Peloton is a very good bike with great workout classes.
It seems to be causing a revolution in cardio fitness.
But it does come at a high price.
With the upfront cost of over $2000 plus and an ongoing price of $40 per month to get the full experience. It’s not cheap.
And if you’re not sure whether you’ll stick with it, it is a lot to commit to, in the beginning.
You can always start out on a more economical bike with the App subscription and upgrade at a later date, saving you up to around $2000.
If you are new to indoor cycling you can get more info in my buying guide which has all the information on what to look out for and what the terms mean here.
Or, you can get a top of the range indoor cycling bike for a similar cost (or less) and use the Peloton Digital App for the classes.
The Peloton Digital App can save you over $300 a year at a cost of $13 per month compared to $40 for the full subscription as of now.
Then there is the possibility of upgrades and extra costs too, especially if the bike and technology goes out of date.
You are also tied to the one App thereby foregoing flexibility to try out other Apps and have different types of experience and training (although there is plenty of options with Peloton).
Many people have a tablet or phone or a TV so don’t need to buy extra devices to use the App.
If you want to use your TV to view the classes a big screen on your bike isn’t really needed.
If you aren’t motivated by being on the leader board and can get what you need to stay on exercising, then there isn’t the need to go all in. You can get a lot of the benefits with the Digital App with a good exercise bike. It doesn’t have to come at that cost or the bike if you don’t want. There are options to meet most budgets.
The bikes selected here don’t have everything you get with Peloton such as full integration and convenience or cycling pedals (in two cases), console but you can add extras to “hack” an experience where you get many of the benefits and most of the experience.
But you can start out with just the bike and add things as you go if you want.
Things like a mat to put the bike on to protect the floor ($20), tablet/phone mount ($20) if a holder doesn’t come with the bike, cadence sensor ($40) and heart rate monitor ($80) for more feedback onto the App, light dumbbells ($11) for those classes that use weights, spinning SPD compatible pedals if not provided with bike ($40 +)and shoes ($65+) etc. can come later.
The bikes all require some assembly which can take an hour but is straightforward. You pay extra if you want them assembled. You can usually have them delivered without charge.
There is no need to buy additional equipment to get using the bikes but you can add things if it will help you with your workouts and motivation. They can help with the experience and integration.
Here are the best indoor cycling bikes to use with the Peloton Digital App and with some reservations a folding bike if you are struggling for space. The list includes a range of price options
Keiser M3i Indoor Cycle
This is one of the best bikes available. It is commercial quality. It is the same one that is used by many gyms across the country.
It is built to take a lot of hard work.
It is rated highly by customers and has a proven record for delivering smooth and reliable indoor cycling workouts.
It comes with a long warranty.
It does come at a price of around $2000 (there are more affordable bike options below) which can be up to $500 saving when you take into account of add-ons.
It does deliver on the price too. This bike will last for years and probably outlast a Peloton and you aren’t paying for a screen so all the cost is on the bike build and features.
It has a lot of great features. Magnetic resistance, belt drive, dual pedals, fully size adjustable, accurate console and its’ own App. It’s low maintenance and very quiet.
The unique look with the flywheel at the back of the bike keeps it and the resistance mechanism away from the corrosive effects of the sweat zone that is at the front of the bike.
The only concern with the bike is q-factor (distance between the pedals). It is higher than most bikes which means feet are wider apart. Some people will find this uncomfortable (especially road bikers) and it may cause injury. However, many find it comfortable and not an issue.
This depends on hip width and most people don’t have the narrow hip width of an elite cyclist.
The height range the bike fits is 4 ft 10 to 7 ft 0 ins. The extra adjustability of handlebars (horizontal and vertical) allows a better fit, and especially for those who are on the smaller side. When riding a Peloton some users find they aren’t close enough to the handlebars when seated.
The magnetic resistance (how hardness is applied to the pedaling) is controlled by a small lever next to the console. The level you are at is displayed on the console. There are 24 levels shown on console and it is incremental.
Peloton has 100, so there is some conversion that needs to be done. Fortunately, this work has been done for you and can be found at Peloton Digital App Users Facebook Group.
The console also measures Power (Output) in Watts which is useful if you want to do the Power Zone training or you are a keen cyclist. Here again a conversion is needed and there is guide at the Facebook group. When using just the console the measure is shared with calories so every 2 seconds out of 10 seconds it reads calories not Watts (Power). A bit of an inconvenience. (The other bikes I’ve listed here don’t measure power.)
There is an App (M Series) you can run from the bike which gives you metrics (and a FTP test) to use along with the Peloton classes but it doesn’t integrate with it.
If you want to use the App and Peloton you may need two devices one for Keiser M Series App and one for the Peloton App as the Keiser doesn’t work well in the background. It is possible to run Peloton in the background and cast to your TV or use Amazon Fire TV. It is possible to integrate with mPaceline for more data.
The console measures heart rate but to monitor this, a heart rate strap is required which isn’t included. It is recommended that an uncoded Polar chest strap be bought. It won’t work with Peloton and Keiser at the same time. If you don’t like a chest strap the Scosche Rhythm+ or Wahoo (armband) can be used with Peloton and these fit on your arm.
