It’s been nearly three years since I bought the original/base Peloton Bike, and lucky for you it’s still the same model being sold now. Sure, there’s the newer and more expensive Peloton Bike+ (for which I have a review on too here), but ironically, the original Peloton Bike actually gets the most usage in our family. Not because it’s better, but simply because we have the Peloton Bike at home, and the Peloton Bike+ at the DCR Cave/Office. And most of the time we ride the Peloton is weeknights or weekends.
Both my wife and I ride the bike, and like most endurance athletes, our indoor workouts (and thus Peloton usage) varies with the season. I put in significantly more hours indoors during the dark, cold, rainy, windy, and generally miserable Dutch winters – than I do summers. In summer, I use every excuse I can to enjoy riding weeknights during a beautiful 11PM sunset.
Since purchasing it three years ago, the Peloton platform has received significant software updates, adding a slate of new features. Like most platforms, the bigger and larger the platform gets, the more nuanced the changes get. And while the media likes to portray Peloton as somehow being on its deathbed, one only need to look at the actual financial report user numbers to see they’re still growing subscribers (per their most recent filings last week)– something virtually no other indoor platform can claim. Undoubtedly Peloton is undergoing a transformation, but at present that’s mostly a internal financial one that’s had virtually no bearing on the end-user experience (in fact, it’s clearly gotten better – though that likely would have happened anyway).
Finally, as I’ve said many times before – I’d caution any endurance athlete into assuming Peloton is just a bunch of dancing on bikes to music. At its core, Peloton is simply structured indoor bike workouts that has music playing in the background, with a coach talking you through it. Like any coach in any sport, you’ll have personal preferences on what you like and don’t. Yes, there are some over-the-top Peloton instructors (not my cup of tea). But there’s also some serious hardcore endurance athlete instructors with structured workouts that’ll give anything you find on TrainerRoad a run for its money. And then there’s everything in between. You choose, it’s what you make of it.
Now, I’ll dive into all that later on, so with that, let’s get rolling.
(Obviously, as you’re about to learn, this review is very non-sponsored. I’m gonna take a guess that nobody has spent as much time and effort in acquiring a Peloton Bike as I have. All my reviews are non-sponsored, and this is no different. Also, if you’re looking for my Peloton Tread review, you’ll find that here.)
Up until recently, Peloton actually delivered the bikes themselves into your house and assembled it and such. However, these days you can buy Peloton on Amazon and a variety of places. Depending on where you live, you’ll either assemble the bike yourself, or, it’ll have assembly included. I did neither.
In my case, I don’t live in an area that Peloton delivers bikes to. As such, I had to take matters into my own hands. So I bought a very lightly used bike. By ‘lightly used’, I mean, this bike best I can tell was used only a (legit) of couple times (which the owner also confirmed). It looked immaculate, as one might expect a clothes hanger would look. The owner even had the original shoes, which still smell like they’ve never been used (she had no other cycling shoes she said). Point being, short of a brand-new bike being unboxed by Peloton crew, this was the next best thing.
However, the very first thing I did prior to moving it to its final resting location was a quick test ride to validate calibration with a pair of power meter pedals. In other words, I wanted to understand the ‘starting state’ of the bike before I moved it about 5,000 miles.
Speaking of which, while I definitely want to outline the hilarity of disassembling a Peloton bike in a Las Vegas hotel room, sorting it into airplane-legal box sizes, and then rolling up to the United Airlines ticket counter to bag-check an entire Peloton bike for my flight back to Amsterdam. I figure this post might not be the right place for that. I do need to consolidate what was some 200 Instagram stories into a single post. Once I figure out how to do that, I’ll do so.
Till then, you can skip through that entire 200 Story long Instagram adventure in two archived stories on my Instagram profile. Seriously, I promise it’s funny:
Just remember to come back and read the rest of this review after you’ve destroyed whatever productivity might have been left in your day.
Also, since re-locating it across an ocean, I’ve relocated it twice via cargo bike around Amsterdam, these times simply strapping it to the top using bungee cords and hoping for the best. Mostly worked out.
