By Robbie Ferri, Cyclist, Personal Trainer, and Group Exercise Instructor.
When it comes to indoor cycling at home, the Peloton bike completely revolutionized the market. No more getting in the car and driving to a spinning studio, no more watching YouTube videos for your training fix, and when Covid hit, it gave so many people an option to stay fit without having gyms available. When I first heard about Peloton, I went to their website to research and thought it was incredible. Then I saw the price, and although it was a fantastic training tool, it was double the price of my gym membership just for the subscription. Then you have to buy the bike, which at the time was $2500.
This made me question if it was worth that money, as it’s a significant investment. There’s another route you can go down, using the Peloton app with a different bike. Peloton has an app that you can do all the classes on with any indoor bike for much less than half the subscription cost of the Peloton Bike. It’s not as simple to use as that. There are some significant advantages and disadvantages to using the application without the bike, and in this article, I want to speak about them and tell you how to build your own Peloton.
Cost: The benefits of using the Peloton app with a different bike are huge. Firstly the application is currently $12.99 a month compared to $39.99 a month. This is a big difference, and over a year equates to over $300. Next is the savings you can make in the cost of the bike. The bike currently is $1495 on offer for the basic, and the plus is on offer at $2145. These are not cheap bikes and have similar technology to a bike you can buy for less than $1000 on the indoor cycling market.
Accessibility: On the Peloton bike, all your workouts come on the screen in front of the bike. On the regular bike, the screen is fixed. On the plus bike, you can swivel it around for your yoga and strength workouts. The application works on IOS and Android devices, opening it to a vast range of devices. You can use your phone, a tablet, Apple TV and even throw it to a TV through Chromecast. It means you can take your workouts to other bikes when traveling. Also, you can take it around your house if you want to do Yoga outside, for example.
No Commitment: One thing I liked about the application is the two-month free trial they offer. Using the application and using another bike that cost less really made me feel I could get an experience close to a Peloton without spending all the money on a Peloton and feel committed to $39 a month. I would advise anyone to try the application in a gym before buying a home bike to see if it is what you want.
You need to buy more equipment: If you want to get the most of the Peloton app with a different bike, you will need to add certain parts to your spinning bike to make it work. Firstly you will need to purchase a Heart Rate monitor, and it has to be one that can link to your device, for example, if using an Apple product, a Bluetooth connective device. Then you will need a cadence sensor as well, and also it will have to be compatible with the device you are going to be using. Also, weights and clip-in pedals like the Peloton for a whole Peloton experience. These parts soon stack up, and later in this article, I will run through everything you need.
You miss out on certain Features: Peloton bikes offer certain features the applications that DIY Peloton setups don’t, for example, the leaderboard on live classes you don’t get with the application. You probably won’t find yourself getting any shoutouts because of this. Another great feature of the new plus bike is the resistance can change automatically for the rider while in the class. This isn’t available with any other bikes, just the Peloton plus.
Finding the right resistance: When you are on a Peloton, you have resistance levels. This is a great tool to see yourself getting stronger over time. Unfortunately, DIY Peloton setups will just have a resistance dial, and you can get a bit lost getting the suitable resistance that the class requires. There are conversion charts, but this can get quite complicated.
Peloton bike Alternatives
It goes without saying you’re going to need another bike to spin on. The Peloton bike is a fantastic bit of kit, but it isn’t the cheapest of bikes. When looking at alternatives, you still want to get something good to give yourself a pleasant experience while you are training. It is possible to spend as little as $150 all the way up to $3000 on a decent spinning bike. It is definitely worth thinking about a budget for what you want to spend. An excellent tip is to go for a spinning-style bike, not an exercise-style bike. An exercise bike is made for sitting the majority of the time. A spinning bike is made for regular standing and will be much more comfortable. Here we have two recommendations for you, one on the higher end of the market and one on the lower.
Keiser is one of the only Spinning bikes entirely produced in the US. This is a prime candidate for a DIY Peloton Setup. It looks incredible with that lovely rear-facing flywheel and has the quality to match. It uses a belt drive system and is very quiet when being used. Unlike many spinning bikes, it is a frictionless system and uses electromagnets, not brake pads, to provide resistance. We highly recommend buying the bundle as it comes with some great extras, including a tablet mount for using the Peloton App. Although it may not be the cheapest bike on the market, it is an excellent spinning bike that will consistently produce an incredible ride for years without any maintenance. The Data screen will provide you with lots of data, such as the power you’re producing and your cadence. The cadence is critical when coming to those Peloton Classes. The Keiser is quite a fantastic bike to own, and many would be proud to have one in their home gym.
Advanced-Data Screen with Power Function and Cadence
The Joroto X2 is on the lower end of the market, but I believe this bike to be the bargain of the century. Like the Keiser, it is a Magnetic Spinning bike, so it also doesn’t use brake pads and will require very little maintenance. As a bike, it is quiet and smooth, it isn’t to the level of the Keiser, but it is much cheaper. It is very bold in the way it looks with its oversized flywheel and looks like a bit more basic spinning bike with the front facing flywheel. It comes with a fundamental data screen that provides you with essential data such as time and distance. The Joroto is a great bike, but you might find yourself wanting to upgrade in the future as having things like a cadence sensor and clip in pedals don’t come standard on this bike like a higher end model.
