A Peloton alternative that can save you thousands and still get the experience? Yup. Read the detailed breakdown below to learn how to spin at home and save a bunch of money.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of a good workout. I’ve been hitting the gym in various forms for the last 25 years. But with kids at home, high gym costs, and not a lot of spare time, I’ve been wanting an at-home workout option that’s high quality.
In truth, I’ve wanted a Peloton spin bike for quite a long time, but never wanted to pull the trigger on that multi-thousand-dollar investment. But having tried one on a recent vacation, I got a workout every bit as good as any spin studio that I’ve ever been to.
So I still couldn’t justify the cost but wanted to set up a Peloton alternative at home. And as it turns out, it’s an amazing, money-saving hack that I’m totally devoted to.
Psst — before you dive in, bookmark these posts about the fitness boot camp we did too! And if you want more inspiration sent right to ya, join our exclusive group below.
What is Peloton?
But let’s talk quickly about what the heck Peloton is, in case you’re not familiar! Peloton is a streaming fitness program that you can access at home. But what sets it apart is that there are specific Peloton machines — specifically, the spin bike and the Tread (a treadmill).
The bike and the tread are designed to make the experience feel as “in-real-life” as possible. The machines have a built-in television screen, where you watch the class instructors either in real time (in live classes) or recorded (for on-demand classes). The screens also display all of your stats (output, cadence, and so on).
In addition, the screens display a leaderboard of the other members who are currently taking the same class while you’re working out. You can see who’s leading, you can give/get high fives, and you can see milestones that other members are hitting. In live classes, the instructors often give members shoutouts.
And speaking of the instructors, I have to say that in my opinion they’re the thing that truly sets Peloton apart from any other at-home streaming fitness options! The workouts are amazing, and you can find anything you need — low-impact, high-intensity, and everything in between.
Before I got my bike setup, I had been using the other types of classes on the Peloton app (there are literally hundreds). There are huge libraries of strength training, yoga, outdoor walk/run, stretching, cardio, and even meditation classes. I can’t emphasize enough the quality of the workouts and trainers.
How Much Does Peloton Cost?
Soooo here’s the sticking point for a lot of people. Peloton equipment is, in my opinion, pretty pricey for what it is.
The cost of the basic, bare-bones package of a Peloton bike is $2,245. In addition to that, to get the fully integrated experience of watching the workouts on the bike screen is an additional $40/month. Forever.
If you want to use cycling shoes, you’ll also need those (usually around $100). And a set of small weights (either 1,2, or 3 pounds, which you can find for about $12 on Amazon). If you purchase the Peloton package that includes shoes and weights, it’s $2,404.
PELOTON PACKAGE WITH SHOES AND WEIGHTS: $2,404
MONTHLY FEE: $40
But because Peloton offered a 3-month free trial at the start of quarantine, I got a ton of experience using the app without any equipment. And I realized that you don’t necessarily need a Peloton-specific bike to get a Peloton experience. So we created this alternative!
How to Hack a Peloton Alternative
To hack a Peloton alternative, you’ll need to try to recreate all of the benefits of purchasing a true Peloton product and using the digital app. So this includes:
- cadence, resistance/output, heart rate monitors
- spin shoes and appropriate pedals
- digital screen (with mount)
- digital classes/app
Let’s break it all down!
Sunny Health Bike as a Peloton Alternative
After a ton of research on at-home spin bikes, I decided a few things that I knew I wanted in a Peloton alternative.
I wanted something that was super sturdy and could withstand lots of in-and-out of the saddle riding. Also important was a bike that’s very quiet and smooth. I didn’t want a noisy ride. Other things at the top of my list were a small footprint so the bike didn’t take up too much space, and a bike that was fully adjustable in the handlebars (up/down/front/back) and seat (up/down/front/back/tilt).
The Sunny Health SF-B1805 hit all of my requirements.
It has a 44-pound flywheel with a steel frame, so it’s really sturdy and provides a nice, grounded ride. Along with that, the resistance is magnetic with a belt drive so it’s almost silent. You can get a nice heavy resistance on it too for uphill rides.
