Because my broken foot has forced me to take a break from running, and because nobody wants to live with me unless I’m getting my cardio every day — I caved and bought a Peloton spin-bike. I’m no stranger to indoor spin classes, so here’s what I think of the new (very expensive) toy!
But let’s not get ahead of things.. For those who’ve never done indoor cycling, you’re probably asking..
What exactly IS a spin class?
You basically show up to a class and go into a room with 20+ other bikes/people. Everyone gets on a stationary bike while the instructor faces the class on their own bike. The lights turn down, the music turns up, and you follow the instructor through a 30 to 60 minute course. They give constant instructions and motivations, such as “turn up your resistance”, “ride faster”, “ride slower”, “follow your dreams”, “don’t you quit on me!”, etc. (That’s a gross over-simplification, but you get the idea).
At the end of the day, they’re meant to simulate the workout of a challenging bike-ride, but you stay in a safe, indoor setting with great music, and a motivating instructor to talk you through the whole thing. I find it’s a far better workout than just taking my bike out for a ride.
The classes often have cult-followings around their instructors and class-mates. In any given class, about 80% is female, and 20% are male, and you’ll find a varied mix of fitness level (from large and very out of shape, to elite athletes doing cross-training). The classes are designed to accommodate everyone, and everyone is going to get a GREAT workout (a beginner who’s never exercised a day in their life, and the elite athlete are all going to be challenged at their own level).
How much is a typical spin class?
Unlimited spin classes are often included with your $20/mo to $50/mo local gym membership, but you may pay anywhere from $10 to $25 per class if you buy them a-la-carte. (Don’t let that scare you.. the $25/class number is pretty extreme, and usually only found in the ultra-luxury studios).
Peloton disrupted the market several years back by bringing live spin classes directly to people’s living room. You buy their bike, hook it up to your internet connection, and then you join live classes with real instructors in high-end spin studios.
The idea is that an online experience with a real, live world-class instructor should be just as good as paying a premium to attend a class in a luxury spin studio.
Peloton does live classes 5 to 10 times a day (depending on the day) with different themes, instructors, and music. All of the instructors are top-notch (honestly, the best I’ve ever encountered), and they also have an on-demand library for those times when your schedule doesn’t line up with the live-class schedule. (I’ve found the on-demand library to be just as good, in terms of the overall experience).
Peloton puts your stats on a leaderboard, allowing you to “compete” with others in the class. You can, of course, turn this off if this kind of thing isn’t motivating to you. For me, however, it’s MASSIVELY motivating. I’m very competitive and find that my workout quality improves a LOT when I can ‘chase’ the next person in front of me.
The Peloton bike is also extremely high quality. It’s by far the nicest bike I’ve ever been on.
Finding a used Peloton is nearly impossible, because it’s really hard to find someone willing to part with their bike. In a world of home-gyms and dusty fitness equipment, where you can get barely-used treadmills for almost nothing, this isn’t just surprising.. it’s unprecedented!!
Peloton has a hard-core cult following. People who own them rarely sell their bikes, and rarely cancel their subscriptions. Peloton owners rave about the classes, the instructors, and the quality of the workouts. They tend to be exceptionally loyal. If there ever was an “Apple of the Fitness World”.. it would be Peloton.
How much is it?
Three words: Expensive as hell!
Expect to spend about $2,500 to get the bike and the shoes. That’s more than double the cost of what you might spend on a high-end spin bike. Plus, there’s a $39.95/mo subscription fee that goes along with that.
I searched and searched, and eventually found one used for $1,800.
There IS a “poor-man’s” version, though, that’s worth paying attention to. You can download the Peloton app to your phone or tablet, use your own stationary bike, and get the same basic experience. The only downside to not having the Peloton bike is that your stats don’t show up on the leaderboard and — let’s face it — the giant HD touch-screen on the Peloton bike is gorgeous, and does a lot in terms of making you feel like you’re right there, in the studio.
The “poor man’s” version is also a lot cheaper, at only $19.95/mo.
I’m told you can buy cadence and power sensors for after-market bikes that will pair with an iPad and give you the same basic stats, but I’ve never experimented with it. Honestly, that may be more trouble than it’s worth.