The Bike Hardware:
At its core, the reason the Peloton bike is successful is because of its screen. While some might argue the instructors are key, the reality is that without the screen there would be no instructors. The idea of a cohesive exercise bike with a WiFi connected screen that displayed high resolution videos was simply unheard of in the consumer realm before Peloton some 10 years ago. Companies had tried telling consumers to put their bikes in front of TV screens, but that really never took off. And while the higher end Peloton Bike+ has a nicer and more movable screen (you can rotate it to do things like floor strength/core workouts), I actually haven’t felt like it’s mattered long-term, when it comes to on-bike workouts (being that I have and use both bikes).
Still, before we get to the screen, we’ll start with the base of the bike. Or rather, the entire bike. One of the things you learn when disassembling such a beast is that it’s actually an incredibly simple piece of tech.
While by commercial-grade standards for things like adjustability levelers uses on the Peloton bike might not be as solid, for consumer use (or even low-volume hotel usage), it’s more than fine. There’s virtually no amount of meaningful wear and tear you could put on this bike in your own home, even if you were the Brady Bunch.
The Peloton bike has basic adjustability levels. Not as much as indoor smart bikes like those from Wahoo, Stages, or Tacx. But still enough for most people. The two main adjustment points are for raising the height of the saddle and handlebar assemblies, with a third for adjusting fore/back the saddle.
First, for saddle height, this is done via the seat post adjustment handle, which has markings on it for easy reference if swapping between family members:
The seat position fore/back can be adjusted using the below level. And then the seat itself can be manually adjusted using a wrench – just like on a real bike (this is different from other higher-end smart bikes having quick-adjust levers here instead).
Meanwhile, on the front of the bike there’s an adjustment lever for raising the entire front assembly, which includes the handlebars and display:
There isn’t any way though to move forward/back the display. Peloton’s line of bike-fit thinking here is essentially that everyone scales in height/arm length linearly. Of course, that’s not the real world (and is exactly why most smart bikes allow fore/aft quick changing of both the seat/saddle and the front handlebars – Peloton only allows saddle). As such, some people might struggle to find the right/proper fit here – though I suspect most people aren’t doing 3-5 hour long indoor sessions on their Peloton bike.
Down at the crank arms Peloton includes clip-in pedals. These absolutely beastly Look Delta style pedals allow you to clip in cleat enabled shoes. When I say beastly pedals, note that the included Peloton pedals weigh a mind-boggling 1.6lbs each (725g). Seriously. For comparison, a standard issue pair of LOOK KEO pedals weigh a mere 250-275g depending on exact style/model. I’d love to know why Peloton decided to equip its bike with the heaviest pedals ever made on earth.
In my case, I replaced these pedals with my own pedals so I can do power meter comparisons. I did this because it allowed me to compare the power accuracy of the Peloton bike with that of known good power meters. You can keep the pedals or replace them if you have other cleat types around your home already. There’s nothing proprietary about the threads on the Peloton crank arms, as you can see below.
Down at the bottom of the bike there’s the two feet (front and back). The front of the bike also has two wheels, allowing you to tip it upwards and then roll it easily wherever you want to go:
The back has the power cord connector. This is proprietary, whereas the Peloton Bike+ is simply USB-C powered (you can literally use your laptop charger for it). Of course, when the Peloton Bike originally came out, USB-C power was really still in its infancy, especially for higher power devices like this.
The bulk of the flywheel closest to your body, and all of the drivetrain is protected by a plastic guard. This is ideal for small children (we have three), and pets (we have a small dog). Of course, if a child bonks their head against the fast moving flywheel it’ll still cause damage. Or, if they put their fingers in there. But compared to a regular bike drivetrain, it’s far more difficult for a small creature to get hurt here.
The handlebars are above that. These allow you to put yourself in a number of positions, though for triathletes you can’t really get into any sort of aero position easily.
On the back of the saddle you’ll find the dumbbell holder and two dumbbells. Back in the day these were included, not so anymore. The Peloton Bike used to ship with 2.5lbs dumbbells, but you can buy heavier ones ones instead.
Finally, there’s the display. The 21.5” screen is also where all the processing of the Peloton bike occurs. It’s essentially just a big Android phone. Peloton runs atop Android here, and so this screen acts as a large Android device.
On the back are connectors for micro-USB (if you want to load Android apps yourself), as well as an ethernet port in case WiFi is problematic for you. There’s two ports that Peloton uses, one for power and one for the speed/resistance sensor data.
And finally on the side is a 3.5mm headphone jack. But you can also pair Bluetooth headphones too. On the Bike+, they moved the headphone jack to a far more logical location at the front of the handlebars, since the side-of-monitor location meant that most standard headphone cables were a bit tight on length by time they got to your head.