It takes up very little room, is fully adjustable, and even has a media mount on the handlebars so you don’t have to buy an extra mount to hold your phone or tablet if that’s where you’re watching the instructors for your workout.
One unexpected bonus of this bike is that it’s the most comfortable spin bike seat I’ve ever used. Often you’ll need a seat cushion or spin shorts with cushion sewn in, but this seat hasn’t made me sore even once.
GEAR: SUNNY HEALTH SF-B1805 BIKE
Pedals and Shoes
The Sunny Health bike comes with caged pedals, meaning you can slide your regular shoes into the cages and ride without spin shoes. And that’s fine! I did that for years. So if you want to ride with cages, you’re all set.
If you want to go to the next level, you’ll need cycling/spin shoes and pedals that you can clip into.
After much research, I decided on the Tommaso Pistas. I need lots of arch support and these had great reviews there. So far I’m loving them.
Now let’s talk pedals and clips. There are two main kinds of pedal clips for cycling shoes — SPD clips and Look Delta clips. It’s purely up to your preference and what kind of shoe you have (a shoe with an SPD clip won’t clip into a Look Delta pedal, and vice versa). You can order the Tommaso Pista shoes with either clip pre-installed, which is super cool.
I chose the SPD clips because I wanted these SPD-compatible pedals to go on the bike. Note: if you order spin shoes that don’t come with clips pre-installed, you’ll need to order clips as well.
Why those pedals? Because they come with cages on the bottom side of the pedals. So if Ryan wants to use the bike (or if any friends ever want to use it) without spin shoes, they can use the cages and I can use the clips.
Cadence Monitor Alternative to Peloton
On a Peloton bike, one of the stats constantly showing on the screen is your cadence, also known as your RPM. Often, instructors will tell you to set your resistance at a certain level and then keep your cadence within a set range. It’s a hallmark of the workouts.
To create a Peloton alternative hack, you have a couple of options. Firstly, if you’re a somewhat experienced cyclist or spinner, you probably have a really good idea of your cadence just by knowing your body and your gear. Also, instructors will often have you keep time to the music, which sets you at the right cadence range.
This is where I have settled for now. I have been spinning for five years, and I know my cadence pretty well. That’s good enough for me, so I haven’t purchased any additional equipment here.
However, if you want more specifics and want to know exactly your cadence output, you can attach a small cadence monitor to your bike. The Wahoo Cadence Sensor is a little device that attaches to your pedals and connects via bluetooth to let you know your RPMs. Problem solved.
GEAR: WAHOO CADENCE SENSOR
Heart Rate Monitor
If you’d like to track your heart rate, you’ll need a monitor for that as well. If you have a smart watch or a fitness watch, you’ll have everything you need! I connect the Fitbit Inspire that I already had with the Fitbit app and the Peloton app and it wirelessly displays my heart rate. So I also didn’t purchase any additional equipment here. Done!
If you don’t have a fitness or smart watch you can find a simple heart rate monitor and connect it. It’s nice to have those stats, as often the instructors will give you ranges of heart rate to stay within as you’re working out.
GEAR: FITBIT INSPIRE
The one stat that you can’t purchase a sensor for is the resistance of your pedals. During Peloton rides, instructors will call out different resistance rates, and as you ride you turn the resistance knob on your bike up or down to meet their numbers. On a Peloton bike, your resistance displays on the screen. But in a Peloton alternative hack, it’s a little more tricky.
There are, of course, other bikes that display resistance readouts. They tend to be a bit more expensive, and often you’ll find that the resistance adjustments don’t necessarily match up with Peloton’s resistance guidelines, as each bike is calibrated differently.
So what’s the hack? Basically, you’ve just got to get to know your bike. There are two methods you can try.
Method 1: Percieved Effort. In this method, basically picture your effort on a scale of 1-100, 100 being the max weight that you could push on your pedals. If an instructor calls out a number, for example 40-50, adjust your resistance knob so that you’re pushing about 50% of your max effort.
