Recently, with one purchase, I bought a ridiculously expensive bike and joined a cult. That can only mean one thing, of course: I invested in a Peloton bike.
Simply put, a Peloton bike is a spin bike with a tablet attached. The tablet knows your riding speed, tracks the bike’s resistance, and has built-in speakers so you can ride along to the music and voice of your instructor. For a $39 USD monthly fee, you can access prerecorded and live classes, which you can filter by duration, difficulty level, style of music, and other variables to find the class you want for the moment. There are a couple dozen cycling instructors—each with a unique personality and style—so you can find which instructors you connect with the most. The monthly fee also includes unlimited access to classes, including off-the-bike sessions like strength training, yoga, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) cardio, and outdoor running.
At the time of publishing, I’ve had my bike for a little over nine months.
I went back and forth on whether to write this article. The bike is quite expensive ($2,495 USD) and requires the monthly subscription to access fitness classes. But with so many of us still wanting to stay closer to home, the Peloton is the perfect purchase for this moment in time. And while it can be challenging to develop a workout routine at home, a device like the Peloton can help: it’s always there, ready to go.
I opted to write this review because if I do, it’s a business expense. Kidding: I decided to pen this piece because I’ve grown to love the thing so much, even though it’s not without its drawbacks.
And so, without further ado, here is my bullet point review of the Peloton Bike+.
The Bike+ versus the original
First, let’s cover what makes this bike different from the original.
Peloton makes two indoor cycling bikes: the original Bike ($1,895 USD), and the Bike+ ($2,495 USD).
This is a review of the Peloton Bike+, which was released in September 2020. The Bike+ has a few features that make it a bit better (and 32% more expensive). Both bikes are the same size.
Here’s what’s better about the Bike+—I’ve noted my favorite features first:
- The touchscreen swivels so you can easily adjust it for other guided workouts.
- The speaker sound quality is better than on the original (there are four speakers instead of two).
- The screen is 2.3” larger.
- The bike’s resistance automatically follows the class (versus the need for manual adjustment).
- The computer that powers the bike’s tablet is faster, which will make it more future-proof.
- The bike automatically pairs with Apple Watch so you get credit for your workouts and can track your heart rate and calories burned.
As I explain later, this model may be worth the added expense if you plan on doing other workouts using the bike or care about having the latest and greatest tech. The original Bike will probably suit you just fine if you want to save some money.
There’s lots to love about the Bike+, and then there are a few things I wish were different. Many of these benefits and drawbacks apply equally to both the Bike+ and the original Bike—and I’ve separated those accordingly.
Applies only to the Bike+:
- The larger swivel screen is fantastic. We keep our Bike+ in the bedroom, with a yoga mat rolled up in the corner of the room. The screen of the Bike+ swivels, which lets us turn the screen to face the yoga mat. This means we can do guided stretches after workouts, strength-training before a cycle, or yoga classes when we’re not in the mood for a bike ride. The swivel screen is a simple feature, but it adds a lot of value if you make a habit out of using the bike. (It’s possible, but awkward, to add a swiveling screen to the original Bike using an accessory.)
- The auto-follow resistance is a game-changer. In my opinion, this is the most underrated feature of the Bike+. Each cycling class requires changing two variables to adjust the intensity of your workout: how quickly you pedal, and the resistance level of your bike. The Bike+ automatically increases or decreases your resistance to follow the class. Better yet, the instructor typically provides a resistance range to aim for. If you start on the low end of that range and the resistance of the class increases, the bike will automatically adjust to the low end of the new range. The resistance auto-follow is well thought-out and works across every cycling class.
- The small features add up. The Bike+ is full of incremental improvements: the screen is a tad larger, the speakers sound a bit better, and the tablet is faster. These are nice bonuses that make the bike a pleasure to use.
Applies to both bikes:
- The many layers of motivation. Traditional workouts typically have two layers of motivation to keep you going: the workout high and the music you’re listening to. With the Peloton bike, there are six or seven layers. You get the exercise high, as with most other workouts. You also get great music, which is timed to the cadence of your workout—often the exact rhythm of how fast you’re pedaling. This helps you quickly get into a groove. Another motivating factor includes coaching from the instructor, which motivates you through tough stretches of a ride. The helpful guidance can correct your form and lead you to a more effective workout. There’s also the gamification component, where you’re rewarded digital badges for workout streaks. By default, there is also a layer of social pressure: you can receive virtual “high-fives” from riders doing the same workout, as well as when you hit milestones, like completing 100 rides. You can also connect with friends who have a Peloton bike to see when they’re working out and join the same class. I believe these many layers of motivation are what make the bike so addictive, and why people never stop talking about the damn thing once they buy one.
- The instructors. The instructors are great and have no doubt propelled so many people to pick up a bike and stick around. Some are calm, others are funny, some have a pump-up vibe. You’re almost guaranteed to find one you like.
- The variety of classes (live and recorded). The magic of the bike is that no matter how you’re feeling, there’s a workout to fit that mood. Classes are straightforward to find because of how the bike’s home screen is arranged.
- The social side of rides. The rides are social if you want them to be. If a class is live, there will likely be thousands riding at the same time as you; if a class is prerecorded, there may be anywhere from a few to a few hundred people. This may motivate you further, especially if you’re competitive—class participants are ranked on the leaderboard in real-time based on exertion during the class.
- The 30-day free trial and at-home setup. If you’re on the fence as I was, Peloton offers a 30-day home trial with a no-questions-asked return policy. This is a great safety net if you get the bike and have second thoughts. On top of this, the company delivers the bike and sets it up for you.
- The bike is virtually silent if you’re wearing headphones. The movement of your clothes and breath will be louder than the actual bike. If you work out in the morning or evening and don’t want to wake up your house, you (and everyone else) can rest easy.