Ok, with that we’ll press the power button on top of the bike and get started:
Typically the bike is in standby, so it’ll instantly turn on. Every once in a while when you turn it on you’ll get a notice that the Peloton bike has updated its firmware behind the scenes overnight. But otherwise it’s just like your TV – ready pretty much instantly when you push the button.
The Peloton Platform Basics:
While Peloton often implies that the software experience between a $ 1,500 Peloton Bike and their $ 13/month Peloton Digital Apps are similar, the reality is that they are quite different. About the only thing that’s the same is the video stream of the instructor and some basic app layouts. However, the experience on the Peloton Bike is vastly superior to the app (I’ve primarily used the iPad app), namely in the realm of data metrics you see, and how you interact with others.
This section here is all about the experience of riding the bike. Perhaps someday I’d compare the app versus the bike, but this is 100% the Peloton Bike experience through the Peloton Bike screen. If you travel, you can take the app with you on your phone/tablet, and then still continue classes there – just with less data. But it does go into your account all the same. In any case, when you power on the bike you’ll be able to choose which profile (person) you want:
What’s cool here is that you pay on a per-bike basis. So if you’ve got friends in town, they can setup a profile on your bike for free and use it anytime they visit. Some of our friends/family have done exactly that and it works well.
Once logged in you’ll see your dashboard. This will show you recent rides up top, currently in-progress live (or encore) workouts in the upper right corner that you can join right now. It’ll also display upcoming workouts too.
Down below are ‘Your Instructors’, which are essentially the instructors you do workouts from most often. And then to the right are the ‘Daily Picks’, which are pulling up workouts that it thinks you’ll like. Below all that are the most popular workouts, challenges, programs, and workouts that friends took. Oh, and tags, to apparently become more like social media somehow.
While you can dive into a class immediately from any of the colorful icons on the screen, we’re going to continue this scenic journey with the rest of the options. I’d say about half the time I do a class I’ll simply pick one out from the ‘Most Popular’/’Your Instructors’/’Daily Picks’ list, and then the other half I’ll dive into the ‘Classes’ option at the bottom to find one from a filter specific to what I want that day. But more on that in a second.
This is where Peloton has grouped together a set of classes to form multiple weeks within a given theme. Most of the time there isn’t any actual intertwined story-line here between these classes. It’s just ones Peloton put together that were all roughly in the same bucket. Still, they make sense.
However, some do actually have more cohesion, such as the Power Zone series. This starts off with an FTP warm-up and then FTP test. An FTP (Functional Threshold Power) test is a way you can track and compare gains in cycling. It hurts, but it’s also fairly effective. And usually short. In the case here, they then use that FTP test to do the rest of the classes using power zones (as most other cycling apps would). That’s a more prescriptive way of getting exactly the right zone for what you need to improve. More on that later too.
There’s also ‘Collections’, which are as the name implies, and generally tied to a given them – often music or specific guest in nature.
Next along the bottom, there’s the ‘Classes’ tab, this is where you can access thousands (assumedly more like tens of thousands) of back classes. It’s impressive. These are ordered from when the class went live, so the one shown as ‘4 mins ago’, was a ride that ended a mere 4 mins ago.
You can then filter along the top to find the specific class type you want. For example, I tend to do 45 minute classes, so I’ll start there. And then I can layer in and get into the specific class type or instructor. The class type would be things like a ‘Power Zone’ workout, or or a theme like ‘Groove’ or ‘Beginner’ or ‘Live DJ’.
Or you can select whether you want arm work in the class or not by toggling the dumbbells at the top. Seriously, the world is your oyster here on selecting a class.
Next along the bottom is the ‘Schedule’. You’ll also notice a toggle called ‘Encore & Premiers’. Premiers is literally brand new, like this week, and it’s basically recorded classes that are being shown the first time if they were live. Whereas Encore are older classes where the leaderboard is being reset, but then played again as if it were live. Whereas ‘Live’ means legit live. Times below shown local to me, in Europe (Amsterdam).
Peloton has two live studio locations: NYC and London
On certain days in those studios there will also be regular people in the studio with the instructor. Pre-COVID it was regular people for every class, but now it’s just a subset.
