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Fitness

Peloton Bike vs. Peloton Tread: Which should you buy?

Spin bike, treadmill or both? We'll help you pick your poison.

The Tread is Peloton's latest piece of fitness tech -- a smart treadmill with a giant built-in display so you can tune in to live and on-demand classes.

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The smart fitness industry is growing fast, but there's one company that helped establish the category early on: Peloton

Founded in 2012, Peloton started out with a $2,245 spin bike that quickly set itself apart from the competition -- and continues to dominate today. Unlike your typical spin bike with a standard resistance knob, an adjustable seat and handlebars and space to stash a water bottle or two, Peloton's version also tacks on an integrated HD touchscreen display. 

Pay $39 per month to access live and on-demand classes with a leaderboard of other participants across the country. It's as close to feeling like you're in a studio class without, you know, actually being in a studio class. 

Then, in 2018, Peloton added another product to its lineup, the $3,995 Tread. Like the bike, the Tread treadmill has a built-in touchscreen and the same $39 subscription plan so you can participate in classes and see how your stats compare to others. 

That's Peloton's TL;DR, but be sure to read on for a closer look at the bike and the treadmill so you can more easily determine which one's right for you. Spoiler: They're both excellent, albeit pricey, products that I highly recommend if you're interested in well-made home fitness tech.

The best smart gym tech: Peloton, ClassPass and Mirror, tested and rated

Design

Both the bike and the treadmill are extremely well-made. 

The treadmill is particularly attractive, with its 32-inch 1080p high-definition touchscreen. It clocks in at 455 pounds, but delivery and installation is fortunately included with your Tread purchase. It has a slotted aluminum belt, a carbon frame and enough space in front for two water bottles, your phone and anything else you'd want to stash nearby while running inside. You can store resistance bands, a yoga mat and other equipment in zippered compartments on either side of the treadmill.

Controls on the right and left adjust speed and incline; a safety clip tucked into the stand in the front stops the treadmill if need to end (or pause) your run for any reason. A stop button just above the safety clip can stop the treadmill as well. The speed setting goes up to 12.5 miles per hour and the incline goes up to 15 percent.

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The Tread has ample space for storing a water bottle, towel and anything else you want within arm's reach while running.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

"Free" mode lets you drag the belt with your body weight with the treadmill speed and incline turned off. It's accessible via a small button on the stand.

The bike looks nice, too, but only has a 21.5-inch 1080p HD display. It has space for two water bottles like the Tread, but they're a bit flimsier (they still do the trick, though). Peloton's bike weighs 135 pounds and two wheels on the front make it easy to move around a room. Definitely get help if you need to move it across uneven transitions, like hardwood to carpet or up and down stairs. 

It has a welded steel frame, aluminum pedals and two spots behind the seat for hand weights (the weights are not included with the bike purchase). Like every spin bike I've encountered, you can change the height and lateral position of the seat and the handlebars. It has a standard resistance knob, too. Press down on it to stop the bike pedal fast, kind of like the Tread's safety clip. Turn the knob clockwise to make it harder to pedal; counterclockwise to make it easier. 

Note: You'll need Look Delta-compatible spin shoes and cleats to clip into the Peloton pedals. Get them through Peloton or from your local bike shop.

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My old clip shoes (left) didn't work work the Peloton Bike, so I had to buy new Look-Delta shoes (right).

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Performance

Both the Peloton Bike and the Tread are excellent performers, and a lot of that is due to their excellent designs that begin with solid core mechanics that facilitate indoor cycling and running.

The bike has a smooth transition when you add or drop tension and was extremely quiet overall -- there weren't any loud chains or fan sounds making it hard to hear the instructor on the screen. 

The Tread was similarly solid. It was noisier, of course, but that was largely due to the sound of my feet hitting the belt, rather than the treadmill itself. 

In addition to the main equipment mechanics, each device also has a responsive touchscreen. That's crucial, as it's your main point of access with each device to adjust settings, find classes and view your stats.

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It's easy to use the display to find the classes you want and to either sign up for a live class later in the day or pick among dozens of on-demand options available 24/7. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Features

The features are essentially identical between the Peloton Bike and the Tread. If you have both pieces of equipment in your home, you only need to pay one $39 monthly fee via one account. 

Your $39 monthly Peloton subscription includes access to live and on-demand classes. Whether live or on-demand, you can view your stats in real time. You can also see how your real-time performance compares to other class participants in a leaderboard on the side of the screen, even if it's an on-demand class.

You can see details on your fellow class participants, things like usernames, location, age ranges and profile photos (if they added one). There are even options to filter by age range and other demographics to compete more closely with your peers. On-demand classes display an "all-time" leaderboard that shows the rank of everyone who's ever taken it, in addition to the people currently taking it. 

In addition to a wide variety of spinning and running classes of varying lengths and levels of difficulty, Peloton offers supplemental yoga, stretching and strength training classes. They're typically 5 to 10 minutes, so I don't consider them full workouts, but rather additions to precede or follow a cycling or running class. 

Peloton is compatible with Facebook, so you can connect with friends who also use your bike or treadmill. I skipped this feature. It works with Fitbit and Strava, too. Connect your Fitbit account to your Peloton account so your workouts are automatically logged on the Fitbit app. You can pair your Strava account to Peloton, too, more easily share your workouts on Strava's social network.

Both the bike and the treadmill work with Bluetooth headphones, speakers and heart rate monitors and have built-in cameras so you can video chat with other Peloton riders. You can adjust your settings based on your preferences here, so you can specify whether "riders I follow" or any "riders in class with me" can ask to chat with you. You can also set your profile to private to have direct control over all of these features and how you interact with other Peloton customers. 

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Final thoughts

So -- Peloton Bike or Peloton Tread -- which one should you buy? For most folks, it comes down to one simple question: do you prefer spinning or running? 

If you're already a fan of indoor cycling and want to add on the experience of studio classes at home, the bike is your best bet. On the other hand, if you're more of a runner, the Tread is obviously the better choice. But, in the end, both devices are great and you really can't go wrong -- with one main exception.

If you aren't interested in the whole studio class thing and that $39 monthly fee, neither of these pieces of equipment are a good choice. You can't use the touchscreen for anything else -- it doesn't work with Netflix, YouTube or any other third-party services (it really should, Peloton). Because of that, either purchase would be a waste (or at the very least a poor value) if you buy them but don't want to bother with that $39 monthly fee for whatever reason. 

But again, both the Peloton Bike and the Tread are excellent and worth it, as long as your budget can handle the high prices and you're confident you'll make use of the classes.