I’ve taken enough spin classes in the past decade to know what makes for a stellar workout: dynamite music, a charismatic instructor and a sweat-drenched, climb-filled routine. I’ve experienced this to various degrees at dozens of studio classes I’ve attended over the years. But I recently attained similar spin nirvana from the comfort of my home, thanks to the Peloton Bike+.
It’s been a tough year for people who love group fitness, myself included. (I fully realize this is a trivial problem to have during a pandemic.) My preferred workout are interval classes at Orangetheory—love you, miss you—but during Ontario’s first lockdown I reverted to running. I returned to the gym briefly in August, before I got scared straight by the super-spreader event at the Hamilton, Ont. spin studio that, from all accounts, appeared to have done a good job of following what were then the public health protocols. Enter the Peloton. I was offered a chance to try out the brand-new Bike+ for a three-month period starting in September. The timing could not have been better.
For those not familiar with Peloton, here’s the lowdown: the company is best known for its wi-fi-enabled stationary bike, which lets you stream live and pre-recorded instructor-led classes that you watch from a HD touchscreen attached to the bike. Classes are filmed in studios in New York and London which are, in non-pandemic times, open for Peloton users to attend IRL on the row of bikes behind the instructor’s ride. The company bills itself as bringing “the community and excitement of boutique fitness into the home,” as riders can compete with one another on the digital leaderboard–or hide it altogether—join groups who share common interests through the use of tags (#WorkingMomsofPeloton, #TrueNorthStrong) and virtually high-five other riders (a little awkward, but then again, so is the real deal).
There’s no denying the Peloton Bike+ is fancy, and it comes with an equally fancy price tag: $3,295 for the Bike+; the original Peloton Bike—which has fewer bells and whistles, more on that later—is priced at $2,495. (There are also monthly payment plan options for both.) Additionally, all Peloton Bike users must also pay a monthly “all-access fee” of $49 for unlimited spin classes—as well as running, yoga and strength training workouts, which can also be accessed via the Peloton app (a mere $16.99/month). Despite the hefty price tag for its bikes, Peloton sales have soared during the pandemic, with wait times on the Bike+ now pegged at three months.
The $3,295 question: is the Peloton Bike+ actually worth it? I clipped in to find out.
The Peloton arrived at my house in a sleek, black, Peloton-branded van and was set up by two technicians within half an hour; mine came with clip-in spin shoes, two sets of free weights and a yoga mat to try the full suite of Peloton classes. (These extras, if you’re so inclined, add another $200 to your bill, but if you already own spin shoes they should be compatible with the Peloton.) After the technicians left, I quickly created a profile and jumped on for my inaugural ride.
My first impression: I’ve never ridden on a smoother spin bike. I also couldn’t believe how many classes were available in the library–varying from 10-minute climbs to 45-minute intervals-and-arms classes to 60-minute long rides. There are usually around six live classes a day, but there are also dozens of pre-recorded classes to try. In my experience, hundreds of other people are usually riding in real-time on recent pre-recorded rides, which is good if you can’t make a live class but like to compete with others. Similar to Soulcycle, many Peloton instructors have attained celebrity status among loyal riders; my personal favourite is Emma Lovewell, a crunchy granola earth goddess with intensely positive vibes and an obsession with ’90s music. And speaking of music, there’s a Peloton class for most tastes: ’00s rock rides, Bon Jovi-themed rides, new music listening parties, etc. (The company spends a literal fortune in music rights.)
As the weeks wore on—and gyms shut down again in Toronto, where I live—I realized there was no better antidote to a dreary pandemic day than sweating bullets to Sophie B. Hawkins while admiring Emma Lovewell’s impeccable abs. Sure, the community element isn’t the same as a group class, but I loved competing against other riders virtually, and the analytics the bike provides—both during the ride (cadence, watts, resistance, speed, distance, calories) and afterward—are superb for competitive types. After an initial period of shyness, I started high-fiving up a storm and finally committed to a tag—#TeamLovewell, of course—which ostensibly could help me find other Emma obsessives to do group rides with, if I was so inclined.
I typically did 30-minute rides—which left me so winded I’m sure my neighbours could hear me heaving—but I also tried a Bike Bootcamp, in which you do blocks of spin interspersed with full-body weight sessions on the floor. I was excited to try it because it was the closest I’d get to Orangetheory at home, but switching between spin shoes and running shoes for the strength intervals felt clunky. (Intervals-and-arms classes, where you lift weights while on the bike, are more seamless.) During my loan period, I typically spun four times a week, minus a two-week period during which I did absolutely no exercise for absolutely no reason. My husband, who loathes all forms of group fitness, also used the bike several times, in regular sneakers, for scenic rides through various locales viewable on the touchscreen—like the French countryside or Golden Gate Park.
But the $3,295 question remains. I’ve never tried the standard Peloton Bike, but for comparison’s sake, here are the main differences between the Bike and the Bike+:
- The Bike+ touchscreen is two inches larger (24 inches versus 22 inches)
- The Bike+ touchscreen rotates (this is crucial for Bike Bootcamp classes, as you can turn the screen to face you as you complete the floor workouts)
- The Bike+ has more speakers
- The Bike+ has auto-follow resistance (meaning you can program it to follow the recommended resistance level throughout the class)
- The Bike+ easily syncs with an Apple Watch so you can track your workout
In my experience, the only truly useful Bike+ feature was auto-follow resistance, which ensures you’re not coasting when you should have the resistance cranked. That aside, the added features weren’t worth the added $800—to me, at least.
While I have truly loved the Peloton experience, at the end of my three-month trial, I’ve decided that I will say goodbye to the Bike+. I just can’t justify the price tag at the moment, though I remain seriously tempted by the basic Bike, which is what I’d wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who has the cash to spend on an at-home spin experience. Instead, I’m planning on running through the winter months, and—for now, at least—getting my Emma Lovewell inspo via Instagram.