Pre-COVID I really did prefer taking live classes over recorded ones. I think it just felt more ‘real’, sorta like watching a sports team live. Plus, there was a chance you might have had your name called out for a milestone (e.g. Ride #100/#1000/etc…). However, during peak COVID, live classes got cut back quite a bit as instructors did them from home and in isolated studios. In the last year or so, it’s mostly back to a normal live schedule (with or without the in-class peoples). However, what hasn’t changed pre/post-COVID is that if you’re in Europe, you won’t generally find many live classes in the morning. And this actually kinda carries over to being US West Coast for the evening side, where many of those classes just don’t exist live. Again, times below shown local to me in Amsterdam (CET).
Working to wrap-up this scenic tour of the dashboard, there’s the the challenges, which lets you join and compete for virtual achievements. And then after that there’s the oft-forgotten ‘More’ option. This is where you can do a ‘Just Ride ’session, which is essentially just an empty screen if you don’t want to listen/see anything but your metrics. This is also basically the only thing you get if you stop paying for your subscription:
And then there’s the ‘Scenic Ride’ option where you can ride all sorts of random routes from around the world. These are roughly divided up into different categories, including guide rides, time-based rides, and distance-based rides. Guided rides have one of the instructors doing a workout out riding on these real roads, while also talking about the area.
For time and guided rides, bike speed here isn’t synced with the video, so it’s not super ideal compared to something like FulGaz (a cycling app) where the speed of the real-world video changes based on your effort.
However, I really like the ‘Guided’ rides, and this specific one with Matt Wilpers is done really well. I just wish it wasn’t so short. I did a bit of a review on the guided feature when it initially rolled out, and to their credit they have been (very slowly) adding more rides since then.
Lastly, to wrap things up there’s the settings option, by tapping the little icon in the lower right corner:
Within that you can find other members, connect to Facebook, configure profile and device settings and more. We’ll take a look at the profile settings first. This is essentially where you fill in your gender, weight, e-mail and birthdate. As well as pick a photo if you want to. Then, there’s preferences around language, units of measurement, and hiding explicit language classes.
You can also set your power zones manually. In my case I set mine about 10w higher to account for the fact that the Peloton bike reads slightly high.
Next there’s social connectivity options, but more on that later too:
There’s also the ability to reset your PR’s, in the event you change bikes and the calibration is off. Or, you’ve gone and done a ride on some other bike where the calibration is off, and it dorks up your leaderboard PR tracker/timer thingy:
Ok, with that we’ve gone through all the Peloton basics, now it’s time to actually ride the darn thing.
Riding a Session:
Ok, enough of the touring, let’s start riding. I’m gonna show you two ‘types’ of rides here: A regular workout, and a power zone workout. First, the regular workout.
For this one I meandered through the menus and selected a 45 minute ride, with the general intension of not killing myself intensity-wise. I’d do that later in other rides. When you select one of the rides from the menu, you get a little pop-up window that shows some overall stats for the workout, including the music, how many people have taken it, and in some cases a small chart of the target metrics (power targets). Also, you can actually press preview to watch a chunk of it too.
You can scroll down to see the class structure overview, and then even expand it for a much more detailed look at things:
And you can further see the structure in a graph format, while also seeing which areas of the body this will work – remembering that some rides include weights/arm work.
Now it’s worthwhile noting that Peloton has a featured called ‘Stacking’, which lets you lineup a bunch of classes so you can take them one after another. This is useful if you want to do a warm-up class, followed by a main class, and then some cool-down work. Or, perhaps you want to combine two medium-length classes for a longer set. And just last week they added no-warm-up classes, where basically it’s just building blocks of X duration (e.g. 10 mins) that go straight into it. In case you wanted to turn that 45-minute class into a 50-minute class. The ‘stack’ icon above is the one that looks like three little screens atop each other, just below the play button.
Once you press the start button you’ll be shown a pairing screen. This is where you can pair (or validate) your Bluetooth audio connection (such as to headphones), as well as your heart rate connection.
For the headphones, it works with any Bluetooth audio device. But it also has a 3.5mm port on the side of the screen too for wired headphones. And of course it has speakers built-in. I’ve used all three variants. For the headphones I’ve done wired a number of times, but also AirPods and Beats Pro many times too.
On the heart rate strap side of things, it’ll connect to both ANT+ & Bluetooth heart rate sensors. So basically anything. I most commonly used a Polar H9 or H10, and then a Garmin HRM-PRO strap). Alternatively, most watches these days can broadcast to it directly, and the Apple Watch can pair to it too. But seriously, I used tons of different sensors (even Whoop sometimes) without any issue.
