Buying a Peloton bike is like getting an exclusive invitation to an underground party—a party you certainly know about but don’t quite fully understand until you walk down the steps and into the bass-thudding basement rave.
So when I finally got my invite—er, Bike+—I did what any normal person living in this social media age would do at a party: I posted it on Instagram.
Despite working in the fitness industry and covering Peloton for years, I was taken aback by what happened next: Close friends, who never before mentioned it, confessed that they too had a Peloton; high school acquaintances I hadn’t heard from in years messaged me about their favorite trainers; total strangers sent recommendations for rides. The velvet rope was lifted, and I was officially in.
I quickly realized this “fitness party” is a force all its own. The Peloton phenomenon is not to be understated. It even has its own language (Power Rides! LoveSquad!). As the coronavirus pandemic rages on and we all hunker down for more home workouts, many of us are considering a big home gym equipment purchase, be it a Peloton or one of its competitors.
To help you make your choice, here’s an outline of the updated Bike+ features, a breakdown comparing the original Peloton Bike to the new version, and anything else you could possibly ever want to know including the question I get asked the most: Is it really worth it?
Why Should You Trust This Review?
I’ve been a dedicated outdoor cyclist for over seven years, riding road, gravel, triathlon, and mountain bikes. I have more than two years of experience with the original Peloton Bike in a corporate gym setting and spent three months testing the new Bike+ at home. In addition to personal experience, I’m a NASM-certified personal trainer, and I’ve professionally covered fitness in New York City for over a decade, testing every type of boutique fitness studio imaginable, sweating with the top trainers in the country, and testing gear for our annual Fitness Awards, from home gym equipment to apps like Peloton Digital and Apple’s Fitness+. I’ve been following the Peloton brand since it opened its first studio space in 2014 in New York City, where I’ve taken many classes and I’ve reported on many of the brand’s launches.
The Takeaway: Slick new features paired with the brand’s entertaining and addicting workouts create a high-end indoor cycling experience in the comfort of your home.
Who Should Buy This: Someone who is not interested in an indoor trainer, but is self-motivated, craves top-of-the-line equipment, enjoys group-style workouts, and wants to do them at home.
What We Love: The sleek upgraded machine is whisper quiet and includes smart new features that make workouts even more enjoyable and fun—if you use them.
What We Don’t Love: The new features may not apply to your setup and the platform doesn’t allow other entertainment apps such as Netflix.
Price: $2,495 + $39/month for the subscription compared to $1,895 + $39/month for the original bike. Financing options are available if approved.
Key Features: Bike vs. Bike+
While both bike models look similar and feature the same great classes and social features (more on that below), the Bike+ differs from its popular predecessor in a few key invisible ways: This bike is buttery smooth and crazy silent. One turn of the pedals and I marveled, “whoa,” out loud. To be clear, the original bike is not loud, but the new bike is exceptionally quiet but for the sound of clipping in and out.
Aside from a few minor design tweaks—hidden wires, a raised logo, slightly modified water bottle and hand weight racks—the most visually notable difference is the larger 23.8-inch rotating screen (up from 21.5 inches). Two inches may seem insignificant, but the larger size feels more immersive and holds your attention away from the unlimited distractions in your home that threaten to sabotage your precious workout time.
The larger screen also makes off-the-bike workouts, especially boot camp-style classes or post-ride stretching, easier to follow along with from a distance. The rotating neck allows you to set up your mat and weights next to the bike and swivel the screen for easy viewing.
Bike+ also boasts improved audio features, including front-facing speakers and rear-facing woofers for a booming, immersive, and high-quality experience. The prior bike only has rear-facing stereo speakers. You’ll be both taken aback and impressed by the audio if you can use it, but this feature is likely best-suited for those who have a home gym or basement/garage option.
Due to my living space (I live in a New York City apartment with neighbors on all sides and set my bike up in our guest bedroom), I opted for headphones for all my workouts. Wired headphones now connect to the handlebar, a nice improvement from the original bike’s screen port that often required an extra-long cord. I also used wireless headphones, which connected easily via Bluetooth (5.0 vs. 4.0 connectivity of the original). Another cool audio feature: Both bikes allow you to adjust the volume to make the music or the instructor’s audio louder or softer.
At five pounds heavier than the original, the Bike+ feels more stable especially when you’re cranking hard during HIIT. Throwing all your body weight onto the pedals and push-pulling on the handlebar results in some unavoidable amount of rocking, but the Bike+ is seemingly as stable as possible with an improved handlebar design and heftier construction. You can tweak adjustable legs below both bikes if you’re having wobble issues.
Adjusting the Bike+ to get the proper fit is easier and smoother than ever. One knob manages the saddle and handlebar height while I quick-release lever adjusts the saddle setback, which can be done midride. The graduated markings make it easier to get back to your preferred position after someone else uses the bike, an ideal feature for households with multiple users.
Connectivity and Streaming
Perhaps the most convenient upgrade is a new digital resistance system, which allows for more accurate resistance metrics and automatic adjustments.
