Indoor exercise bikes aren’t new, but they’re surging in popularity at the moment — partly because they’re smarter and connected now, and because of companies like Peloton.
What is Peloton?
Peloton, which recently went public, is the maker of a $2,250 indoor bike with a large screen attached to the front, providing access to a $40-per-month subscription service with thousands of live and on-demand cycling classes. By the end of fiscal 2019, Peloton said it sold over half-a-million connected fitness products — and it has just as many subscribers.
Those who swear by Peloton claim it delivers a unique experience not just because it’s an eye-catching bike, which uses its own sneakers that clip onto the pedals. But rather, it offers a flexible schedule of 10- or 20-minute video sessions with no commute; more than 20 personable instructors who stare at you from a 22-inch Android tablet affixed to the handlebars and call-out your name during live-streams; a healthy music catalog; social features so you can virtually ride with pals; and leaderboards with achievement badges.
But there are downsides to Peloton. First, it’s expensive. Luckily, there are cheaper indoor exercise bikes available that are just as striking. Also, Peloton’s handlebar only moves up and down, not fore and aft, which means you may not be able to adjust it to your liking. The bike’s fixed screen can’t even be used to surf the web, watch YouTube videos, or connect to apps.
That holiday commercial
We have to mention that social media has been roasting this luxury fitness brand over its ad that hit YouTube one week before Thanksgiving. It features a woman who is gifted a Peloton bike by her husband. She then spends a year riding the bike and recording her workouts. At the end, we learn she made a video diary as a gift for her husband.
So, why the backlash? Many say there’s a sexist tone to the whole commercial, but also, the wife in the ad is already physically fit when she gets the bike from her husband. Both appear to be affluent, too. The high-end stationary bike in the corner of their million-dollar house just reeks of privilege. And the video diary is seen as a way for the husband to ensure his wife doesn’t get fat. Of course, that’s how critics see it.
If you agree with that take, perhaps you should boycott the brand and get an alternative bike.
Best Peloton alternatives
There are people out there who really want a smart exercise bike to help them sweat it out in the morning before work, and while they may love the idea of Peloton, it’s hard to stomach that hefty up-front cost, the price of the monthly subscription service, and the bike’s limitations. Luckily, there are a few Peloton alternatives available.
NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle for $1,999
See it now: NordicTrack | Amazon
The NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle is the most expensive alternative on this list, but it’s the most comparable to Peloton, and it’s still cheaper. It’s a $1,999 smart exercise bike with a 22-inch interactive touchscreen, which tilts and lets you stream high-energy studio sessions with trainers, who can uniquely control your machine’s decline, incline, and resistance in real-time — something Peloton trainers can’t do. Plus, a one-year membership to the classes is included with your purchase.
ProForm Studio Bike Pro for $999
See it now: ProForm | Best Buy
Next up is the Studio Bike Pro from ProForm. It’s about $1,300 cheaper than the Peloton and still comes with a 10-inch screen and a free year of live workouts. The trainers can also control your resistance, but not your incline, like with the S22i. The seat and handlebars are all adjustable, too. Honestly, this is probably the best value you can get for a Peloton-like cycling experience.
Echelon Smart Connect EX3 for $900
See it now: Echelon | Amazon
We’re straying a bit away from the Peloton at this point, but hear us out: The Echelon Smart Connect EX3 is roughly $1,400 cheaper than the Peloton, and it still offers interactive workouts with certified trainers via your own mobile device and the Echelon app, which serves up both live and on-demanded classes for $40 a month. Yes, that means there’s no screen attached to the front of the bike, but there is a handy little spot on the handlebars for you to slide in a phone or tablet.
Best indoor exercise bikes
So, let’s discuss the Peloton Digital app. If you want to try Peloton’s virtual classes, but with your own traditional indoor exercise bike, then just use Peloton’s mobile app. It costs $20 a month, comes with a 14-day trial, and can be used with any indoor exercise bike. It offers both live and on-demand classes, though it lacks the leaderboard and on-screen stats like cadence, resistance, output, and other metrics calculated by the Peloton bike itself.
Let’s also not forget YouTube, which is home to countless cycling videos. The point is, you don’t need Peloton’s fancy bike and 22-inch screen to burn calories. With any indoor exercise bike and a mobile device, you can get a similar experience and save yourself thousands. Here are a few of the best-rated bikes we could find:
Best cycling accessories
To get the full Peloton indoor cycling experience, but again without breaking the bank, you might want to consider investing in some exercise accessories that come with the Peloton bike. For instance, you should get a bike mat, such as this one from SuperMats. You can also pick up a media device holder (if your bike doesn’t have one) like this expanding tablet mount. You might want to also consider a cadence sensor — we recommend Wahoo’s — and perhaps a pair of dedicated cycling shoes.
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