Once that’s done, tap start. At this point you’ll have the instructor giving a 60-second overview on how to use Peloton. This is not part of the recorded workout file, but is pre-recording. You can still see your metrics live during this point though. You can adjust the volume using the buttons on the right of the monitor, and when you do that, it lets you adjust the balance between the instructor and music. You can’t entirely zero out one, but it tweaks it a bit.
Ok, with that let’s take a look at the main screen. This screen is the same no matter the workout, though you can hide *ALL* the components if you want to. On the bottom is the main metrics panel. This shows you cadence at left (including avg/max), then power (watts) in the middle (plus avg/max). Then at right is ‘Resistance’ – this is your red knob, on a range from 0 to 100.
Down at the very bottom there’s speed, distance, total output (kilojoules), and calories (kcal). Note that the distance here is purely a mythical/made up number, which has no bearing in real-life on real roads. It’s merely because if they don’t put some number down, people will get upset. But when it comes to indoor cycling on a spin bike (especially), it’s basically just a fun math game for what you want the speed (and thus distance) to be. Again, no bearing on real life here. Don’t compare it to outdoors either.
For power/watts, Peloton instructors will always refer to it as ‘Output’, and very rarely use the term power, except in power zone workouts.
Next on the right side is the leaderboard. This can be shown as everyone, or just ‘Here now’ for recorded sessions. Which means that if you’re watching a previously recorded session it’ll only show you other people around the world doing that exact same session at the same time.
The leaderboard is basically just a race based upon kilojoules output, you’ll notice those two numbers are identical in my case. The more power you put out, the higher the rankings. In general, when you see someone above 1,000kj for a 45 minute workout – it highly likely they’re Peloton bike is inaccurate. I’ve topped out around 760kj in a 45min Peloton workout, and that was a beastly effort where you mostly ignored any supposed breaks. Said differently: Use the leaderboard as motivation to pass someone nearby, but don’t pretend someone showing 1,300kj is actually doing that. There’s a 99.9% chance they’ve just got a broken bike.
On the left side of the screen is y current heart rate, and below it is the current song being played. It’ll automatically hide and then pop-out when the song changes. You can setup either Apple Music or Spotify such that if you tap on the song, it’ll add it to a playlist so you can grab it later
Oh, there’s the ‘Feed’ on the left below the heart rate zone, which simply shows when people High-Five you. And you can then high-five them back. Like Instagram likes, you can’t redeem high fives for anything.
Ok, as you iterate through the workout the instructor will call out different targets. The duration remaining in the workout (or that portion of the workout) is shown up top with a line.
However, if you look carefully towards the bottom, you’ll see some yellow bits – these show the target metrics (cadence and resistance) for the current portion of the workout. So you see the cadence range below is 80-100 for this section, and I’m at 87, and the resistance target is 25-35, and I’m at 31.
Unfortunately, and astoundingly frustratingly – these targets aren’t shown for Power Zone workouts. Power Zone workouts are ones focused on using your unique power zones in order to be more structured and tailored to you. It’s how most cyclists train, when training with power. Thus, it’s literally mind-bogging to me that they don’t show the current power zone target at the bottom (such as over the color-coded section seen below):
I mean, if there’s one workout type that actually benefits from this explicitly, it’s power zone workouts, yet it’s the one workout type they don’t do overlays for. And Peloton already has this data, it’s shown within the class profile. Here it is shown for a 90-minute workout in a Matt Wilpers class. Remember, while your exact zone is personal to you, the zone target for that portion of the workout (e.g. Zone 3) is for everyone:
Ultimately, while to outsiders it might seem like Peloton workouts are merely instructors bouncing around to music, the reality is the workouts are actually highly structured. In fact, one only need to look at the pre-game notes above to see that.
Within Peloton’s two studios the cameras are on tracks mounted to the ceiling, and will rotate around the instructor and changes views as the ride goes along. There’s also cameras placed on the ground as well, all of which zoom in/out too. While I generally find the instructors/workouts great, I’d say the stream/video quality is hardly earth shattering. It has seemed to gotten better over the last couple years, but a 4K stream this is very much not.
