REVIEW: Peloton Cycle (2017)

This is a pretty major review - a Peloton bike is a pretty major purchase. 

I'm happy to say that the bike lives up to its reputation. 

Let's get that out of the way - the Peloton is a serious spin bike. 

It's higher-end than the bikes that I use at our local gym, and that's a pretty nice gym. 

The build quality is impressive - and that's quite a relief, honestly. 

This bike was a gift for Ms. AAAD, and it's a big investment. 

If it had underwhelmed in ANY way, it would have felt like a waste, or that we'd been suckered by Peloton's fancy showrooms and aspirational-life commercials. 

(Seriously, that commercial ticks all of the boxes. Beautiful people, waking up in their architecture-porn house at the break of dawn, checking in on the sleeping beautiful children, then starting spin class in what appears to be an all-glass solarium surrounded by the Northern California forest. She finishes class just as the tow-headed kid wakes up, and they all sit down for a farm-to-table breakfast.)

I'm probably never gonna own that house, but I can own that bike

(My Peloton username is "Castaway". If you follow me, I'll follow back.)

The Purchase

Peloton bikes cost $2,000, and if you want access to classes (you do), it's $40/month. 

That money was earmarked for the iMac replacement, but I got tired of waiting.... So even if Apple gets around to announcing new Macs at WWDC, we'll hold out for a while longer.

And yes - $2,000 is a lot of money. That said - it's a lot of bike. 

Similar spin bikes carry similarly large price tags. A Sole SB900 costs $1,000, and a Schwinn AC Performance Plus will run $2,200. 

And neither of those bikes have a 21-INCH HD TOUCHSCREEN strapped to the front. 

A month or so ago, we were at Oakbrook Center (A high-end outdoor mall in Chicago's near suburbs, which has seemed to thrive, bigly, even as other malls have gone vacant.) 

Ms. AAAD was returning some items at Macys, so I had our 10 year old and 2 year old at the Apple Store. 

Right around the corner is the Tesla store, and right next to that is the Peloton store. (Yes, it's THAT mall.)

I could only keep the kids occupied at Apple for an hour or so, at which point we wound up at Peloton. 

Our 10-year-old was absolutely blown away. I imagine I would have had the same reaction if something like this existed in 1985.... it's like a bike fused with a spaceship.

The sales rep mentioned that delivery could be guaranteed for Mothers' Day.... and a day or so later, I pulled the trigger. 

The Peloton Bike

Peloton bikes are HEAVY. Like, 125 pounds heavy. Plus a 10 pound HD screen.

That's good, because it can hold up to heavy use. I weigh between 210 and 220, and I imagine that I'm putting WAY more weight than that into each pedal. The bike doesn't flinch. 

The frame is made of carbon steel and aluminum. It's powder coated, and looks pretty cool. 

One really interesting aspect of the build is that it uses a belt instead of a chain, and the braking system is magnetic, instead of friction. 

A magnet brake should hold up substantially better - in theory, there should be no wear at all. 

NOTE - the bike ships with LOOK Delta clip-in pedals (like most spin bikes). I'm a novice, and usually wear tennis shoes and toe-clip pedals while spinning. 

It's simple enough to swap out the Peloton's pedals with any standard pedal you choose - they even provide you with the right-size wrench. 

We bought some generic flat pedals at our local bike shop, and it's been fine. But I imagine we'll get the Peloton shoes and go back to the factory pedals before too long. 

The Screen

This is another place the Peloton impresses. 

This is a seriously big screen - it's a full 21" touchscreen. 

It has Bluetooth, so we're able to fire up our Beats Solo3 headphones and run completely silent.

The UI is well-designed and easy to understand, and the touchscreen is responsive. 

I was able to create a username quickly and with no issues. (And so was my 10-year old.)

Choosing classes is equally easy. 

You're presented with a set of tiles/screenshots, so you can see the class instructor, the duration, the day it was originally filmed, and the theme (i.e., Ally Love 45 Minute HIIT class, 5/13/17). 

Click the screenshot, and the on-demand video starts playing... you're right there at Peloton's studio in NYC's Flatiron District.  

And when it's time for class, that touchscreen really shines. 

When you're riding, the screen takes up most of your field of vision, and the instructor is front-and-center. The resolution is so good that you can see them start to sweat. 

The bottom of the screen is filled with your real-time stats... distance, cadence (RPM), watts, resistance, calories and so on. 

The right-hand side of the screen is the leaderboard. 

(No matter the ride, you will find me safely ensconced in the 50th percentile. Riding with the peloton, I suppose.) 

Peloton's studio is using some seriously great cameras, and the instructors play to those cameras & know where to look... you're staring directly into the instructors' eyes 90% of the time. 

It's great to have ALL of this on-demand content available - it ensures that you can find a class that meets your needs at literally any time of day. 

Still, I have worked out with live classes almost exclusively. And they're ALSO running constantly.

Live Classes Provide Motivation

I was worried that I wouldn't use the Peloton. 

After all, I have never EVER used a single piece of exercise equipment that I have ever purchased. 

We bought a bench press, and the only exercise I ever got from those weights was when we changed apartments and had to move them. We did that twice. 

When I started taking spin classes in January, I found that I WOULD show up. 

The reason - because I said I would, in advance

And it wasn't the fear of losing out on a class fee -- that feeling of "not wanting to stand someone up" is a POWERFUL motivator. 

At 5:30 in the morning, some instructor was getting out of bed because I promised to meet them at spin. Not showing up would be rude. 

Peloton isn't quite as motivating in that sense. You aren't in the same room as the instructor... so blowing them off would hardly be noticed.  

Still... I've used the Peloton every day since it arrived. 

I've signed up for 6 AM classes in advance, and I haven't missed one. 

Peloton's entire theory is that it's possible to provide the full spin-class experience remotely. 

And I think they've pulled it off. 

The music, the instructors constantly providing motivation, the varying resistance and cadence... it's a spin class, pure and simple. 

It has some high-end spin features, too. You get a real-time leaderboard, so you're racing against people from around the country -- AND against your all-time best ride.

(It's like in Mario Kart, where you race your ghost.)

In Summary

This is a pretty hyped-up piece of tech. 

And if it wasn't ready-for-prime-time in any respect, it would be a subject of ridicule.

But.... it's the best gadget I've used in several years. Bar none. 
Hannah Marie Corbin
The bike is first-class. I don't know how its build quality could be improved. 

The touchscreen is perfect. No buffering, gorgeous picture, no bluetooth issues, instant on. 

The operating system is perfectly intuitive, in a way that "just works". Picking classes, following friends, checking stats - even during a ride -- is simple and straightforward. 

The instructors are first-class. Charismatic, experts on the bike, and inspirational.

I got a shout-out during class today from Hannah Marie Corbin after a particularly good surge this morning, and it really felt rewarding. Almost exhilarating. 

This is a big purchase - make no mistake. But I believe it's a value purchase. The 21" touchscreen ALONE is worth several hundred dollars, and the bike is pro-level. 

And the next time we're in NYC, you'll see us in the front row at a live class. 

(This blog post by Alyssa Kompert makes the place seem as cool in person as it is onscreen.) 



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