own class subscription service, so if you are hoping to ride with one of Peloton's famous instructors, that's something you'll want to consider. What's included in my purchase?Depending on which alternative bike you choose, you'll want to do your research on what accessories are included in your purchase. Some bikes — like our top pick, the Schwinn IC4 — come with everything you need to start riding right out of the box. But for others, you may need to buy your own cadence sensor or heart rate monitor to make them work with the Peloton app. You also might want to snag a pair of light weights if your cycling workout will include an arms section.Another thing to look out for: subscription deals. Some Peloton alternatives, like Echelon Connect Sport and the Nordic Track Commercial S15i, come with up to a full year's trial of their class subscription services. Do I need special shoes to ride? The quick answer is no. All of our recommendations below have sneaker cages so you won't need any additional footwear to get riding right out of the box. However, some spinners prefer to use clip-in shoes for more stability and speed while riding. If you want to upgrade, you'll have to purchase your cleats separately and you'll want to check to make sure they are compatible with your bike's pedals. The most popular options are SPD and Delta clips — we note which our picks are compatible with below.

The home screen shows what classes are happening live, what classes and programs your friends recommend, and a section for your favorite artists. If you’re looking for a class featuring music by Lady Gaga, just click on her name and you’ll see a dozen offerings for your inner monster.       

As each class progresses, the screen monitors how fast you’re pedaling, the current resistance, distance traveled, calories burned, and, most importantly, how many minutes are left. Heart monitors can also be hooked up via Bluetooth or through an Apple Watch, and users can connect their Spotify accounts. If there’s a song played in class that you like, the interface lets you click the small heart reaction to quickly add it to a Spotify playlist.

If you’re someone who likes to work out to music, connecting your own playlist might be the way to go. Instructors talk a lot during the rides, and if there was a drinking game involved, it’d be whenever they mention the word “Peloton,” which happens several times during a 20-minute ride. There is an option in the volume menu to turn down the chatter if you want, too.

It’s worth noting that non-bike classes offered on the app aren’t viewable within the metrics captured by the bike. For example, I took a walking class to get some extra steps in one night but when I looked for it on the bike after a ride, it only showed that I’d done the walk as a “past workout.” The workout itself wasn’t accessible and a search revealed no walking offerings.                

Using the Peloton app on my Roku was a different experience as an entire category of walking programs appeared, albeit with no search function to find the Barre or Cardio Dance classes.  A quick Google search told me that I instead needed to use the filter option to pick what kinds of classes I wanted to see (i.e. barre is under the Strength category) and what difficulty and length I preferred.

Other options are similarly elusive; a recent Peloton ad offered an eight-week Say Yes program with legendary television producer, Shonda Rhimes, but it didn’t appear for several days on the bike. More search functions on the home screen and on the app would help solve a number of problems.

What it’s like to ride



a person sitting in front of a computer screen: Peloton


© Peloton
Peloton

I ordered the Bike+ during a panic attack at the thought of being trapped in my house all winter with no exercise options but Zoom and YouTube.  I wanted something different and challenging. Peloton’s bike seemed to fit that bill.

As soon as I got it, one thing was abundantly clear: There’s a wide variety of workouts that produce a ton of sweating. I also couldn’t help but notice how terribly uncomfortable the seat is. Although I’m fine riding a bike, the Peloton seat was so painful that I could barely manage five minutes in the saddle. Even with the addition of a gel seat top and padded bike shorts, I’d still be in so much pain after a 20-minute ride that I’d be hobbling.

This apparently goes away over time and it’s a well-known issue (I’d consider it a sort of hazing ritual). But why Peloton can’t offer a seat made for beginners, wider riders, or women, I don’t know. It does sort of lessen the motivation to want to jump on and ride knowing it’ll be an uncomfortable experience.

One thing Peloton does make easy, though, is being able to simply jump on and ride right away. Just a minimal amount of navigation stood between me and a session. But whenever I instead wanted to look for something specific, whether it’s a particular program, workout, or artist, I often had to look multiple places – on the bike, then on the app, then on my laptop – just to find it.

The live classes certainly make for a nicely interactive and competitive experience and are far more engaging than following along to a YouTube video. The variety of on- and off-bike options, be it the type of music, a certain class length, or even a specific ride difficulty, make it accessible for riders of varied ages and abilities, too.

One of the best new features I was able to take advantage of is Peloton’s “Auto-Follow Resistance” which changes the resistance levels automatically based on what the instructor sets it at. Before, you had to turn the knob yourself (and you still can) but the addition of an auto function makes it so it’s far easier to just focus on the ride. This is something NordicTrack’s S22i Studio Cycle has had for some time, so it’s nice to finally see it on a Peloton bike.

Price breakdown

Here’s how the Bike+ stacks up to other interactive exercise bikes on the market:

Should you buy it?



Peloton


© Peloton
Peloton

The answer to this question comes down to two key factors: Do you enjoy the production style of Peloton’s classes and, perhaps most importantly, do you have the budget?

At $2,500, the Bike+ certainly isn’t a drop in the bucket and that high price also means it’s likely to be the center of your fitness routine. There’s no denying the value of the bike and its effectiveness – so long as you actually use it.

What are your alternatives?

If it’s an exercise bike you want, there are plenty of other alternatives to consider that I’ve listed above, though the bike that’s most similar is NordicTrack’s S22i Studio Cycle. Featuring a large built-in screen, the S22i streams classes via the iFit platform and offers rides in locations around the world, as well as high-energy in-studio classes that aren’t dissimilar from what Peloton offers.

The biggest difference with the S22i is its cheaper price ($1,999 as opposed to $2,495 for the Bike+) and the fact a free year of an iFit membership is included upon purchase. That means you won’t have to pony up $40 a month just to ride your brand new bike. 

The bottom line

It’s easy to see why Peloton’s Bike+ (and standard Bike before it) are popular pieces of at-home workout equipment; they offer energetic, sweat-soaked workouts, they’re incredibly convenient to use, and they do well to help people of all fitness levels keep up with some routine cardio.

For me, Bike+ filled a need I thought I had: I wanted something that could deliver a better workout than what I was used to on Zoom and YouTube. And though it took some getting used to (i.e. its incredibly uncomfortable seat), it ultimately allowed me to satisfy that need.

It’s certainly not a cheap piece of equipment, and a recurring $40 per month charge for unlimited access to its wide-ranging app adds to that, but it’s been a quality investment I’m glad I made.

I just hope I’m not hobbling forever.

Pros: Effective, convenient workouts, screen swivels for off-bike exercises, features automatic resistance shifting, Peloton app offers a wide variety of classes and class types

Cons: Expensive, incredibly uncomfortable seat that physically hurts

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