Now, once you finish up the class, the instructor will often do a cool-down/stretch of sort afterwards. Like the 60 seconds pre-workout, this isn’t recorded in your workout file either. It’s at this point that you can rate the workout and related details.
Now, before we talk about the power zone workouts, let’s briefly talk instructors. It’s clear that Peloton has gone to great lengths to have a super varied team of instructors, with diverse backgrounds, specialties, and most importantly: Workout styles. Just like with any other coach or instructor, you may or may not jibe with every one you see. An that’s cool.
Some instructors for me are simply waaaay too over the top for me. While others are much more just the facts (my style). But I do appreciate those other ones exist for other people that prefer that. So, my favs are:
– Matt Wilpers: If you’re coming more from the trained cyclist side of the house, you’ll eventually find Matt’s classes are pretty much a musical version of any highly structured coached workout. Basically, a musical TrainerRoad (in a good way). Many of them are so-called Power Zone workouts, and you won’t find much fluff here either
– Christian Vande Velde: Former Tour de France Pro cyclist, his workouts are hyper-structured and hurt a lot. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between his workout and a TrainerRoad or similar workout. Sadly, he hasn’t done any classes in about two years, so I’m guessing whatever contract they had with him ran out. I’d love to see something similar again, though at least his workouts are still in the library.
– Emma Lovewell & Olivia Amato: If I’m looking for something a bit less structured than Matt Wilpers, then it’ll probably be one of Emma or Olivia’s workouts. Again, as is my preference, they generally don’t have too much fluff to their workouts, so I tend to enjoy them.
Of course, there’s plenty of instructors, and if I’m looking at other sports I’ll choose other people. For example, on running on the Peloton Tread, I’m going to use Bec Gentry’s workouts most often.
Integrations & Apps:
There is very little integration into the Peloton platform. They make the ‘walled garden of Apple’ look like Swiss cheese. In fact, there are precisely two integrations with Peloton: Fitbit and Strava. Well, and technically also Facebook – but that’s in a slightly different category
What’s unique about these is that in order to setup the Strava integration you have to be on a physical Peloton bike. Meaning, if you just have the digital Peloton app (such as on an iPad), you can’t instantiate the setup. However, if you find a bike (any bike: friends house, hotel, Peloton studio, on a yacht, etc…), then you’re golden for life. It’s just the first time you set it up has to be one on the bike, and then any subsequent rides (even non-bike) will sync just fine.
To setup either Fitbit or Strava integration you’ll go into the the settings, then ‘Social’, and you can connect them there.
These will then show up on your Strava profile within about 3 seconds of the class ending (specifically, when the timer runs to 0:00):
Further, the Peloton Bike doesn’t broadcast out your power/speed/cadence in any way/shape/form. So while Peloton utilizes the ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart standards for its benefit to connect to HR sensors, it’s not reciprocating that and transmitting power outbound to your watch or other device. If you want that, you’ll need an accessory like DFC (Data Fitness Connector), which works pretty well – and is what I use. Alternatively, you can install power meter pedals on the bike.
I keep hoping Peloton will change their mind here. Maybe with their new CEO and recent shifts on being slightly more open, or perhaps having recently hired away Zwift’s lead partner integration person, that maybe we’ll see that change. There’s a lot of people that are sports-focused that would love to also track their power/cadence/etc data on their watches. And with the Peloton Bike being a good family option, that’s more affordable than other smart bikes, it’d be a good blend.
Power Accuracy Analysis:
If you’re new around these parts you’ll likely be blissfully unaware of the rabbit hole journey you’re about to partake. But regulars know this section well. For smart bikes, trainers, and power meters that claim a given accuracy level – I validate (or invalidate) that claimed accuracy level.
In the case of Peloton, they display your watts (power output) on the screen, and it’s fundamental to certain types of workouts, such as the power zone workouts done by various instructors. The reason you care about the accuracy of power data is that if you do these workouts week after week, month after month, and year after year – you want to be able to see improvement. For cycling, power output is the *only* way to compare efforts between yourself (or others). You cannot use distance as that would be impacted by terrain, wind, and even gearing or weight. Technically one compares watts/KG (which is simply your power output divided by your weight), but we’ll ignore that for the purposes of this conversation.
Now typically I’d argue that consistency (precision) isn’t good enough. Meaning that a device has to be both consistent and accurate. And that’s largely true here too, I still argue that. However, I’m also realistic in that you can still get very fit with a consistent but inaccurate indoor bike – especially if you never care about going outside and having power data there. But more on that later.