Excellent Starter Bike
Place for weights
Will Require upgrades to use with Peloton App
Larger than other bikes such as the Keiser
Eventually, you will more than likely outgrow this
As mentioned before, when making a do-it-yourself Peloton with just the application, you will find yourself needing a few extra bits to complete the setup work. To get the most out of the Peloton App, having specific data will enhance the user experience. So what do we need?
Heart Rate Monitor
Although you don’t need to see your heart rate while working out, it helps. An excellent guide to finding out how hard you are working is seeing how close you are to your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate usually is close to 220 minus your age. For example, if you are 30, your maximum heart rate will roughly be 190. This is a rough guide, and many find their heart rate lower or higher than this recommendation. Using this figure, you can make yourself zones that help you work out if you are training endurance, fat burning, or high intensity. If you have an Apple Watch, this will work as a heart rate monitor using an IOS Device.
Your cadence is how quickly you are peddling the bike. For example, if you put your foot to the bottom of the pedal stroke and do a full rotation, that is what we call a revolution. RPM or Speed, as Peloton calls it, works on a number. This number is how many revolutions per minute you are doing. This is handy information to have in the classes as instructors will often refer to this.
Unfortunately, most spinning bikes don’t come with weights. I can highly recommend buying so as a lot of the upper bodywork on the Peloton Classes requires you to use weights. Doing upper bodywork in a spin class can break up the work and make the ride feel much more manageable.
Tablet or Device
Although it’s acceptable using your phone to do the classes, you will find you will get a much better experience by using a bigger screen. I can highly recommend investing in a tablet or iPad, or even Apple TV. This will make the screen much easier to see, and the instructions will be much more straightforward.
Basic spinning bikes will only come with flat pedals. Peloton bikes come with clip-in pedals. I would highly recommend using clip-in shoes as this helps pedal efficiency and offers a much better position for your knees while riding.
Although many of these things you might have already, you can start to push up the cost of making a home Peloton set up quite quickly. It will still be much cheaper than a Peloton overall and provide a very similar experience, but it can be a surprise at the time. Make sure to check the compatibility of the devices you are using with the sensors you are using. So make sure they both support Bluetooth or ANT+. I would recommend Bluetooth connections over ANT+.
How to connect the Peloton App to your equipment
So you now have a Heart Rate Monitor and Cadence sensor, and you’re wondering how to connect it all up to the application. Well, it’s pretty easy. Make sure your cadence sensor is on your pedal arm, and your heart rate monitor is where it is required to be on your body. Start up the application and get into a class and start pedaling. This will activate your cadence sensor and your heart rate monitor. Once these are on, you have a sensors button on the right-hand side of the class screen. Click this and select each one for connection, and you are good to go.
Where can I view the Peloton App while riding?
Quite commonly, people use a tablet or phone in front of them. If you are looking for a better experience, you can cast it to your TV with your phone or tablet. The Peloton app also works with Apple TV or sends it to your TV via Chromecast.
What resistance level is my bike compared to the Peloton?
A Peloton bike has resistance levels, but most spinning bikes don’t. They will have a dial in front of you, and you will have to estimate the level yourself. Certain bikes like the Bowflex have resistance levels. If you are looking to use a bike such as a Bowflex, you can use a conversion chart like the one here to help you connect to the class more.
Do I need clip-in Shoes and Pedals to use a Peloton?
You do not, but it does enhance the experience of riding the bike. It connects you much more and promotes a much better pedal stroke compared to just using flat pedals. It will also feel much better on your feet. I can highly recommend making sure you get the cleats on the bottom of the shoes set up correctly before you start. Search on YouTube for a guide, and that will get you roughly in place. If you start getting knee pain, recheck your saddle height and cleats.
The Peloton app isn’t just cycling. It has Treadmill workouts, Bodyweight classes, Bootcamp classes, Stretching, Yoga, and even outdoor running programs. I know many of my friends purely use it for all the other features available. They have thousands of classes to suit all types of users and offer so much for such a little cost each month.
What other Applications work with the Peloton App?
You can link so many applications to the Peloton app. Fitness applications such as Fitbit, Strava, Apple Health, and the Apple Watch will link up. We can use applications such as these to assess our workouts after we have done them. They can give you more data than the Peloton application and help you track your fitness journey closer.
How to measure your performance with the Peloton App
Using applications like Strava, you can look back at your workouts to see if you are progressing with your fitness. If you were to repeat a class from months ago, you see a few differences that show progression. For example, doing the same workout from months ago at the same level of resistance and seeing a lower heart rate is an excellent indication of your fitness improving. Also, you might find yourself working at higher levels of resistance for the same heart rate, which again is another great indication of your fitness getting better. You might even find yourself burning more calories each ride, meaning you are gaining the ability to bring your heart rate much higher.
I personally feel the Peloton bike is good value for money, but it doesn’t fit into everyone’s budget. I would instead go down the route of building your own Peloton using the app, and the money I save invest elsewhere. You might find that might be all you want to spend on your fitness, or you might want to invest more elsewhere, such as in a gym membership or Personal Training Session once every so often.
A Personal Trainer and Ultra Cyclist living in King's Lynn in Norfolk, UK. From Ultra Cycling World Records to Bikepacking Races and a huge amount of time on the gym floor training myself and clients my experience when it comes to Health and Fitness is vast.