The bike does have a holder for a tablet on the handlebars.
The bike doesn’t integrate into the Peloton Digital App. However, there is a convertor that can be bought separately (sometimes included in bundle deals) which allows the bike to work with a range of different Apps and you can view your cadence on the Peloton App.
Although the bike doesn’t integrate with the Peloton App the quality of it makes up for it. You get a bike that is top of the range and should get many years of indoor cycling from it with Peloton or alternatives.
The bike doesn’t need to be plugged in to work with the console needing 2 AA batteries (included) to power it.
If you want to know more my review has all the details here
Schwinn Fitness IC4 Indoor Cycling Bike
This exercise bike connects with Peloton as standard. There is nothing additional to buy once subscribed to the Digital App. (Assuming you have a media device.)
You can see your cadence and heart rate in the App. However, it’s not the same as owning a Peloton bike. You miss out on the leadership board and the interactivity as with all alternatives to full ownership and subscription.
Resistance and power do not show in the App. You can see the resistance level on the bikes console which has 1 to 100 levels. These are not the same levels as Peloton’s and some figuring and estimation will need to be done as with other bikes. There is help with this on the Facebook page.
Power is not measured on the console. This seems to be the one metric missing which limits ability to use Powerzone classes (unless you use another App to calculate such as Zwift but there have been issues with the calculation)
The bike itself has a steel frame, 40 lbs flywheel, magnetic resistance and belt drive providing a good solid base for quiet and effective workouts at the intensity you want.
It has dual pedals allowing you to use athletic shoes that you slip into toe baskets with a strap to tighten in place to give a good grip and no foot movement on one side. On the other are SPD fittings for SPD compatible shoes to clip in to. Cleats are included with the bike.
There is also a pair of 3 lb dumbbells and holders, dual water bottle holder and tablet holder at the front of the bike.
The console also measures speed, distance and calories. You can use this without using any Apps. The bike does need to be plugged in for the console and Bluetooth to work but you can use the bike without it being plugged in.
At less than half price of the Peloton it offers a lot of similar benefits and features to deliver a good basis for an effective cardio workout.
It seems Schwinn have put a lot of thought and effort in getting this bike ready for Peloton and other fitness Apps
Schwinn Fitness IC3 Indoor Cycling Bike
This bike is priced at around $500, a quarter of the Peloton bike cost. It has a basic console and doesn’t have bluetooth therefore doesn’t work with any Apps.
The bike has a 40 lbs belt drive and felt pads for resistance to give a good natural cycling experience.
The belt provides a quiet and consistent feel for the pedaling. The felt pads makes a quiet whooshing sound on the flywheel when you push hard.
However, an issue with the bike is the noise or vibration that is noted by customers after some use. This is a result of the felt pad drying up.
It is an easily sorted problem that involves lubricating with silicon based lubricant. It does seem to get to that point quicker than other bikes. Once this is done the vibration goes away and it returns to whooshing sound when you’ve got the resistance up and pedaling fast.
It’s not loud but it is not silent like you have with magnetic resistance.
The console does measure RPM which does help in keeping up with the
Peloton class but it alternates with speed so you only see it for 4 seconds out of 8 so you may need to watch the instructor to match their pedaling speed.
Resistance level isn’t recorded on the console nor is it marked on the tension knob used to control the level. As this is an important part of the workouts this needs a little bit of playing with to determine the setting or you can do this by feel. Resistance is applied by turning the tension knob near the front support.
As Peloton uses 1 – 100 settings, it is a matter of turning the knob and with a bit of trial and error to determine how many turns equal 100 and then work back. It can be worked out quickly. You might want a crib sheet handy to assist you when taking a class.
It does have dual pedals, fitting athletic shoes on one side in toe cages with straps and SPD shoes on the other side (it comes with Shimano cleats to fit the pedals). You can get started with tennis shoes and when ready you can get the indoor cycling shoes.
The console does measure heart rate and like the Keiser you need to supply the heart rate strap yourself and an uncoded Polar strap is recommended.
If you want to have some integration with Peloton App and not just use it for the workout classes you can add a Wahoo cadence sensor and if you don’t like a chest strap – a arm band such as Wahoo or Scosche Rhythm+ (but you won’t see it on the console).
The console requires two AA batteries to work. The bike doesn’t require to be plugged in and will work without the console working.
It is fully adjustable – handlebars and seat can both be adjusted vertically and horizontally for people between 5ft 1 ins and 6 ft 4 ins
For the price it comes with a lot of good extras (if only it had bluetooth). You can get a good workout and follow along to the classes without anything extra. Although the extras can help with enhancing the experience and workout.
Get the full rundown in my review here
Sunny Health and Fitness SF-B1002 49 Lb Chromed Flywheel, Silent Belt Drive Indoor Cycle Bike
The bike is priced at around $300. It is basic bike that still provides the experience and durability wanted when getting started and on. It normally doesn’t provide issues and you can get on with exercising without any fuss.