First, note that before I moved this things across the world, I actually did some baseline rides with power meter pedals on the bike. At that point, the bike was basically brand-new. There’s been no difference between that data, and the post-move data. It’s all virtually identical.
First up, let’s look at a 45min workout, where we’ve got some clear intervals, and then a nice build section. The build is great because it demonstrates how the Peloton power slowly shifts.
As you can see above, on the whole, these trend in generally the right directions. You’ll notice about around the 20-minute marker above, how the green line of the Peloton gets a bit spikey. That’s because these are shorter intervals, but most notably, there’s the massive flywheel of the Peloton Bike, and predicting that flywheel using the speed-based algorithm that Peloton does, is tricky. Remember, the Peloton Bike doesn’t have a power meter. It’s purely looking at speed in conjunction with resistance level. While the speed is very precise (as measured by a small sensor near the flywheel), it’s knowing the position of the resistance knob that’s less precise.
Anyways, as you can see during the later build portion, the lines slowly separate. This is the scaling differences I see on the Peloton Bike (but not the Bike+, because it has a different sensor system). Basically, the higher the power, the more they separate. You’ll also see a little bit of latency each time I lay-off the power, because again, that’s related to speed slowing down, which isn’t instant with such a big flywheel.
Next, here’s a power zone workout, where you can see the same thing – plus the slow shift of the Peloton Bike as things warm-up. The later intervals are theoretically exactly the same. And the PowerTap power meter pedals show that. But the Peloton Bike slowly drifts during this data set.
You can see as I zoom in on the later portions, you’ll notice how I’m basically hitting 350w for each one of these intervals, according to the Peloton Bike. But in reality, the first set below, I’m at roughly 315-325w per the pedals. Yet by the end of the last set, I’m at ~300w for each of these intervals per the pedals (despite the Peloton Bike saying 350w). I’ve swapped different pedals over the years, there’s no difference. Also, I can’t actually hold 350w for this duration this many times. That’s simply beyond my abilities at the moment.
And here’s another set. This including some short-duration intervals, but also some longer steady-state intervals. Notice how at lower intensities, it’s actually very close (e.g. 175w and under), yet at higher intensities it gets further apart. There’s also some aspects of the cadence levels that can impact accuracy, but I haven’t seen a super clear pattern there.
Here’s a closer look at those 500w intervals, which actually aren’t all that far apart in terms of 500w levels go:
Next, here’s a few more random sets I had floating around, easily accessible. Note, the colors have changed a bit here:
And another one here. It’s really easy to see that at lower levels, it’s closer, yet at higher levels, it’s further apart:
And again, heat and warm-up over the duration seems to impact things. If my wife rode first, and then I jumped on, it’ll be warmed-up, but also with a higher offset. Whereas inversely, if I’m doing a shorter workout, the offset isn’t that high. Note that none of this applies to the Peloton Bike+, which has very good accuracy in all my testing and data. Like, just as good as any other smart bike in the market.
Finally, some might ask about whether getting the Peloton ‘Calibration’ unit helps. And indeed, I did get that, which is basically just a handful of small plastic pieces, wherein you run through a specific calibration process on the bike and the plastic pieces ensure that the resistance is at very specific levels. And yes, for some bikes that are horrifically off, that might fix an issue. However the base Peloton Bike simply doesn’t have the electronic design to pull that off. I suspect most bikes shipping these days are probably like mine: Pretty close to accurate enough for the purpose here, but not accurate enough for specialty purposes.
But if you’re bike is in the general ballpark of accuracy, I wouldn’t recommend it. In fact, having set aside many evenings to try and make this bike more accurate, I’d say most times I actually ended up with a less accurate bike – before managing to get it back to where it was. Unless the documentation and procedures by Peloton has changed very recently, they’re horrifically bad. But even leaving that aside, it’s a very imprecise process by the nature of how their system works. In my case, I have a flotilla of power meter pedals I can use to double-check that calibration process, thus, I know if something has gone wrong. The average user wouldn’t. They’d assume it was ‘going to be better’, when in reality – failure very much is still an option.
But you know what? It’s never actually bothered me for the Peloton Bike at home. The offset to reality is generally consistent (in a scaled kinda way), and it kinda works. I know that the power here is specific to this particular bike, and I’m just not mentally worried about it. But, to each their own.
