Peloton: your ultimate guide

(Image credit: Peloton)

Peloton has become one of the leaders of at-home workouts for cyclists, runners, yoga enthusiasts, and everyone in between, and over three million users have participated in the live and at-home workout sessions hosted by the platform.  Peloton has a starting price of £45/$49 per month, however, many users go the extra mile and purchase their own Peloton spin bike which they can set up anywhere at home, from the living room to the garage. The platform is wildly popular among recreational riders and everyday fitness enthusiasts, but not so much among those who identify as pure cyclists. So what is Peloton, and why does it draw such a different crowd compared to Zwift, TrainerRoad, and Sufferfest?  

What is Peloton?

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Peloton is a community-based, interactive fitness platform with more than three million users worldwide. Launched in 2012, Peloton first offered users an at-home stationary bike which you could use to connect to hundreds of live and on-demand spin classes. Peloton was – and is – the ideal at-home set-up for working people, looking to squeeze in a motivating cardio session during their busy day. In 2021, Peloton has expanded its library of workouts and classes, and begun offering treadmills and workout accessories such as exercise mats, free weights, and even JBL x Peloton wireless earphones.

Getting started with Peloton

Cyclists can either purchase or rent a Peloton bike, which allows them access to the massive library of on-the-bike workouts. Two bikes are currently on offer: the Peloton, and the Peloton Bike+. There are a few major differences between the two bikes, such as the automatic resistance adjustment, called Auto Follow, featured in the Peloton Bike+. Similar to ERG mode on Zwift or TrainerRoad, Auto Follow will automatically adjust the bike’s resistance to match the user’s workout; on the original Peloton, users must manually adjust the bike’s resistance by turning a knob under the handlebars. 

How much does Peloton cost?

The Peloton Bike+ costs $2,495 including delivery and assembly, but monthly payment options are available for as low as $64 per month for 39 months. This puts the bike itself in line with the price of the best exercise bikes, however, in addition to the cost of the bike, a Peloton membership – which costs $49 per month – is required too. Along with everything mentioned above, the Peloton Bike+ also comes with Apple GymKit Integration. 

At $1,895, the original Peloton Bike is also available for as low as $39 per month, and users with a Peloton membership earn access to all of the same Peloton classes, from cycling to running, to strength training and yoga. 

A Peloton membership is almost a necessity when you realize what you get without it. If you choose to forgo the monthly membership, you are left with just three archived Peloton classes to choose from, and a free ride mode that displays your real-time ride data. It’s the same thing as riding a stationary bike with just a few numbers to look at. 

Peloton classes and workout features

Peloton is known for its impressive library containing thousands of workouts and live workout classes. 10-14 live classes are broadcast each day, and users can filter through the workout list based on difficulty, background music, instructor, length (5-90 minutes), and more. 

There are hundreds more non-cycling workouts in the Peloton library, including classes for running, yoga, strength training, and meditation. Another cool feature built into the Peloton platform is the ability to compete against others during a live class. Some 20,000 riders could be riding along to the same live workout session, and on the Peloton display is a live leaderboard that ranks riders based on their overall (power) output. Peloton users can track their own progress over time, including fitness goals, personal records, and completed workouts. 

Connecting to the Peloton community

The social aspect of Peloton is the biggest draw for a large number of its users, with the live classes being Peloton’s most popular feature. Users can even interact with each other during the classes, simply by tapping on their display screen. Like social media platforms, users can also “follow” each other, to track each other’s output during the ride, and – with mutual agreeance – even start a live video chat during the session. 

What you get with a Peloton Bike

Even with its small footprint, Peloton Bikes are known for being comfortable and quiet, while also being stable and easy to handle under high workloads. The bikes are even equipped with an HD display and Bluetooth-enabled audio, and each class is led by a high-energy and engaging instructor.

The Peloton+ comes with an upgraded webcam and Wi-Fi capability, and a fully-adjustable display screen that even rotates, in case you’re on the floor during one of Peloton’s yoga sessions. The Peloton’s flywheel is nearly silent, ensuring that you won’t be too distracted while listening to the Peloton instructors through the speakers in the front and back of the HD display screen. 

The Peloton bikes themselves are completely adjustable, just as you would find in any normal spin bike.

Should you get a Peloton?

If you value high-energy instructors and motivating metrics over structured interval training and virtual racing, the answer is yes. Peloton is built for the indoor enthusiast, and busy individuals looking for guided at-home workouts. It’s not just built for cyclists either – Peloton’s offerings of running, strength training, yoga, and meditation classes give it a wide reach for its user base. Elite road racers and those motivated by real-life training and racing will not have much interest in Peloton. There is no virtual world to focus on or other avatars to race against, but motivation comes in the form of social accountability.

Peloton’s guided classes are not built like the traditional cycling interval sessions  (e.g. 40/20s, Sweetspot intervals, or VO2max efforts) that The Sufferfest or Zwift workouts will provide; instead, they are entertaining and engaging workouts that pull the user in with up-tempo music and eccentric instructors. The human connection between the instructor and the Peloton user is the biggest difference between Peloton and other virtual riding platforms. Those who enjoy structured training and racing won’t find Peloton all that appealing – it’s just not the right fit. 

With nearly one million current subscribers and a 95% retention rate, there is no denying that Peloton is wildly popular. Overall, it offers a variety of entertaining training experiences, with workouts built for all ages and abilities in cycling, running, strength training, and yoga, all with the convenience of having a high-tech spin bike waiting in the living room.

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.