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 One Peloton page, then called Peloton Cycle. 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 or on 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 more than 8,000 on-demand rides, ranging from 5 minutes to 90 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. You can also take Encore Rides, basically “live” re-airings of rides. My favorite rides are Rock Rides, 80’s rides, HIIT and Tabata. A cool new feature allows you to search on-demand rides by playlists. Beyond the Ride includes live and on-demand yoga classes, stretching, toning, and strength classes.
After reading review after review on my trusted Amazon.com, I found a spin bike with few bells and whistles, yet hundreds of recent positive reviews. Two years later and I have no complaints.
Note: as an Amazon affiliate, I get a small fee whenever you make a purchase from one of my links. I only write about products I use and love. For a concise list of all products mentioned in this blog, you can go directly to my Amazon shop.
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. If you are new to spinning, expect some discomfort in your “rear” until your body gets used to it. I never changed out the seat and I don’t wear padded shorts either.
*UPDATE: Sunny carries a newer version of my bike, described above, but includes the addition of dual pedals (standard cage and SPD).
Due to the popularity of this bike, it sometimes sells out. Make sure that my links take you to the BELT drive (1509B) and not the chain drive. If the 1509B is not in stock, I recommend getting my bike and putting on the SPD 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. Sunny just released magnetic belt drive bikes, similar to the Peloton mechanism. 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.
iPad Holder: In order to view the app, I needed an iPad holder that I easily attached to the handlebars; I now have a television set up in the room and I stream the app via Airplay onto Apple TV. You can also plug your iPad directly into a television using this adapter. 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. 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 prop up my iPhone in front of me to view my data during the ride.
Note: You may prefer Wahoo’s speed and cadence sensor. If you purchase this one, you attach it to your wheel (see below) with some double-sided tape. You’ll also need to set your wheel circumference to 1.35.
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 few months, I used the pedals included with the bike. Then, I purchased these SPD pedals (which come with the cleats that you must attach to your spin shoes). Wearing proper spin shoes and clipping into pedals maximizes the efficiency of your workout and provides more stability.
If you order these pedals along with your bike, do not bother putting on the caged pedals on at all. Simply, screw in the SPD pedals.
However, if you are changing out the pedals, see below:
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.
Cleats: Some pedals, like mine, come with cleats as do a few shoes. Read descriptions carefully. If you purchase the newer version of the bike (B1509), cleats are not included.
Spin Shoes: Finally, you’ll want a pair of spin shoes. Yes, they are called clipless even though they clip in. I did a lot of research and decided on this pair of Shimano SPD shoes. (Most spin bikes require either SPD compatible or Look Delta cleats. The pedals that come with the Peloton are Look Delta but many people change them out for SPD pedals, especially if they already own spin shoes. Be sure to read the description of each shoe, cleat, and pedal carefully as they all must match.Optional Accessories
iPhone Holder: I’ve been using this hanging iPhone holder for quite a while. It does the job and brings a smile to my face.
If you wish to view your heart rate on the Peloton app, you need one that uses ANT. App riders love the Schosche Rhythm and Heart Rate Arm Band. If you prefer a chest strap, you can purchase Wahoo’s TICKR Heart Rate Monitor.
Wireless Headphones: I like to blast my music when I work out. Luckily, I’m alone most of the time. When I’m not, I use these wireless headphones (the same ones recommended by Peloton) because they are lightweight, but most importantly, you can throw your sweaty ear cushions into the wash.
I stay away from the Peloton’s metric classes, which rely heavily on precise resistance numbers. While there is a resistance knob on the Sunny, unlike the Peloton, you cannot view your resistance level on the app. This is one thing I cannot hack. Here’s the workaround:
Take lots of classes. Rely heavily on your cadence and heart rate readings. You will learn the feel of it. How? When the instructor refers to a flat road, it generally means a resistance of 25 to 35 percent. The instructors will remind you that you should be able to keep on a flat road for a long period of time. An uphill climb starts at approximately 50 to 55 percent. Rarely do the instructors go over 70. If an instructor calls for a resistance of 30 and a cadence of 100 to 110 and you are struggling to get close to that, your resistance is likely too high. Conversely, if you are flying at a cadence of 90 and the instructor has you at a climb, then your resistance is too low. See the comments for much more discussion on resistance levels.
All in all, I have spent around $550 including weights, iPad holder, Wahoo cadence sensor, 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 cost of Peloton comes out to: 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.
- As of October 2017, App riders are now eligible for the coveted Peloton 100 Rides Century Shirt!
- Peloton just announced the Peloton Tread, a treadmill. App riders will have access to these total body workouts as part of their subscription when it launches.
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As always, I look forward to your comments. Happy riding!