(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool. It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)
Quick Thoughts Compared To A Smart Bike:
If you’re a frequent reader of this site, then you may be wondering if a Peloton bike is a good substitute for a smart bike, such as a Wahoo KICKR Bike, Tacx NEO Bike, Wattbike ATOM, or Stages Bike. The most simplistic answer is: Probably not.
The more complex answer: Does you’re marriage depend on this decision?
Despite the ‘because it’s cool’ hate on Peloton from some cyclists, I’d argue that the average Peloton workout is probably going to make people more fit than the average Zwift ride (again, on average – mostly not talking races). Which doesn’t mean they’ll make them a better cyclist, it just means they’re likely going to burn more calories. The reality of Peloton workouts is that many of them are largely designed to leave you drained each time. It’s mostly high intensity (though not always). Peloton has gotten better in the last few years at offering a wider variety of workouts though, to the point where you can create a more balanced schedule.
The problem is, that the Peloton Bike makes for a less than ideal Zwift, TrainerRoad, or similar platform setup – even with power meter pedals and those apps running on secondary screens. You don’t have gearing, so you have to adjust the resistance knob to compensate for it. And it won’t automatically change the resistance Now, I’ve done many Zwift and TrainerRoad sessions on the Peloton bike. And it’s totally functional, just not ideal.
If you have the original Peloton Bike (what this review is about), you can get the DFC hardware accessory, which means you won’t need power meter pedals, as it’ll broadcast using standard Bluetooth Smart power profile, to 3rd party apps. I’ve written about that previously – and it works great. But, it won’t change resistance on your bike for terrain, and it won’t work with the Bike+.
Inversely though, there’s simply no better experience for Peloton classes than a Peloton bike.
Anytime anyone says anything about Peloton or the Peloton Bike, you’ll find a curious legion of people ready to disparage it. Which is interesting, because if you actually look at the financial reports, Peloton’s retention rate continues to be astounding 1.2% – meaning, basically 99% of Peloton hardware buyers are sticking with Peloton. There are very few products that can say that. And if you look at the Peloton user base, you’ll find almost universally happy users – again, if you’re asking the people who actually use the product. Whereas if you ask the Internet At Large, somehow it’s horrible.
And that roughly matches my experience over the last three years, and that of my wife. We both use Peloton in time-crunched scenarios because “it just works”. Every effin time, it works perfectly. Every time. Without question, an without fail. I can’t say that about any other indoor bike technology I use – and in my job, I use all of them. A lot. Beyond the ‘just works’ factor, I actually enjoy most of the workouts that I’ve picked. But again, I’m picking specific instructors that I enjoy, and have challenging and highly structured workouts. I’m not picking a workout or instructor that looks like a dance festival is about to happen. To each their own!
Now, that’s not to say Peloton is perfect. God no. One only need to jump into the Peloton Facebook group (or Reddit Sub) to see that. In some (many?) cases, there are legit issues. Setup and delivery has at times been a proper dumpster fire, albeit, that tends to be more on the Peloton Tread than it is on the base Peloton Bike. And as I noted above, there’s plenty of weird quirks. If we look at the hardware, the base Peloton Bike power metrics simply aren’t accurate (something countless people have validated). Peloton has made no meaningful changes to address that since launch many years ago. Further, for areas like Power Zone workouts, they’ve unexplainably skipped putting the actual target metrics on the screen. Sure, the instructors call them out, but there’s zero reason Peloton can’t add those overlays like they do all other rides.
Ultimately, I use many different indoor cycling platforms each week. Though, my bread and butter are: Peloton, Zwift, and TrainerRoad. And I use them for different purposes, or at least, different times. Sometimes I want the nuanced chase of a Zwift Race/Group Ride – the constant ebb and flow of a group ride, or the chase towards the sprint finish. Sometimes I want the mindlessness of a TrainerRoad workout while I watch TV in the background. And sometimes I want to be distracted by music and an encouraging Peloton instructor that gets me through a interval workout on a late rain and windy Thursday night indoors, towards the end of a draining week.
Either way, at the end of the day, nearly three years later, I’m pretty happy with my Peloton Bike purchase, and the Peloton platform at large. With that, thanks for reading!
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Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.
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Here’s a few other variants or sibling products that are worth considering:
I’ve also put together a quick list of some of my favorite or most compatible accessories for this unit:
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Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!