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Peloton indoor bike and workout subscription review

24 May 2019
Verdict:

Popular indoor bike trainer that's worth the money if you use it regularly, but there's a real risk of ignoring it at home. Photos: Peloton

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
• Useful for those with busy lives who can use a guided workout at home • Delivered to your home, and set up for you • Stats • Quiet home trainer • Comes with weights for more diverse workouts
Against 
• Expensive • Easy to ignore at home • Heavy - once it's in place, you won't want to move it

There are a hundred different reasons why an indoor bike, complete with an on-screen instructor could come in handy. There’s busy family (or indeed work) life, where a workout you can fit in with the little one(s) asleep, or otherwise engaged, would appeal. There’s night shifts, long shifts, unpredictable shifts, and living far from a gym.

Sport England’s recent Active Lives survey shows indoor cycling is increasingly popular, while road and racing cycling numbers are down. You may not want to battle traffic on the road, you may want the encouragement of an instructor but perhaps don’t feel comfortable in a gym. Or you just prefer to work out at home.

User names include someone who identifies as a mum, farmer and nurse – perhaps she can’t leave the kids, patients and livestock. Anyway, you get the picture.

The Peloton website is awash with reviews praising the transformative impact it has had on their lives, how good they feel and how addictive they find it. The app gets rave reviews in the Apple store, too.

It’s no understatement to say Peloton has taken the fitness world by storm. Its glossy lifestyle imagery has also inspired a fair amount of parody.

It’s basically an exercise bike that costs £1,990, and an additional £39 a month for the instructional videos. Those videos are accessible on a single bike, which others in your household can also use. With the bike alone, no subscription fee, you get videos, but not the live, on-demand ones – and your effort will show on the screen: resistance, cadence, power and all.

Check out Peloton on the website

Or, without the bike, you can use the app on an iPad, iPhone or android, for £19.49 a month – but you won’t appear on the leader boards, which rank riders on their power output.

Fitness, delivered

The price includes delivery and setup; they’ll put the bike on a rubber mat, size it up for you and set you up with a Peloton account.

The resistance is controlled by a big, easy-to-use red knob that doubles as an emergency brake. Instruction videos are delivered, via your home Wi-Fi, courtesy of a 54.6cm (21.5”) HD (1080p PCAP Multitouch) waterproof touchscreen, like a massive iPad mounted atop the handlebars.

If you’re into hardware, it’s fitted with a 2.0 GHz Mediatek quad core processor, with 2GB RAM, 16gb internal flash storage. I’ve no idea what this means.

At any rate, from this device you can select and join in any of 14 live rides daily as well as a back catalogue of thousands of training rides. Sessions have themes, from music (hello ‘90s and hip hop rides), to the type of workout, from beginner and low impact to endurance and HIIT, and you can select by instructor, ride length and difficulty. There’s even yoga, cardio, stretching and strength workouts, off the bike.

You’ll probably develop favourite instructors. I recently met someone who trained almost daily, and particularly loved Alex Toussaint, and his rallying cries, which include: ‘I did not get up today to do some mediocre shit'. There’s even a trainer who plays country music, if that’s your bag.

The Peloton footprint is 121.9 x 61cm and it weighs in at 61.2kg. There’s drinking bottle holders and cages for two weights behind the saddle for your upper body workouts.

The Peloton is quiet when running, thanks to a belt drive enclosed in a plastic housing (which stops human fingers or pet tails getting trapped in any moving parts) and you can connect the audio via a standard TRRS headphone socket to make it even quieter. Without earphones the two 10-watt stereo speakers are certainly loud enough.

What works…

Peloton is perhaps less popular with the cycling community – they didn’t help themselves by sending a lawyer’s letter to YouTuber Shane Miller over his Digital Peloton News segment. The internet in turn has gifted us the Peloton parody, poking fun at its lifestyle marketing showing the bikes in prime locations in various luxury apartments.

