I’m a big fan of doing whatever type of exercise activity gets you moving on a regular basis. I took my first indoor cycling class when I was a freshman in college and have been a die-hard fan ever since. From my New Jersey YMCA, to boutique studios in NYC, to now using the Peloton app while living abroad, I can’t get enough. If you live abroad like me or just don’t want to fork over $2k+ on an exercise bike, there’s a cheaper Peloton alternative that might make more sense for you. You can use the app with a non-Peloton bike and still have a blast.
Let me tell you about it and why I wouldn’t buy the Peloton bike even if I could get it in France. It’s not just about the cost!
Peloton alternative home setup
If you’re in the know about all things fitness, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Peloton, a fitness company that’s out to conquer the world. They hit the scene in 2012 with their signature product, a stationary bike with a screen that allows users to live stream classes — or choose from thousands more on-demand — from their NYC studio via a monthly subscription service. Since then, Peloton has launched the Tread, their high-end treadmill, and have expanded the app, officially called Peloton Digital. It now includes yoga, bootcamp, stretching and other types of classes as well that enable users to work out from the comfort of their own home. Cycling outdoors will never be for me. I have zero interest in riding a real bike outside, but the Peloton app? Well, count me in!
Maybe you’ve seen the commercials or even a store in your mall. While the idea of a Peloton bike or treadmill sounds nice, maybe it’s not something you’re going to spend money on right now. Peloton makes fitness fun and accessible, but there’s nothing fun or accessible about dropping several thousand dollars on a piece of exercise equipment.
You’re in luck because there’s a more cost effective way! You can still immerse yourself in the Peloton experience by paying for a Peloton app subscription only. Can you use the Peloton app without the bike? Yes! You don’t have to have their official bike to reap the benefits of everything the app has to offer. I repeat, you do not need the official Peloton bike to access the classes on the app!
A Peloton bike alternative that so many of us have opted for is to buy our own non-Peloton bike and use it alongside the app that we stream from our phone, tablet, or computer.
In case you’re new here, I’m a huge fan of the Peloton app, and I did an entire Peloton app review of it last year here. I drink the Peloton Kool-Aid and couldn’t be happier about it. Totally OK to be fan girlin’ over here — really, I love the community, the Peloton instructors (shout out to my man, Denis Morton!), and everything Peloton has to offer, but the bike isn’t available where I live, and besides, there’s a better way!
Please keep in mind that if buying the official Peloton bike gets you moving and encourages you to live a healthier lifestyle, that’s awesome and I’m sending you a virtual high-five (I’m #diane1231 in case you want to follow me). This post isn’t about criticizing the Peloton bike. It’s about giving you another option and showing you how to enjoy the fabulous classes without investing in the Peloton bike, whatever your reasons may be.
Where can you stream classes? The Peloton app is available in the US, Canada, and the UK… or wherever you live if your App Store billing address is in one of those countries. I live in France (with a US app store account) and it works perfectly on any Wi-Fi or data connection, so if you travel for work or pleasure and want to use the app, you’ll be fine. The Peloton app cost is just $19.49/month.
Top reasons to use the Peloton app with your own bike setup:
There are a bunch of reasons why someone would want to subscribe to Peloton Digital only and not invest in the Peloton bike.
1. Cost. Currently, the Peloton bike retails in the USA for $2,245 (Basics Package). Then you’re required to have a Peloton subscription for the app on top of the $2,245 you’ve already paid, which costs $39/month. Yes, the Peloton app cost is more if you own a Peloton bike. If you subscribe to just the app (and ride with your own bike), it’s an affordable $19.49/month. The Peloton app probably costs less than your gym membership.
2. You’re a newbie. If you are new to cycling or aren’t sure how often you’ll use the bike, that’s a huge chunk of change to spend on something you aren’t sure you’ll use that much. Subscribing to the app only is less of a financial gamble. Also, Peloton offers a free 14-day trial for the app, which is handy if you want to take it for a spin before you commit.
3. Better quality bikes out there with a better warranty. This is a HUGE point to consider before deciding to buy the Peloton bike vs. another brand. The Peloton is meant for residential use and has a 1-year limited parts and labor warranty. Dollar for dollar, there are better made commercial bikes at that price point with a more extensive warranty. Also, for some riders, the Peloton may not offer a custom fit due to the fact that the handlebar positioning is fixed. They move up and down but don’t offer fore and aft adjustments like so many other spin bikes on the market.
4. Freedom. The Peloton bike screen is attached to the handlebars and can only be used to stream Peloton workouts. You can’t surf the web, watch YouTube videos, connect to other cycling apps, move it further away from you, or do anything else. If you want to have more freedom with how you use your bike, it makes more sense to buy your own bike and stream the app from your tablet. That way you aren’t locked into a bike with an attached screen that only streams Peloton classes. Also, the speakers are on the back, so the sound quality might not be what you expect. Oh, and you don’t have to plug your own bike into the wall.