Method 2: Math It Out. When I got my bike, I counted the number of rotations from zero resistance to full resistance. It was 8 rotations. So each rotation is about 12.5 units of resistance. I round it down to 10 and put on one full turn for every 10 units of resistance that the instructors call out, and then back it off a point or two if it’s just too heavy. It means that I’m probably usually on the higher side of the resistance ranges that they call out, but I’m okay with that. I take off some if I need it.
Mat and Weights Peloton Alternatives
Our bike is in the studio on a faux wood floor, and will eventually be in the garage on cement. The floors that we’re dealing with are really durable so I’m not terribly worried about damage from the bike. I placed a thick workout mat under the bike that I already had with my equipment.
If you have delicate floors, you might want a more substantial mat. Here’s a bike mat from Sunny Health.
In the Peloton cycling workouts, there are often short breaks where you can pick up a set of weights and get a little arm work in. For these you’ll need 1, 2, or 3 pound weights. You can find those in any fitness store or at the links below. I use a pair of 2 pound weights that I already had, so spent no additional money here.
GEAR: BIKE MAT, 1 LB WEIGHTS, 2 LB WEIGHTS, 3 LB WEIGHTS
COST: $23, $8, $11, $13
Peloton Digital App
If you are using the Peloton bike, you’ll also be paying $40 monthly to use the tech and subscribe to the classes. But! If you just use the digital app and a Peloton alternative like this, the app is $12.99 monthly. Since I don’t go to the gym any more, this is really my only ongoing fitness cost. And for what you get access to in the app, it’s a crazy deal in my opinion.
GEAR: PELOTON DIGITAL APP
Displaying the Classes on Your Tech
You’ll need to play the classes via the app on a smart phone or tablet. I use the iPad or phone that I already have, so I spent no additional money here either. You can stream from a device to a tv if you’d like the screen to be larger. But I often like to be able to touch and adjust things on the screen, so I prefer to use my iPad.
And again, on the Sunny Health SF-B1805 you don’t need a mount for your iPad or phone because there’s a platform on the handlebars to place your tech.
If you choose another bike, you can find tech mounts that will help display your screen.
Other Class Types on the App
Aside from the spin classes, there is a massive library of classes on the Peloton app that you can use even if you’re doing a Peloton alternative hack. There are strength, cardio, running, walking, bootcamp, and yoga workouts. There are guided stretches and meditations. There are even a few dance-based workouts.
Having access to all of these is an awesome way to switch it up and add to a spin routine, and I mix it up frequently.
You can also take live classes, and see a full schedule of real-time classes that are coming up.
Can you get Shoutouts and See your Friends as an App-Only user?
You sure can! If you’re riding a live, real-time class you have the opportunity to be shouted out just like any other participant! Now, to be fair, it’s rare. And shoutouts from the instructors are often reserved for people riding with big milestones (100 classes, 500 classes, etc.) but it definitely happens.
And no matter what (if you’re in a live ride or a pre-recorded ride), you can high five and receive high fives from the people who are also currently in that ride.
So you can coordinate with friends, whether they have a Peloton bike or are using a Peloton alternative like you, to ride at the same time! Whether you’re in a live ride or a pre-recorded ride, you can interact with each other.
Total Cost and Savings with the Peloton Alternative Hacks
So what’s the bottom line here?! Like I said at the beginning, the cost of the Peloton package that I would have wanted was $2,404 plus $40/month. My all-in cost for the Peloton alternative hack I created is $800 plus $13/month.
PELOTON COST FOR ONE YEAR: $2,884
PELOTON ALTERNATIVE COST FOR ONE YEAR: $956
So that’s a savings of almost $2,000. To me, totally worth it. I have a fitness experience that feels very high quality and I don’t miss any of the bells and whistles that $2,000 would get me.
It’s worth nothing that I’ve seen Peloton alternative bikes online for as low as $300, so that would save you even more money. Those bikes don’t have magnetic resistance, and are missing a few other things that I was looking for in a bike. But do some research to find a bike that works for you and you could save even more money.
Hope this is helpful for you! Leave a comment and let me know if you have any other questions or any other Peloton alternative hacks that you love! xoxo
P.S. Check out these posts about the fitness boot camp we did, and our thoughts on it!