Why I Bought It
Since breaking my foot and being unable to run, I was finally cleared to ride a bike about 2 weeks ago. (I almost cried tears of joy). I’d done spin classes and road-biking before, but liked running better so hadn’t touched a bike in about 2 years. But cardio is cardio, and I’ll take whatever I can get. Plus, the leg workout is pretty intense, and translates fairly well to running.
I started with a spin class at my gym, and also experimented a little with FlyWheel (luxury stadium-style class, similar to Soul Cycle). All of them are great, and highly recommended. (Though spin classes at your local gym are likely to be hit and miss.. mostly miss.. in my opinion).
My issue was time. The closest (decent) spin classes are a 20 minute drive from my house. Factoring in all things, that’s a 2-hour commitment, every day. Combine that with my strength-training routine, and my fitness routine becomes a part-time job, at nearly 20 hours a week! That’s not practical, and it’s not sustainable. I needed to come up with some way to work out at home that wasn’t going to lead me to tears of boredom.
So there I was, on a cruise, with no access to decent classes, but the gym on the ship had a whole bunch of bikes. I decided to try Peloton’s “poor man’s” subscription, with a free 14-day trial. I downloaded a few classes to my iPad, set it up in front of a bike in the ship’s gym, and fired up the headphones.
So.. How are the classes?
In a word: AMAZING!! Better, even, than the ultra-luxury classes that cost $25 each. The instructors are the best in the world, and it shows. Each has their own style, and their own mini-cult-following, though I’ve yet to find one I didn’t love.
60 minutes after starting my first class using the “poor-man’s” version on my free trial, I was ready to swipe my credit card for the bike, and the full subscription. I just had the best spin workout of my life, and I wasn’t even on a real Peloton bike!
The online experience is so close to being the same as in-person, that I feel no desire to drive to a local spin studio. In fact, I think the days of group-fitness in gyms are numbered. It’s that good. And having access to the world’s top instructors is pretty amazing.
Is it worth the money?
Unless you’ve got disposable income to spend on high-end gym equipment, and you REALLY want that gorgeous HD touch-screen, or the ability to ‘compete’ head-on with other people, live… Then no. The bike itself is just WAY too expensive for what it is.
For most people, I’d highly recommend you get a nice spin bike (something in the $500 range), a decent tablet (which you probably already own), and just buy the $20/mo subscription. The experience is close enough.
The nice thing about that approach? Grab your smart-phone, install the app, set yourself up with a 14-day free trial, and drive to your local gym and set yourself up on one of their bikes. Try it out for 2 weeks, and then decide for yourself!
(Besides — you should never, ever, ever buy home gym equipment until you are 100% sure you will LOVE it.. or you’re just wasting your money — Earn the right to buy it for your house by proving you’ll use it in the gym as often as you think!).
As for me? This thing is going to be the solution to summer-cardio in the Phoenix-heat.. Plus, I’m a sucker for competition and large HD screens. I’m glad I bought the bike!
A few other cool features…
- Heart-heart and heart-rate training zones are front and center.
- Functional Threshold Power is optionally available.
- Full support for screen-casting (so you can put the workouts on a much larger TV if you want).
- Supports bluetooth audio (so you can use wireless headphones, or broadcast to a bluetooth soundbar).
- Has lots of other kinds of workouts (yoga, strength, etc.) on demand.
- The instructors are gorgeous. Who doesn’t love a little eye-candy while they work out?
- Syncs with Strava, Facebook, and Fitbit
- You can hide any metrics you don’t care about. (For example, I hate seeing how much time is left.. drives me nuts).
- You can live video-chat with friends during workouts (I haven’t tried this. Workouts aren’t social for me.. I’m working too hard to ‘chat’).
- Scenic-rides.. Turn off the classes and just ride down a famous path somewhere in the world.
- Most of the classes include some form of minimal upper-body strength training. Minimal being the key word.
- It does a great job keeping track of your personal records in various categories, so you can track your improvements over time.
- The calorie-burn metrics are dead-on accurate, if you’re wearing a heart-rate monitor!!
- The instructors do a great job calling people out during the live classes.. Birthdays, records, etc.
If you decide to buy one…
First, you can link-up with me in the community. My username is ‘brianshell‘. I’d love to hear from you / follow you!
Second, if you DO decide to buy the whole package, I’d be super appreciative if you used my referral code. (We each get like $100 worth of stuff, if you do!).. It’s BKU8KZ