For background, according to Peloton, the Bike estimates resistance and calculates output; the Bike+ digitally calculates resistance and thus more accurately measures output directly. This won’t mean much to most people—both bikes provide resistance and output metrics—but if you upgrade to a Bike+ from a Bike (Peloton offers a $700 trade-in rebate), you’ll notice a discrepancy in your usual numbers as the new Bike+ is more accurately calibrated.
An important detail to note for outdoor cyclists is that your usual stats (think: distance and speed) will be slightly skewed on the Peloton due to lack of wind resistance and controlled terrain. This is great for your ego (I’d love to be able to hold 20 mph for 45 minutes outdoors), but it’s less realistic when dealing with outdoor conditions.
The digital resistance tech is also what powers a new feature called Auto-Follow. While the Bike requires you to adjust the resistance by turning a knob, the new digitized experience on Bike+ allows you to opt-in to automatic resistance adjustments based on the instructor’s cues. So when the instructor calls for you to perform an interval at a resistance of 40 to 50, the bike will automatically change to a 45 resistance—eliminating the need for you to do anything aside from crush the interval.
It’s both cool and impressive that your bike can “listen” to your instructor, but this feature is not exclusive (some NordicTrack models feature a similar technology), and it’s slightly glitchy at times. You’ll praise it when you don’t have to turn the dial precisely to 45 when you’re suffering through a sprint, but you may curse its existence when it’s slow to let off at the end of a hard effort, leaving your legs burning for longer than planned. I suspect this will get ironed out and perfected over time, but overall, it is convenient to be free of adjusting the knob during a strenuous effort. Enjoy the best of both worlds by activating Auto-Follow then making manual micro-adjustments throughout the class to fully customize it to your fitness level or mood that day.
If you’re as addicted to your Apple Watch as I am (guilty), you’ll also enjoy the integration of Apple GymKit, a platform that enables third-party cardio machines to effortlessly connect and sync to your watch and read its data only for the duration of the workout. This is cool because machines aren’t great at being precise on metrics like calorie burn, and the Watch needs some help tracking indoor workouts accurately, so this software helps both work together to provide you better, more personalized data for every workout.
This feature is only available for cycling workouts, not bootcamp classes, and works seamlessly—when it works. (Mine failed to connect a handful of times; you have to make sure all your devices are updated.) When I didn’t connect my Apple Watch, I noticed that the calorie burn data on the Bike+ was overestimated by around 60 to 100 calories per workout.
While you can sync this bike to your Watch, you won’t be syncing it to your Netflix or Hulu accounts. One of the common criticisms of the Bike+ is that it does not support streaming or additional apps. This is where Peloton’s rivals have tried to gain a competitive edge; bikes from Bowflex and Stryde enable streaming so you can opt for their content or spin along to your favorite movies and shows. That’s not a feature I personally desired, but some might expect such an upgrade for a top-of-the-line bike.
5 Indoor Cycling Workout Essentials
Is the Bike+ Worth It?
Upon posting the Bike+ to social media and sharing it with friends, the most common question I received was: “Is the new bike worth it?”
The answer: It depends. I know, this is an unpopular answer, but stick with us. Rephrase the question to: Is the new bike right for me? Aside from being realistic about how often you’ll use the Bike+ and everything it has to offer (including upgraded features over the previous model), you should ask yourself these questions.
Do I Have Space for It?
The footprint of both bikes is 4 feet by 2 feet (Peloton has a handy guide that outlines how to fit it in small spaces). But you’ll need an area that’s roughly 4-by-4 feet to take full advantage of the rotational screen and set your mat up next to your bike. If you’re short on space and don’t have the privacy to blast the new and improved audio system, you may be better off with the original bike. It’s worth mentioning that you can cast any of the workouts onto a TV screen if that works better for your set-up.
Does It Fit With My Current Routine?
Consider how you plan to use it and what workouts you already love. Do you regularly use indoor workouts to prep for races? Do you just ride for fun and get motivated by music and lots of instruction? If so, you’ll have no problem working the Peloton into your run training.
Prior to getting the Bike+, I took indoor spin classes at studios like SoulCycle and Flywheel in New York City regularly since 2012, so I knew this would work into my regular schedule seamlessly and save me a ton of money ($36/class), time, and effort. If you’re still unsure, you can opt for the Peloton Digital Subscription ($12.99/month after 30 days free) to get a gist of the instructors, class types, and general vibe of the workouts before committing to a bigger investment.
If you’re content with riding outside for cardio and aren’t interested in the entertainment value of some of these classes (more on the workouts below), or if you need a bike trainer to toss in the car and warm up for races, this may not be for you.
Will It Save Me Money in the Long Run?
It’s no secret that the upfront costs of cycling are more than some other sports like running. Plus, gym memberships range from as low as $10 per month at Planet Fitness to as high as $260 per month at high-end clubs like Equinox. But those require travel time and may not offer access to top trainers; Planet fitness, for example, doesn’t have group classes. (Not to mention, a trip to the gym these days comes with an increased risk of COVID.)
