Peloton bike review: Is Peloton worth it, or is the cost of this indoor bike just too high?
Editors' note, Dec. 12: Peloton has been in the news for releasing a controversial ad depicting what critics have said are negative body images and unhealthy views of marriage. The ad has since been removed from television, but Peloton's share price has plummeted by $1.6 billion since it aired. Our review of the product, originally published in January, is unchanged.
Fans of spinning, rejoice -- the Peloton Bike is seriously awesome. From its sturdy steel frame to its HD touchscreen display and whisper-quiet wheels, this thing really won me over as a worthy indoor counterpart to road biking.The major downside is the price. It costs $2,245 and there's a $39 monthly fee to participate in studio classes from home. (It's £1,895, plus £39 per month in the UK. It's not yet available in Australia.) You don't have to pay the $39 or take the classes, but then you have an expensive spin bike with a fancy touchscreen that can't do anything. And, really, the classes are the reason to buy this thing -- it's perfect for folks who want or need a little extra motivation while training at home.
If you are a spinning devotee -- or want to get more into it -- and believe you would use this thing enough to justify its upfront and monthly cost, you really can't go wrong with Peloton's well-made high-tech bike.
Peloton Bike: The basics
The base price for this bike is actually $1,995, but Peloton adds in a flat fee of $250 for delivery and installation "anywhere in the contiguous US" for a total of $2,245. It's available in the UK too, and costs £1,990 with a £39 monthly fee for classes.
This bike clocks in at 135 pounds, but two small wheels on the front make it pretty easy for one person to roll it from place to place -- assuming you don't have to go up or down steps or over any uneven transitions. In that case, I'd enlist help from at least one other person to move it.
It has a welded steel frame, aluminum pedals, space in the back to store two hand weights (not included with the bike), a 21.5-inch 1080p HD display and two plastic water bottle holders in the front. The bottle holders work fine, but they're flimsier than the rest of the bike.
You can adjust the height of the handlebars and the seat, as well as the seat's lateral position in case you're too close to (or too far away from) the handlebars. The handlebars extend forward so you can easily move your hands as you switch from the saddle to a hover and back again.
And, like on other spin bikes out there, a resistance knob in the front of the bike controls how difficult it is to ride. Turn it clockwise to make it harder and back to the left to make it easier. Press down on the center of the knob to stop the pedals quickly.
The one thing that threw me off about this bike was its pedals. I've been spinning and riding outside for years and have standard SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) shoes and cleats. Those work as well on my road bike as they do in indoor spin classes, from SoulCycle to CycleBar and literally every other place I've ever taken a studio class.
But the Peloton Bike comes with Look Delta-compatible pedals (these aren't unique to Peloton, but they are less common than SPD), which meant I had to invest in another pair of clip shoes and cleats. You can buy the right shoes (with the cleats already installed) through Peloton for $125 or find them in your local bike shop (where the shoes and cleats are typically sold separately). The only ones in my local bike shop in my size that were compatible with the Peloton pedals ended up costing $200, not including an extra $15 for the cleats. Ouch.
Peloton Bike: Getting started
Once everything is installed, plug in the bike's power adapter and press the red power button on the top of the display to get started. The touchscreen display is your main point of access with the bike. Follow the steps on the screen to make a profile and to sign up for classes. It's very simple.
Peloton offers both live and on-demand classes. Regardless of the class you select, you get access to your stats in real time. This includes your cadence or revolutions per minute -- typically shortened to rpms -- your output in watts, your resistance and a variety of other useful things. You can also see the instructors and follow along with them as they take you through seated sprints to standing hill climbs and everything in between.
A leaderboard on the side of the screen compares your performance with that of other people taking the class, even if it's an on-demand class. You can see info on everyone taking the class with you at that time, including their username, location, age range and profile photo (if they added one). You can even filter the leaderboard by age range and other demographics to customize whose performance you see. On-demand classes also have an "all-time" leaderboard that shows the rank of everyone who's ever taken it -- not just other people currently taking it.
At one point, I got a pop-up on the screen asking me to log in to my Facebook account so I could find friends who also use the bike. Peloton said in a blog post announcing the integration, "Please remember that Peloton will never share any information through Facebook without your permission," but I decided to skip this.
The Peloton works with Fitbit and Strava as well. Pair your Fitbit account with your Peloton account to have your workouts automatically logged on your Fitbit app. You can also connect your Strava account to Peloton to make it easier to share the details of your ride with your fellow fitness fanatics on Strava's social network.
The bike is Bluetooth-enabled too, so you should be able to connect Bluetooth headphones, speakers and heart rate monitors to the bike.
There's also an integrated 5-megapixel camera that allows you to video chat with fellow Peloton riders. In your profile you can stipulate whether "riders I follow" or any "riders in class with me" can request to video chat. Alternatively, you can set your profile to private, which gives you case-by-case control over who can see your profile and exercise history.
Peloton Bike: Trying it out
Overall, this bike was a dream to use. The touchscreen is responsive, the classes are varied and the leaderboard goes a long way toward motivating you and making you feel like you're there in the studio. Peloton also offers a large number of nonspin classes, things like strength training, stretching and yoga.
These other classes are typically 5 to 10 minutes and are clearly designed to be same-day supplements to spinning rather than separate-day replacements. The idea is that you would finish a spin class and then do a 5-minute stretching session afterward.
It is one of the main things that separates the Peloton Bike and the Peloton Tread from other home fitness services like ClassPass Live and Mirror (not to mention Tonal). Mirror and ClassPass Live don't offer dedicated workout equipment, so you aren't limited to running or spinning in the same way. Their classes are more widely varied in type, length and level of difficulty.
If you're the kind of person who isn't that into spinning and doesn't expect it to make up a large majority of your home workouts, the Peloton Bike probably isn't for you. There's also the question of how you take nonspinning classes with the Peloton, since the screen is attached to the bike. But fortunately, your $39 monthly subscription also gives you access to the Peloton app, so you can log in on your phone or tablet too.
There's also the question of whether the Peloton Bike is the right spin bike for you. You can find the most basic bikes on Amazon for roughly $300 -- that might be a fine start for you if you aren't interested in the Peloton's built-in screen and monthly fees.
But the Peloton Bike is priced competitively when you look at other high-end spin bikes, with the exception of the $1,000 Echelon Connect EX bike my colleague recently tried out. Otherwise, I've seen bikes range in price from a $1,995 app-enabled Keiser to a $2,000 NordicTrack with an integrated screen and an app (like the Peloton) -- and a $2,345 Schwinn that doesn't have a screen or any other connected features. When in doubt, try to locate stores near you so you can actually jump on each bike and test out their features and settings before you buy.
A worthy splurge
If you're interested in spinning at home, but want an extra dose of motivation from studio classes, the $2,245 Peloton Bike is a great option. It's well-designed and easy to use and has a solid offering of classes from beginner to advanced. That said, it's expensive, so be honest with yourself about how much you'll use it -- and be sure to factor that $39 monthly subscription into your decision.