As for me, I just couldn’t get into it. In the three months it sat in my living room – in pride of place by the window of my ex-council flat – I found a dozen reasons not to use it. I didn’t get up early enough, I was too tired after work, having already cycled home. I couldn’t be bothered. With spin classes I sign up and almost never skip them. With the Peloton, I could comfortably ignore it.

I had plenty of reasons to spin. There was the small matter of my first major on-road sportive in some years. I didn’t turn the bike on once in my scant preparation for it. Then there was the somewhat bigger matter of my having just signed up for the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, 960 miles in nine days, in September, and my training plan prescribed two spin sessions a week.

Still, the cat perched the saddle more than I did. A lot more. In three months I used the bike a grand total of three times.

It’s not that I didn’t like it. My first sweaty workout was with instructor Cody Rigsby, who was likeable and encouraging, telling riders to do our best, and give it our all. I loved knowing my power output, cadence, and so on, as I rode.

I also loved comparing my effort to others on the leader board, and it’s compelling (and motivating) to see yourself climbing, or even slipping down, the rankings. I probably would have enjoyed seeing myself improve over time.

Several weeks elapsed

The second time I got on after my 11km commute home, and got off again after three minutes. My legs were a bit tired, and there was nobody there to judge me.

The third time, a couple of weeks later, post-sportive and freshly-enthused over my new found Ride Across Britain challenge, I got up early before work for an FTP test.

I wasn’t sure if such a thing existed on the Peloton library so, with British Cycling FTP instructions on a PDF on my phone, I picked three classes consecutively, using them for the music, and the stats, for my warm up, effort and cool down, but basically ignoring anything the instructors said.

Even though I’m a bit of a stubborn non-conformist, I do wonder if others feel the same as I do; if Peloton will go the same way as exercise bikes in the 80s, eventually relegated from the poolside or glass wall of the luxury penthouse to the shed or servants’ quarters.

Yes, they are more competitive, more gamified, more personal than their forebears, but isn’t it the same fad, updated for the 21st century?

I could be very wrong. The instructors, for example, are fun – even if they’re very conscious of looking good on the bike. Leanne Hainsby has a gentle, encouraging persona for her beginner classes. She envelops you in that encouragement. As long as you’re there, feel proud of it, she says. She becomes fiercer altogether for the more advanced workouts, challenging riders to push themselves, not slack off.

Having a ready-made work out, with music, is really useful. I love the fact there’s weights – working on upper body strength is genuinely beneficial, not least for women as we age.

Maybe it’s that sitting in your home, alone, pedalling, is quite boring. I never got into turbo training, possibly for the same reason. Perhaps it’s that I already like spin classes, albeit sporadically, where I go to ride with other sweaty people. It’s a change of scene, and the instructor is right there.

Check out Peloton on the website

I already cycle 11km each way to work, and I’m not looking to race anyone on a bike, so spinning at home before or after my working day and my commute doesn’t really work for me.

I’d argue if you know what you want, as per my training plan, you don’t necessarily need the instructor. If you don’t, you still have to be quite motivated to climb on the bike. But I am one person. If as many people like it as much as they say they do, Peloton can only be a good thing – in an increasingly sedentary world anything that helps people to get fit – and stay fit – gets a massive thumbs up from me.

As for me, I’ll be glad to have my living room back.

Prices

Pricing in the UK

• £1,990 (includes delivery fee) plus £39/month subscription for unlimited live and on-demand classes. The Bike can be financed for £56/month for 36 months (not including the subscription).

Packages

• The essentials: Peloton shoes, weights and headphones - £139 
• The works: Peloton shoes, weights, headphones, a heart rate monitor and a bike mat - £209 
• Family pack: two pairs of Peloton shoes (with cleats), two heart rate monitors, two water bottles, two pairs of headphones, one set of weights, and one bike mat - £399

Price: 
£1,990 plus subscription