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Is Peloton worth it?

(Image credit: Peloton)

Peloton is expensive – everybody knows that. But that doesn’t mean that hundreds of thousands of people aren’t forking over the steep initial cost to bring professional spin classes straight into their living rooms. So there must be something to it. So what exactly does Peloton offer, and is it worth it? 

What is Peloton?

Peloton is a community-based, interactive fitness platform with more than one million subscribers from around the world. The company, which launched in 2012, first offered a stationary bike that connected you with hundreds of live and on-demand spin classes. It was an alternative to the traditional turbo trainer and an equally good way to fit in a quick cardio workout from within the comfort of your own home. Since then, indoor cycling has caught up, with the rise of indoor cycling apps which help improve motivation and interactivity. But that did little to slow Peloton's progress, which has expanded into an even larger fitness platform, offering treadmills including similar interactive workout offerings, and accessories such as free weights, exercise mats, and even JBL x Peloton Wireless Earbuds.

The defining feature of Peloton is its massive library of thousands of workouts across a variety of disciplines, and the integrated instructor who is there to motivate you through each session. There are also 10-14 live classes broadcast each day, adding to the hundreds already available. Users can filter workouts based on: difficulty, music choice, instructor, length (anywhere from five to 90 minutes), and more. 

Outside of cycling, Peloton also offers classes in running, yoga, strength training, and meditation. Users can compete against others during live classes – as many as 20,000 riders at a time – by way of a live leaderboard which ranks riders based on their overall (power) output. Simultaneously, users can track their own progress, fitness, and personal records over time. 

Most live classes have over a hundred Peloton users plugged in, and you can interact with them by simply tapping on your screen. Users can “follow” each other to track each other’s output, and – if both sides agree – even start a live video chat during the session. It really is a virtual spin class of the highest-quality with an HD display, Bluetooth-enabled audio, and occasionally, celebrity instructors.

Peloton bikes

Peloton bikes are high-tech spin bikes with a high-definition touchscreen and Wi-Fi capability. The flywheel is nearly silent, and the easy-to-use resistance knob can be adjusted by just one per cent at a time. Think of the nicest indoor training bike that you’ve ever seen at a gym. Now think of one that’s even nicer – brand new – and it is perfectly adjusted to fit you and only you. This is a Peloton Bike.

Peloton recently launched its newest exercise machine, the Peloton Bike+, which costs $2,495 including delivery and assembly. Monthly payment options are available for as low as $64 per month for 39 months. The Bike+ includes a 24" HD Touchscreen, improved audio features, Auto-Follow Resistance (which means riders no-longer need to manually adjust the resistance via the knob, though that does still exist), and Apple GymKit Integration. A Peloton membership is required with the purchase of a Peloton Bike+.

The original Peloton Bike comes with a 24" HD Touchscreen, rear speakers, and all the same live and on-demand fitness classes, although resistance must be adjusted manually. The original Peloton Bike is now available at the reduced price of $1,895, or as low as $39 per month. Users who pay the monthly membership fee have access to all of the same classes, regardless of which bike they are on. 

So mechanically, the bike is a quality piece of kit, but its downfall comes virtue of its closed connectivity, meaning it can only be used in conjunction with the Peloton software. 

A monthly membership to Peloton costs $39, and the subscription is almost a necessity when you consider its opposite; If you choose to forgo the monthly fee, you will be left with just three Peloton classes on offer, and a free ride mode that simply displays your real-time ride data - it’s the equivalent of riding on an indoor bike with just numbers of a head unit for company. 

A Peloton bike without the membership almost sidesteps the point entirely. 

The competition

One of Peloton's USPs is the wholeness of the system, meaning it provides a rider's entire indoor cycling setup. The competition, on the other hand, generally apply their respective focuses on either the hardware side (ie, Tacx, Wahoo) or the software side (ie: Zwift, TrainerRoad). The downside to this is that if you own a Peloton bike, you're restricted to the Peloton app, and if you wish to use the Peloton app, you'll need the Peloton bike. 

From a hardware standpoint, the competition includes turbo trainers, which require a bike to mount on top, or smart bikes, which are standalone systems not too dissimilar to the Peloton Bike. Both of the above require a separate smart device on which to run your app, whereas Peloton's bikes come with an integrated screen. The resistance of smart turbo trainers and smart bikes can be controlled by software, to follow a training session perfectly. The original Peloton Bike requires manual intervention, and the new Bike+ allows your instructor to change your bike's resistance. 

From a software standpoint, there are numerous alternatives, but very few that do exactly what Peloton does. While many indoor cycling apps offer a social aspect, an element of competition, or a focus on improving fitness, most of them do so while aiming to replicate real-world cycling as closely as possible. 

Peloton, on the other hand, tries to replicate indoor spin classes by adding instructors to each session, and offering live sessions in which people can ride together. 

Is Peloton worth it?

Peloton is meant for the indoor enthusiast, but not the seasoned road rider. If you fancy 100k road rides with town sign sprints and coffee stops, then Peloton is not for you. Those who enjoy structured solo workouts (i.e. TrainerRoad) or unstructured group rides or races (i.e. Zwift) will not find that Peloton has much to offer – it’s simply not the right fit. Peloton is meant for people who love engaging indoor spin classes, and the convenience of a 45-minute cardio session without having to leave home.

The numbers speak for themselves: as of late 2019, Peloton had over half a million current subscribers – with many estimating a 120,000-160,000 member increase in 2020 during lockdown – with a 95% retention rate. The service is fun, engaging, and most certainly worth it for those who can afford the cost. 

In the end, Peloton offers a flexible, engaging, and motivating at-home spin class experience, perfect for busy people working on a tight schedule. 

If you're a spin class enthusiast that wants to bring your workouts to your own home, then Peloton is likely to be the perfect fit, however, if you're interested in indoor cycling and want to try multiple different apps, then a turbo trainer or smart bike might be better suited to your needs. 

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Zach is a freelance writer, the head of ZNehr Coaching, and an elite-level rider in road, track, and e-racing. He writes about everything cycling-related, from buyer's guides to product reviews and feature articles to power analyses. After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science at Marian University-Indianapolis, Zach discovered a passion for writing that soon turned into a full-fledged career. In between articles, Zach spends his time working with endurance athletes of all abilities and ages at ZNehr Coaching. After entering the sport at age 17, Zach went on to have a wonderful road racing career that included winning the 2017 Collegiate National Time Trial Championships and a 9th place finish at the 2019 US Pro National Time Trial Championships. Nowadays, Zach spends most of his ride time indoors with NeXT eSport.