When I joined a gym as a mom, my priorities changed: I needed daycare and I needed a shower. Motivation in place. Little did I know that my son’s poop, cries, and attempts to escape would interrupt my routine almost on a daily basis. My new mom friends invited me to take spin classes with them, but between the coaches shouting out mysterious numbers and the coordination involved, I kindly declined; spin was more than my foggy-mom brain could handle at the time, so I stuck to my elliptical, yoga, and Zumba classes. This pre-dated the Soul Cycle invasion of New York, before cadence and tap-backs became part of the everyday jargon.
By the time my son learned to love the gym, I was pregnant with baby #2. Luckily, my little girl eased into daycare and I soon realized after taking my first spin class that I had been missing out: with its trendy music and remixes blaring in a darkened room, let’s face it, this was the closest I was getting to a night out.
At this same time, the condo I lived in had redesigned its gym, and I convinced management to add a spin bike. But what can you do with a spin bike and no instructor? I downloaded apps and watched YouTube videos, but no good solution existed at the time.
Fast-forward to the suburbs and a house with room for exercise equipment. One day, soon after we moved in, I scrolled down on Facebook and noticed that several of my friends had “liked” the Peloton Cycle page. I asked those friends about it, but no one had purchased a bike, yet everyone agreed it was a brilliant concept: a state-of-the-art bike with spin classes live on or demand. The bike, however, comes with a hefty price tag ($1995 plus $250 delivery, plus a $39 per month subscription).
After gawking at the price tag again and doing the math, MacGyver kicked in. I downloaded the Peloton app to my iPad, free at the time, and investigated. Currently, Peloton offers almost 4,000 on-demand rides, ranging from 5 minutes to 75 minutes. Additionally, you can find about eleven live classes on any given day, beginning at 6:00 am and as late as 8:30 pm. My favorite rides are themed, covering everything from One Hit Wonders to Adele.
After reading review after review on my trusted Amazon.com, I found a bike, with few bells and whistles, yet hundreds of recent positive reviews. Over a year later, I have no complaints.
I proudly installed it myself, which took about 30 minutes. I chose the Sunny Health and Fitness bike, with a flywheel and belt like the Peloton, over the chain link version. This bike cost me just over $300, so upfront I am saving almost $1700, on the bike alone. As for the Sunny bike, initially, I had some issues with the seat, as it kept tilting. I contacted the manufacturer and they promptly sent me a new one. Turns out, I just didn’t have the seat tight enough, and fixed it easily. Some reviewers discussed the uncomfortable seat, however, I’m rarely seated on the bike longer than a minute or so before I am up out of the saddle again, and have no problem with the original seat provided.
*UPDATE: Sunny now carries a newer version of my bike, described above, but includes the addition of dual pedals (standard cage and SPD). In my opinion, this feature alone is worth the little bit of extra money (that you would spend on pedals anyway) and saves you the inconvenience and time of switching out the pedals.
Spin bikes range in prices, and you may decide that you want a higher end bike than the one I purchased. Perhaps you prefer a computerized screen or more accessories built into the price. The beauty of the app is that you can customize the bike to your personal preferences, and still save money each month.
Suggestion: If you have never taken a spin class, you should go to a class first or watch some YouTube videos to learn how to position yourself properly on the bike, and also get the feel of your resistance level. What is a flat road? An uphill climb? When the instructors ask for a resistance of 30 percent, what does this mean? After a few classes, you will figure it out. But for this reason, I stay away from the Peloton’s metric classes, which rely heavily on precise resistance numbers.
iPad Holder: In order to view the app, I needed an iPad holder that I easily attached to the handlebars; I now also have a television set up in the room and I stream the app via Airplay onto Apple TV. Unlike Peloton’s touchscreen, the iPad only streams the workout and does not display cadence, resistance, output, or position on the leaderboard. If you aren’t familiar with the leaderboard screen, it allows you to compare yourself to other live riders in terms of output. In reality, I squeeze in my workouts whenever I can fit it in, usually choosing from the expansive on-demand class library, so my position on the leaderboard holds little relevance, as it doesn’t apply to on-demand classes. Although not ideal due to the size of the screen, you can access the app on the iPhone.
Cadence Sensor: The Peloton instructors regularly refer to RPM or cadence by number, and for the first few months, I only had a general idea of how fast I pedaled. I alleviated the problem by buying the Wahoo cadence sensor, a small device that attaches to the crank arm near the pedal and sends the measured cadence to an iPhone via bluetooth. I propped up my iPhone in front of me so that I could view my data during the ride.
Note: You may prefer Wahoo’s speed and cadence sensor.
Weights: Like most spin classes these days, the instructors incorporate weights. The Peloton comes with a weight holder behind the back seat, but not with the weights themselves. Those will cost you $25 per set of 1, 2, or 3 lb. weights. I opted for this set of three weights, for a savings of $55. My bike did not come with a weight holder so I just keep them on a table next to my bike.
Pedals: For the first year, I used the pedals included with the bike. Recently, I purchased these SPD pedals (which comes with the cleats that you must attach to your spin shoes). I watched several Youtube videos and tried unsuccessfully changing out the pedals for over an hour. Then, I realized my wrench was way too big. Once I switched to a 5/8 wrench, I completed the job in minutes. Or, you can make things easier on yourself and buy a pedal wrench like this one.
*Remember, if you get the newer version of the bike, you can skip this step completely.
Spin Shoes: Finally, I got my own pair of spin shoes. Yes, they are called clipless even though they clip in. I did a lot of research on this and finally decided on this pair of Shimano SPD shoes. (Most bikes are either SPD compatible or Look Delta. Each requires the pedal, cleats and shoes to match).
All in all, I have spent around $550 including weights, iPad holder, the Wahoo device, pedals, and spin shoes. The iPhone/ iPad app is no longer free and costs $12.99 per month for unlimited rides, or $5.99 per week.
The breakdown of what I paid: Bike $317 + iPad holder $21 + Wahoo device $50 + weights $20 + pedals $50 + shoes $100. (Note: Amazon’s prices tend to fluctuate on most of these items). Again, the breakdown of the Peloton: Bike $1995 + installation $250 + weights $25 for one set. Without even factoring the monthly subscription price in, my mock-Peloton saved me more than $1700. If you consider my additional savings of $26 per month by using the app vs. the subscription, I discover another $312 per year in my pocket. Overall, for this price, I really can’t have buyer’s remorse.
If you have a spin bike or one at the gym, I recommend that you give the app a try. It’s free for the first 14 days. I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you own a Peloton bike, although I can’t see you on the leaderboard, I would love to hear from you too.
*Note: This post was originally posted in March 2016 and has been updated to reflect accuracy and new product information.
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