Considerations of being an app-only subscriber:
Peloton app subscribers have access to all the same content as Peloton bike subscribers (both live and on-demand classes), but there are a few things to take note of in case any of them are deal breakers for you.
No leaderboard. If you are motivated by competition and stats, you won’t be able to rank on the leaderboard without riding on an actual Peloton bike. As an app subscriber, you’ll still have a username and be able to get shoutouts since your name is listed like everyone else’s in a class, but since you don’t have the on-screen metrics, your ride won’t factor into the leaderboard rankings. I personally don’t mind if I’m not on the leaderboard and am just happy to ride. If ranking against all the other riders is a top priority, this may be a deal breaker.
No automatic on-screen metrics. As a Peloton bike subscriber, your stats are right there on the screen, as shown above. You can easily see your cadence, resistance, and output because it’s calibrated by your Peloton bike and links up into the screen. As an app subscriber on your own spin bike, these metrics won’t automatically show up on the screen. There are some workarounds for cadence, though (see the Wahoo sensor below). Depending on your bike, you can learn how to gauge the resistance level and match your effort level to what the instructor is describing. For a complete beginner, this might take a bit of practice. If you’re not new to indoor cycling, you’ll be a pro after a couple of rides. Not having on-screen metrics isn’t a burden for me personally and I’ve been able to enjoy all the rides by estimating levels.
The only metric that would be nice to have during some classes is output. Some instructors reference it and it’s a good measure of how hard you’re working. Basically, output is a number that takes the cadence and resistance into account and gives you a power reading.
You might feel like you’re missing out on the full Peloton experience. If having the bike is the only way to feel fully committed to the Peloton community, then being an app-only subscriber might not be right for you. For me, I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I get the same classes, same community, and nearly the same experience.
Peloton alternative: My home setup
So let’s talk about my home setup. I cycle out in my garage and bought a used BodyBike from a private seller for 350 euros. He’d gotten it from a gym that was upgrading its equipment. The frame and flywheel are still in excellent shape despite a few corroded areas that show its wear and tear. For my purposes, it’s fantastic and gets the job done. It’s the same bike my gym uses for Les Mills RPM classes, so I was familiar with it. To add some flair, I put a few of the free Peloton stickers I got with my tank top order.
I know of people like me who buy affordable used bikes and those who get top of the line brand-new commercial grade bikes and regardless of what we ride on, we all enjoy the experience and get a great workout. So what I’m saying is, there’s no one way to do the home experience. You have to do what feels right for you.
You can always upgrade your bike later on.
There are so many spin bike brands out there, so my list is by no means all inclusive. I’m sharing the brands I have personal experience with below. The “best bike” is the one that you can afford and that you will use.
Best Peloton bike alternatives
Sunny Health & Fitness
Sunny Health & Fitness brand bikes are an affordable Peloton bike alternative and a fantastic choice if you’re new to cycling or don’t want to spend a ton of money on a bike. For the price, they’re a good quality choice and really popular for home use. I have friends who use the Sunny bikes in the US and they’re always one of the first recommendations in this supportive Peloton App Users Unite Facebook group for newbies looking for a bike.
This one above is one of Sunny Health & Fitness’s entry-level spin bikes, the SF-B1001. At under $200, it won’t empty out your bank account and is an affordable option for those just getting into cycling.
The SF-B1805 is a popular choice as well for those of us taking spin classes at home via the app. It has magnetic resistance and a steel frame.
The SF-B1714 is another top Peloton bike alternative for home use. It also has magnetic resistance and a belt drive system.
Below are my top 2 commercial grade bike picks. No, they aren’t cheap new, but they are sound investments and the companies have been making bikes for 20 years. Keep an eye out for used ones in your area to snag a deal. They both have sound warranties that blow Peloton’s out of the water.
The first time I rode a Keiser bike was at a boutique cycling studio about 6 years ago in NJ and it blew me away. With a rear flywheel, magnetic resistance and a single-belt drive train, the M3i ride is as smooth as butter and nearly silent. This bike has the same road feel as the Peloton bike (smooth!), is built in the USA, and super low maintenance.
Schwinn AC Performance Plus with Carbon Blue
Schwinn for the win. For me, the Schwinn AC Performance Plus with Carbon Blue ranks right up there as a top Peloton alternative. It has a high-inertia drive train that provides momentum and the feel of a chain drive along with a toothed belt that provides rider feedback and a real road feel, which I personally love. I’ve ridden these bikes for years, most recently at Cyclebar back in the US. Low-maintenance as well.