This bike doesn’t come with a console and doesn’t have magnetic resistance but uses leather pads to increase the weight for pedaling. It comes with similar issues you experience with felt pads of wear and tear and the squeaking noise when it requires lubricating.
The flywheel weighs 49 lbs and has a belt drive which provides a consistent and a quiet natural riding experience. (The bike does come with a chain version, which is more like an outdoor bike (sound ,feel and maintenance)- you can read more on the bike here – SF-B1002C ). You do get a low hum sound when putting a big effort in due to the pads and flywheel rubbing against each other.
It has standard pedals with toe cages and adjustable straps to use with standard athletic shoes. You can get a good grip on pedals for pushing and pulling but you aren’t as connected as when you clip in with indoor cycling shoes.
When you are ready and want to wear indoor cycling shoes that clip in it is possible to replace the pedals as you would with a road bike (pedals have 9/16 ins thread). But it is not a requirement to get a good workout.
It doesn’t have a console for any feedback to help you stay on track or see progress. It is possible to follow along to Peloton workouts without this but you need to do this by feel to a certain extent.
The instructors will give you instructions as to how fast to cycle by using cadence (RPM) and how much resistance to apply. For resistance it is a matter of trial and error to determine how many turns (as with the IC3). For the cadence you can watch the instructor and mimic their foot turnover.
It’s not required for the workouts but a heart rate monitor (Wahoo or Scosche Rhythm+ armband work with Peloton) can help you monitor how hard your working and you can use it for heart rate zone training.
There isn’t a place for a tablet or phone. If you’re not using your TV for the workout then it probably be a good idea to buy a tablet mount so you can have them in front of you to make it easier to follow along to.
It’s seat doesn’t suit everyone’s sit bones with it causing more soreness in some cases than can be coped with. You can change the seat with other bike seats or you can try padded bike shorts or gel seat cover. This is not unusual as everyone is unique but as with the Schwinn IC3 , Sunny seem to want to add some pain to their customers. If you haven’t cycled for a long time it can be just a matter of your sit bones getting used to the seat.
As with the Schwinn IC3 if you want to see cadence on the Peloton App the, Wahoo Cadence can be added to the pedal crank (or attached to your shoe).
It does lack a lot of the bells whistles of more expensive bikes but it does make up for them in price (at less than a 1/6th of the price of a Peloton) and being able to deliver a good solid platform for all the workouts. If you want you can begin with just the bike and make additions as you get more comfortable with the bike and Peloton.
You probably want the cadence sensor first then pedals and shoes.
It is a good bike for when you are starting out or if you are unsure if you will continue with Peloton or indoor cycling long term. It does a good job, and it gets the thumbs up from many who use it without problems. Many, people do trade up once they’re sure about Peloton after months or years.
Sunny bikes have a good reputation generally and their other models are durable and reliable too They’re a good platform to started with Peloton too.
Xterra Fitness FB150 Folding Exercise Bike
My last bike isn’t an indoor cycling bike and it’s not one I’d recommend for indoor cycling or Peloton without reservation but it is a solid bike suitable for moderate exercise for those starting out and are tight on space. It can be used as a starter bike to see if using a stationary bike is something you will continue before moving on to indoor cycling. And with Peloton App you do get a variety of ways to help you with your fitness.
The big advantage for this bike is that you can fold it up and store it out of the way especially if you are short for space. The price is another advantage.
But the bike isn’t made for indoor cycling – you can’t stand on the pedals or push really hard and it has a light flywheel and the resistance level is limited. You’ll want to stick to the gentler workout classes.
It does have a limited console but this doesn’t measure cadence/RPM so you’ll have to copy the instructors pedaling speed. It doesn’t have bluetooth to connect with Apps.
There is nowhere to put a tablet or phone so you do need to buy a mount so you can follow along easily to the workout unless you have the App playing on your TV
The resistance has 8 levels but they don’t go up to very hard and you are clicked into set levels as you move up – it’s not incremental as you get on the above bikes where you can make very small adjustments – so you will have to judge levels as the instructors say you need to increase or decrease hardness of the resistance (hardness of pedaling – more is to make it more like going up a hill).
Despite all that negative you can get a good workout and use it a long with the Peloton App – you’ll have to choose the workouts where you are seated or stay seated when it say’s to get out of the seat.
You only need to have ordinary athletic shoes to use bike, saving on expensive shoes and you can’t change the pedals.
This can be a good way to get started with Peloton to stay motivated to exercise. It is a starter bike and if you want to progress past the beginner stage you are going to need to get an indoor cycling bike like those above. It definitely isn’t the best way to get started as the other bikes are a better choice but it can be done and you can get a good workout. It is a good quality bike for the price.
I will be updating this post as I go – on other bikes or when there are changes to the Peloton Digital App.
I hope my research and explanations have helped you on choosing your Peloton Bike Alternative or maybe you’ve decided that Peloton is the way to go.
Please let me know what you decided or if you’d like more information about the bikes I’ve detailed above or another bike you are considering.