- Peloton’s library of non-cycling classes. The depth of fitness classes in the Peloton library is expansive and incredible. You’ll never have to do the same workout twice. As part of the $39/month subscription, you get access to an array of other workout classes—including strength training, yoga, outdoor running, stretching, bootcamp, indoor running, and meditation classes. I’ve tried every type of class and they’re all great—though the yoga and meditation classes are a bit less relaxing than I like.
- The rides are easy to get the hang of. I had never been to a spin class before getting my Peloton—the bass-heavy music, dim lights, and over-enthusiastic riders put me off. I was also intimidated by the terminology of the classes, which brought me back to when I first encountered a Starbucks menu or ordered sushi for the first time. Peloton isn’t like this: every class begins with a short introduction to remind you of the features of the bike (you can skip this intro), which helps you to not feel lost.
- It’s a great workout. This is maybe a given, and yet, unless you pick an especially intense class, things won’t feel too laborious because of the many layers of motivation. While you’ll probably need to shower after each workout, you’ll likely become so immersed in the class that you forget you’re sweating.
- It’s easy to get obsessed with the bike. As my wife and I quickly discovered, there’s a reason people never stop talking about this thing. The bike is addictive, well-engineered, and an all-in-one package that contains everything you need to get fit. This is especially the case with the Bike+.
What’s not great
Applies only to the Bike+:
- The price requires some rationalization. The cost of exercise equipment is amortized across how many times you use it. The Bike+ clocks in at $2,500 USD. But, if you use the bike 1,000 times over its lifespan, it costs just $2.50 a ride (plus the amortized cost of the monthly subscription). If you use it 100 times, it’s $25 a ride—not a bargain, and that’s before accounting for the monthly $39 subscription. If you’re already into cycling or spin classes, this bike might be a good investment—especially given that spin classes can run anywhere from $10 to $35 a pop. On the other hand, if your home is full of workout equipment from infomercials past, make sure you qualify for the 30 day trial and double-check that wishful thinking isn’t what’s motivating your decision to keep the bike beyond the trial.
- The resolution of the screen. For the price, I expected a better screen. This may just be personal: every screen in my life is high-resolution (my phone, tablet, computer monitor, and fitness tracker included). I notice if a screen is pixelated, even slightly. You can see the individual pixels on the Peloton display—be prepared for this if you’re a tech nerd and functionally unimportant things like this bother you. It’s worth noting that as you cycle, your head moves quite a bit, and the pixels are only visible up close, so this probably won’t bother you as much as it does me. It’s worth noting that the screen resolution does not bother my wife, who isn’t a tech nerd.
- Apple Watch integration is unreliable and buggy. My wife and I have both experienced ongoing issues with Apple Watch integration. Pairing the two devices is usually worthwhile, despite the occasional frustration—it’s great to see your heart rate updated live on the screen and have workout and heart data to store in Apple’s Health app. But sometimes this pairing requires you restart your watch, the bike, or both. My watch pairs successfully with the bike around 90% of the time—enough to make me doubt, before each ride, whether it will work. Sometimes the two devices connect initially but then disconnect as the ride is starting. It’s hard to troubleshoot this issue and these bugs have persisted despite numerous software updates to the bike and the watch. Considering this is a feature Peloton advertises, it should work. Do not buy the Bike+ for this feature alone.
- Our bike had problems. From the moment we got our bike, the seat started lowering itself during rides, no matter how much we tightened it. I consider this less of an issue than the Apple Watch pairing—Peloton support was great, and they sent a replacement frame and comped a few months of our subscription. But this was still annoying, especially after spending so much on the bike.
- The speakers are a tad weak and tinny. Even though the speakers on the Bike+ are much improved compared to the original, they still aren’t great. If great-sounding music motivates you to push harder during a workout, use headphones (both Bluetooth and wired headphones are supported). The speakers on the bike should be just fine if sound quality isn’t a deal breaker.
Applies to both bikes:
- The warranty could be longer. By default, the Peloton comes with a one-year warranty. As with all big purchases, be sure to buy your bike using a credit card that doubles your warranty or check whether your existing credit card extends warranties without you knowing. It’s also possible to extend your warranty through Peloton, for a price.
- The bike is not very useful without a subscription. You can still pedal and go on prerecorded “scenic rides,” but you can’t take any live or prerecorded classes without a subscription. I think the monthly price is worth it, but this is something to keep in mind as you’re costing out the purchase.
There are really two questions worth answering:
- Is a Peloton bike worth it?
- If yes, is it worth paying an extra $600 for the Bike+?
A Peloton bike is worthwhile if you routinely use the thing. That’s where giving a recommendation becomes tricky. Here’s what I think after owning this bike for nine months:
- Make sure you qualify for the 30-day at-home trial and keep an eye on whether cycling becomes a habit during that period. Look past the cost of the bike to consider how much you’d be paying for each ride across its lifetime. If you ride it only 100 times, you’re paying $25 a ride—far too much, especially given that’s before the cost of a monthly subscription ($39). But if you use it 1,000 times—or if your spouse and other members of your family get hooked—the cost of each ride is significantly lower. That makes it easily worth it, in my opinion.
- If cost or budget are an issue, buy the regular Bike. The original Bike is fantastic—and people get obsessed with it just the same. But the Bike+ upgrade might be worthwhile if you can afford it and see yourself enjoying the swivel screen, Apple Watch support, marginally larger tablet screen, slightly improved speakers, or the ability to automatically follow the recommended resistance level of classes.
The bottom line: there’s a reason people get obsessed with these bikes. They give you a great workout—if the price doesn’t turn you off.
As far as pandemic purchases go, you could do a lot worse.