Peloton alternative: The Echelon Smart Connect Bike
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I have no experience with Echelon, but they offer bikes similar to Peloton, scarily similar even in terms of font choice and marketing. Although they aren’t on the same scale in terms of market share, they’re one of the top Peloton competitors. The Echelon bike/streaming app subscription model costs less than Peloton, but is it the same quality? Not sure. I am curious about the quality of their bike and offerings. Have you tried Echelon? Let me know what you think down in the comments.
The reviews I’ve read are mixed. One thing I love about Peloton’s classes is that they are filmed live in front of a studio audience, so you’re working out from home with a real class and not just a lone instructor on their bike somewhere. It seems Echelon’s classes aren’t filmed in front of a live studio audience.
These are the accessories I recommend for your home setup:
You can get by just fine without any of the things below, but to have a comfortable home setup, the following items make a difference. The most important? Pedals and clip-in shoes! If you don’t buy any other upgrades below, get yourself some pedals and clip-in shoes as soon as you can.
Phone/tablet holder. I like to set up my screen a little further away and don’t mount it to the bike itself, but if you want to attach your phone or tablet to your bike, pick up a tablet holder like this one so your device is visible and safely mounted.
Bluetooth speaker. If your device’s sound just isn’t cutting it, pick up a speaker like this one from JBL to surround yourself with the Peloton experience. I have an older model, but JBL offers quality sound that’ll take your ride to the next level.
Bluetooth headphones. I bought these behind-the-head over-ear headphones off of a friend’s recommendation and they get the job done. I don’t mind getting them all sweaty because they were affordable and work fine for my purposes. They also can go a week before you have to recharge them. They work great when I don’t want to wake anyone up.
SPD pedals: Toe cages and your sneakers can only get you so far. Upgrade your pedals and you’ll never go back to wearing sneakers on the bike. You’ll learn how to have a more effective, powerful pedal stroke and be able to activate your hamstring as you pull up. You’ll notice right away how much more efficient you are on the bike once you’re clipped in. You can’t do it in the same way with just sneakers. A good middle of the range price point is $50. These are the pedals I have on my bike pictured above and I couldn’t be happier with them. And they’re red, so they spice up my bike’s black frame.
NOTE: The left pedal is reverse threaded on bikes, so to tighten it, you tighten toward the front of your bike (counterclockwise). This is important because if you go the other way, you’ll strip the thread. This is also important to know when you remove the pedals that came with your bike to swap in the new ones. The right side is normal, so turn it counterclockwise to loosen it.
Clip-in cycling shoes and cleats: I’ve had two pairs of cycling shoes over the years and both were Shimano road bike shoes. They tend to run small. The brand and style aren’t super important; they all get the job done. Mine were about $100, but you can find cheaper and pricier ones. One note, though, if you buy the shoes online. Take them into a bike shop where an expert can fit your cleats to the bottom of the shoe in person. You’ll want to make sure the placement is correct to avoid injury. Depending on your anatomy, yes, a few millimeters can make a difference over time.
Equipment mat. To protect your floor from sweat and damage, an exercise equipment mat to go under your bike is a must. You can easily wipe up sweat after your ride and it helps give your bike a stable, cushioned surface. Keep in mind that SPD cleats will take a chunk out of your mat if you walk on it normally (speaking from experience), so walk on your heels to avoid damaging your mat.
Wahoo cadence sensor: I’ve gotten by without a cadence sensor and just match my legs to the instructor’s cadence and beat of the music. You’ll get the hang of what each cadence range looks like as you get more experienced. For newbies, a cadence sensor can be really helpful so you know you’re right on the mark. It pairs to your device via Bluetooth and the number shows up on your screen.
Light hand weights. For classes with arm segments, I use 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) hand weights on the bike. I like the neoprene coated ones and not vinyl because they’re easier to grip and won’t slip if your hands are sweaty.
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Even though I ride in my garage… alone… looking the part keeps me motivated and coming back for more. For fun, affordable Peloton apparel, check out Fabletics! Use my referral link for a major discount on your first outfit. (If you’re in France, my referral link for the French site is here.) Peloton clothing makes the ride that much better. Or maybe it’s all in my head. 😉
Check out this fun Etsy shop with all kinds of Peloton clothing inspired by our favorite instructors. Here are some of my favorite Peloton shirts below.
- Ride tank
- Pelosnob tank
- Ride it like you stole it tank
- Feel Good. Look Good. Do better. Peloton tank inspired by Alex Toussaint.
Are you a Peloton Digital subscriber? Are you in the market for a Peloton bike alternative? If you drink the Kool-Aid, who are the best Peloton instructors, in your opinion?
Read my Peloton app review here.
Disclosure: I have no affiliation of any kind with Peloton and was not compensated by them for this post. I happily pay my monthly Peloton app subscription cost and just wanted to share my Peloton alternative.