After a year where many of us feel desperate to go (literally) anywhere, people seem to be scrambling to get their hands on a spin bike that goes nowhere. After schools, offices, and gyms were forced to close their doors, it took a toll on many people's mental and physical health.
At-home workout equipment was and is in high demand, and in the middle of the craze is a booming market of at-home spin bikes.
If you have been thinking of purchasing a bike, there are more options than ever before. The real decision is how big do you want to go. How tricked out do you want your ride to be? There are options out there, from less than $200 to over $3,000 plus the monthly class subscription. There are also ways to make your $200 bike get the $3,000 bike experience. And the online world is happy to give you all the tips and tricks to get where.
It’s not a secret the Peloton spin bike is a huge player, if not the lead player, in the indoor cycling game. Their new Bike+ starts at $2,495 and has updates to give you the full at-home workout experience in addition to spinning. The rotating screen allows you to go from cycling to strength training or stretching. It’s pretty amazing, but still pretty expensive for some. The buzz of this bike is everywhere. Saturday Night Live did a faux commercial for the “Pelotaunt” (for those who don’t respond to the positive encouragement of Peloton instructors), and The Holderness Family got in on the fun with their video of the 5 Stages of Peloton.
Other big players in the game include NordicTrack s22i and even SoulCycle, the indoor spin studio that was mega-popular in cities like Los Angeles and NYC, now has a version of their yellow bike you can have at home. The Schwinn iC4 also has loads of positive reviews, as do Sunny Health and Bowflex, YOSUDA, and the list goes on.
Before answering this question, it may also be prudent to ask how much of a spin enthusiast do you see yourself becoming? And what do you want your experience to be? If you splurge on the Peloton, you are going to have built-in metrics. It will track your ongoing output (cadence plus resistance) and provides a built-in social experience. You can hi-five other riders, and if you’re on a live ride, you may hope for a shoutout if you’re hitting a milestone. But honestly, some people don’t care about that. They don’t feel the need to connect with other users in the Pelo-fam.
If you are new to spin or aren’t sure how much you’ll actually use the bike, you can opt-in for a cheaper option. Then, if you catch the bug and decide to kick it up a notch, go for it. However, if you are a bit of a penny pincher and have a hard time justifying not just the Peloton but also some of the other $800+ options, there are ways to soup up a less expensive option and get an amazing workout experience.
A dupe rider myself, I was wanting the Peloton experience but couldn’t really justify the Peloton itself. I had been a spin class regular when I was single and had no children, and lives in Los Angeles. But work, three kids, and everything else life throws at you slowed down my health progress in a big way. I had a good inkling that I would really enjoy having a bike in my home. Here are the questions I had to answer from the research I did.
Indoor bikes take up a relatively small amount of real estate in your home. But some can still require more than others. You also may want space to spread your arms out if you want to incorporate arms toning into your workouts. Ours slides nicely into the corner of our bedroom. You don’t need a whole room for a home gym to make this work, which is great.
Some bikes come with monitors, so you can subscribe to apps like Peloton, iFit, or Apple’s new Fitness+ classes and watch guided instruction. Even YouTube has free options if you don’t want to get sucked into a subscription. In these cases, you actually need to plug the bike in. You also may need to make sure your wifi works well in the room with your bike, too, if that’s the case. Power and monitors will likely increase your price.
Personally, I decided on the SunnyB1002. I got it off Amazon, so I got free shipping with Prime and bought a $12 phone holder to put on my handlebars so I could use the Peloton App during my rides. Some bikes have monitors on their handlebars, but it could require a power source near you. This was the beginning of my indoor cycling journey back in January 2020. I will just say I’m so grateful I got the bike pre-COVID. Once gyms shut down and indoor equipment became a hot market, many of these bikes had waitlists and were hard to come by. Even Peloton is posting up to a three-month wait for one of their shiny objects.
The flywheel is the large wheel in the front of the spin bike. As you research, you'll notice different weights of flywheels advertised. They are connected by the belt drive, which is also something to consider. Some have chains, some have leather bands, and some have a magnetic belt drive. This can impact the feel of the resistance while you're riding. The weight of the flywheel on a stationary bike can also impact the weight limit of the rider. Some lighter flywheels require riders with lower weights. A heavy flywheel can also feel like a sturdier spin bike for some. So definitely read the details.
After a few months of guessing my cadence and resistance with the Peloton app (which is $12/month vs. the $40/month you are required to pay if you have the real deal), I decided to get a few bike accessories. Since all things reliable are on social media (joking), I surveyed the Facebook group Peloton Digital App Users for what I needed to kick my workout up a notch.
First, I got a cadence monitor. It was a game-changer with the workouts. I went with the Wahoo Cadence Monitor. It was inexpensive, easy to attach to the bike, easy to link to my phone, and automatically synced with the Peloton App. Tip: read Amazon reviews! Depending on what subscription you’re using or how you need it to sync with your phone, there are thousands of dupe bike riders out there, and they provide amazing information. It is truly helpful if you are a novice on this equipment as I was.
At six months, I decided to upgrade my pedals. The Sunny B1002 I purchased came with cage pedals. So you can ride it with tennis shoes and tighten the straps so that your feet don’t slide off the pedals. I decided on SPD pedals with matching clips (some people do order the wrong clips for their pedals, it is important you make sure they match up) and treated myself to spin shoes. Now I was clipping in and riding like a pro. On my first ride, I finally hit 120 cadence. Which, if you know, that is the max speed recommended on the bike to avoid injury. With cage pedals, I was struggling to get over 105. It allows you to keep a better spin form with your feet, which is advised during most guided classes.
Last was the heart rate monitor. There are so many good options on the market that will link to your phone and whatever app you’re using for classes. It comes down to price again. Some people claim that some of the fancier ones are more accurate; some claim the basic ones are fine. Either way, what it does help you monitor is the level of intensity you’re keeping your heart rate and can inform you if you need to pull back a bit if you are pregnant or have a heart condition where a doctor is recommending you not sustain over a certain beat per minute.
It’s very easy to read reviews, message boards, and articles and begin to feel like you need something specific to get certain goals. Maybe in some cases, that is true. But what is so great about indoor cycling is that you can get exactly what is best for you. In some cases, it may require a few more pieces and a little more assembly, but in the end, it’s all about you. What helps you get to your goals? And what helps your mental health and feelings of balance, one of the great benefits of regular exercise. See where you can go, on a bike that goes nowhere.