In contrast, Peloton financing is available with no interest if approved for $49/month (Bike) or $64/month (Bike+) for 39 months. This jumps to $61 and $76 respectively with the most expensive Family Bike+ package, which includes all of the extras: two pairs of shoes, a bike mat, one set of weights, resistance bands, a yoga block, a yoga strap, and two water bottles. (There are two cheaper packages in between, and you can opt to buy any of the accessories à la carte). Add in the All-Access membership ($39/month) and that puts you anywhere between as low as $88/month to as high as $115/month. For that, you don’t even have to leave the house—a nice draw for those who fear the dangers of outdoor riding or who live in cold climates.
For a rough idea, I completed 10 cycling workouts in the past 30 days, which comes out to roughly $10 per class for my set-up, a steal by New York City standards.
Do I Want It ASAP?
Due to the rapid increase in demand, delivery times for the Bike and Bike+ are currently eight to 10 weeks. There was previously a shorter waitlist for the Bike so this is expected to change. The company has been dogged by complaints about delivery times and announced it is investing more than $100 million to improve wait times.
This is where the Peloton party really shines: The brand is now well-known for its music-driven, studio-style workouts with celebrity-like trainers. The library is so vast, there is undoubtedly a perfect workout for any person—the tricky part is finding it.
With the All-Access membership, you get live and on-demand indoor cycling, stretching, yoga, cardio, meditation, running (tread), outdoor (audio), tread bootcamp, bike bootcamp, and walking classes; multiple new and existing programs (including a six-week mastering the basics of cycling program, and a four-week Power Zones training plan), and challenges (see below). For cycling classes, expect options that suit every skill level from beginner and low-impact to HIIT, climbing, or heart rate zone to name a few.
For those who aren’t interested in studio-style classes or music-driven options, I’d recommend Power Zone rides. You’ll take a 20-minute functional threshold power (FTP) test to find your specific training zones. (It’s brutal, so follow the guidance in the Power Zone program to execute this safely). Once you have your zones, they’ll appear with the other metrics during every class and will make it especially easy to follow along during Power Zone classes. I loved these classes. They are set up slightly differently, and I found the instructors who teach them to be more straightforward—like you’re working with a coach versus a cheerleader.
Only true Peloton-fans will remember when the New York City studio first opened and the brand had a partnership with the Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling team. Riders like Ted King would pop in and teach a live class, a strategic play to lure outdoor riders inside. Those classes no longer exist on the platform, but there is a Pro Cyclist set of 20 classes led by Christian Vande Velde that may be more appealing to road cyclists. These classes are more technical with finely tuned intervals, strategic recovery, and tips for the road from a pro himself.
To put it plainly: There’s a lot of content. Between the number of class options and instructors, selecting a workout can be overwhelming. To help you dig through all the options, the platform has a smart filtering tool that sifts classes based on your interests i.e.: 30 minutes, cycling class, rock music, with Christian Vande Velde.
Figuring out what you like best requires some trial and error. Every trainer has a distinct personality, teaching style, difficulty level, and music selection. Each workout offers you a brief description, a short preview, and a playlist before you start the class, but it’s best to just take a few classes from a bunch of different instructors to figure out what works for you. And when in doubt, you can always opt for a “just ride” or scenic ride option.
For the competitive among us, there is a leaderboard of all-time stats as well as a “here now” view, which shows you = the metrics of people currently in the class—a smart addition as it’s not always rewarding to place 2,527 out of 25,912 riders. You can show or hide this panel at any time mid-class. I usually hide it, but it’s nice to have the option because when you see a user twice your age crushing your output, it definitely lights a little fire under the pedals. This “gamification” of the workouts is another big draw for many.
And finally, just like at any great party, anything can happen. The classes are filmed live, which means the instructors make mistakes and occasionally use expletives. Some also lean heavily—perhaps too heavily at times—on inspirational language or motivational mantras that could turn a user off. Still, some riders will find the gaffes entertaining (I found myself actually laughing out loud during some of Cody Rigsby’s classes); while others find the saccharine slogans motivating, so to each his own. As noted, the library is so vast, you’ll certainly be able to find something that works for you.
Thanks to the craze Peloton created, competition is now high. Brands such as NordicTrack, Echelon, Bowflex, and SoulCycle all have connected indoor bikes with live-streamed and on-demand classes that undercut the cost of a Bike+.
But I’ll tell you what I told the many friends who messaged me inquiring about the bike over the past few months: The new Bike+ comes at a cost, yes. However, the upgrades are based on customer feedback to improve the original model, which is still available at a more affordable price, and the quality and convenience are hard to put a price tag on.
Both bikes give you access to the biggest draw: Peloton’s interactive platform of workouts and programs led by world-class trainers. To truly get the most out of every sweat session, one of the Peloton bikes is the way to go, especially for families and households with multiple users. Spring for the Bike+ model, and you’ll get even more out of an already-engaging and fun home workout option. I’m personally looking forward to fist-pumping in my guest room for the foreseeable future.
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