I have a confession: I've never taken a spin class. I've done boot camp, yoga, pilates, barre and run thousands of kilometres, but the idea of spinning has always spooked me. I imagined a machine with controls I wouldn't know how to use and a tough-as-nails instructor who wouldn't let me slow down when my thighs started burning.
So when I was offered the chance to try the Peloton bike, an at-home exercise system, I was hesitant but intrigued. I was hoping it would make it easier for my husband and I to prioritize fitness: something we both want to do, but find challenging raising three kids and holding down full-time jobs.
The Peloton bike looks similar to a regular indoor exercise bike, but with a 22-inch touchscreen in front of the handlebars. The good news is, you don't have to lug it home and set it up yourself: Peloton will send a team to deliver, install, and teach you how to use the bike. Given my complete lack of knowledge of how a spin bike works, I was nervous on delivery day, but I didn't have to be: the two men who delivered the bike were friendly, knowledgable and not in the least bit intimidating. They not only assembled the bike, but showed me how to put the cycle shoes on, clip them in, and navigate the touch screen.
Here's what makes the Peloton different from other at-home exercise bikes: the digital screen connects to Wi-Fi and brings a spin cycle studio right into your home. Instructors are based in New York and London, and run classes of various lengths and styles throughout the day. You can either join a live class, or just hop on the bike whenever you're available and choose one of the classes from the on-demand database. Since I generally used the bike early in the morning, (and the live classes at the time didn't jive with my schedule) I gravitated towards the on-demand options. But for people who can join the live classes, you have the opportunity to compete on the leaderboard with other riders, or even have your username called out by the instructor.
The first time I hopped on the Peloton bike, I tried a 10-minute beginner class. I couldn't believe how sweaty I was afterward! Over time, I built my stamina, but still marvelled at how good of a workout even a short class offers. What I loved best about having the classes right in my home was being able to choose not only the length of the class but also the style of music, perfectly suited to my mood that day.
Offerings also go beyond spinning: you can cast yoga, bootcamp, cardio and strength training classes onto your TV using Airplay on iOS and Chromecast on Android (or access on a tablet, computer or smart TV through the browser) and even take your phone out for a run and have a personal trainer in your ear cheering you on and timing your sprint intervals. (Again, I didn't realize it was possible to sweat that much after a 20-minute run.)
My 8- and 11-year old kids also took an interest in the bike. (The 7-year-old is still too small to reach the pedals.) The 8-year-old loves doing the "scenic rides"—where you leisurely pedal while watching the screen take you through the rocky mountains, or a town in Europe. My 11-year-old found she loves the sweaty gratification of spin class as much as I came to.
Here's the catch: The convenience of having an all-in-one gym studio right in your home comes at a price. $2950, to be exact. Add in the cost of cycling shoes, weights, headphones, a bike mat and a heart rate monitor, and you're looking at almost $3300 before tax. You also pay a monthly $49 fee for access to the classes, but that fee gets you unlimited profiles. For example, my husband and I, as well as two of our children, were all able to create our own usernames, start racking up statistics for how many classes we had completed, as well as join monthly challenges.
Many people will be turned off by the Peloton bike's high initial investment, but it could actually make sense for some families. You can finance the cost of the bike over two years at $123/month. Adding in the fee for access to the classes brings the monthly cost to $172, but if you have two family members paying gym or studio memberships, you may be nearing that cost for exercise anyway. (And of course, after the bike is paid off you'll only be paying the $49 monthly fee.) What we liked about it was the convenience of being able to hop on the bike whenever we had a spare minute—whether that was early in the morning or midday on a Saturday. My kids are older now, but I could see it being very beneficial for a parent at home with a young kid struggling to find time for exercise—it doesn't really matter if your baby went down for their nap at 1 p.m. or 3 p.m., you can still get in a good workout, and feel part of a community (The Peloton instructors do a great job of motivating individual riders, as well as engaging the riders in the studio, to make it feel like you're right there with them.) We liked the bike so much that, after our three-month trial, we took the plunge and purchased it.
This article was originally published online in October 2019.