Fitness Test Drive: Should You Buy The New Peloton Plus Indoor Bike? – Forbes

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Home fitness and exercise equipment has been selling like hotcakes during the coronavirus pandemic, but few companies have been as popular as Peloton. With gyms, heath clubs and studios less desirable due to COIVID-19 – or closed altogether – people have been switching to equipping home gyms for working out without leaving, and Peloton has long been a home workout favorite. But the just introduced Peloton Bike+ is an even more attractive all-in-one solution that promises to turn any room into a fitness club, offering a huge array of cardio, strength, mindfulness and flexibility workouts in one sleek package. Back in the fall, before the holidays, the publicly traded company forecast sales representing 218% year over year growth, and this success was evidenced by the fact that the new bike has been sold out since its introduction three months ago, with a current 10-week waiting period.

It’s hard to believe it has been just eight years since Peloton combined fitness class streaming with a high-quality indoor stationary bike to change the entire workout paradigm and create what has been called the “Netflix of fitness.” Like Netflix, it has spawned numerous competitors, yet remains number one.

Since 2012, the Peloton platform has expanded way beyond cycling, and there are classes in all sorts of disciplines, from bootcamps to strength training to yoga and meditation, as well as indoor and outdoor running sessions. Just in cycling, still the core, there are numerous specialty categories like high intensity interval training (HIIT) classes, Tabata rides (an especially structured form of HIIT), “regular” interval rides, hill climbs, cycling and strength training combos, and all sorts of music specialty options and standard studio-style workout classes.

In September, along with rollout of the new model, Peloton introduced a new workout discipline called Bike Bootcamp, combining on and off bike segments to maximize the utility of the new screen (see below). Instructors guide members through a total body workout, integrating strength training and cycling. 

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Then just last month, Peloton once again added an entirely new and noteworthy fitness discipline, Pilates, to its lineup. Because your core strength is so important in just about every sport, from skiing to running, and also for preventing back pain, I personally think Pilates is one of the very best investments of your finite and precious exercise time, but it is hard to do correctly without instruction. Now Peloton gives you that, with instructors and class offerings as impressive as loyal users are used to.

For years the focus of expansion was on software and classes, which are excellent, with industry-leading instructors, first rate production and a huge and highly searchable, sortable library with more than ten thousand options and many more added daily so you never can run out and never have to repeat – unless you want to. For instance, I have practiced yoga for years at various studios, and likewise took lots of Spinning and other indoor cycling group classes, and the Peloton instructors I ride or practice with are as good or better than most I have encountered in person. There are enough instructors in each discipline so you can pick and choose favorites, and while other fitness companies make great hardware, no one can touch Peloton when it comes to the brand’s secret sauce, the breadth and quality of class offerings. 

In addition to the classes themselves, the technology behind the streaming and interface has gotten better and better, with continued upgrades like the ability for users to preview entire class music playlists, and better information display in terms of the particular resistance, cadence and such during the workout.

All of this has come over the years with no increase in subscription price. I tell friends to imagine getting cable TV and for years there is no price increase and at the beginning you got one movie channel and now you get more than a dozen, and all of them are better and the quality and technology and features have has also gotten better. It is unfathomable to imagine that in cable – or just about any service – but that’s exactly what happened with Peloton.

On the other hand, among all these improvements, hardware has remained fairly static, with the major exception being the rollout of Peloton’s first treadmill and only non-bike product, the Peloton Tread, a couple of years back. That’s why the big fitness news this winter has been the recent release of the first new bike, the Peloton Bike+, which went on sale in September. We have had the original Peloton Bike for more than five years and recently upgraded to the Plus, which I have been trying out for the last several weeks. Here is my takeaway:

The biggest modification differentiating the Bike+ from the original Bike, which is still for sale at a new $400-lower price of $1,895, is a larger (23.8”) and rotating (180 degrees left and right) HD touchscreen with a high-fidelity four-speaker sound system. While this makes for a better picture and sound while riding, the real rationale is the rotation feature so you can turn it perpendicular to the bike and use it as a platform for off-bike classes, combining an indoor cycling class with Peloton’s strength, yoga, stretching and meditation classes in the same physical space.

If you are interested in turning a dedicated space in your home into a comprehensive workout area, the $2,495 Bike+ is an awesome and very efficient way to do just that. But if you already do other fitness classes like yoga and prefer to do them in front of your TV or in a different place in your house, you might not find the extra $600 worth it, since both bikes have the same class assortment and both can be used via the App away from the screen, on a wide variety of devices, phones, tablets, Firesticks, Apple TV, etc.

But personally, I have found real advantages to the new screen features and that having the easy access to classes on the bike display has increased the number of non-cycling classes I do, even though I could always do them elsewhere – and ultimately that’s the most important thing in home fitness, actually working out. I now just keep my yoga mat and blocks by the bike, rather than setting up in the living room by the TV every time I want to do a class, and the display and sound is much better than using a tablet or phone. Also, it’s easier to combine classes in terms of time, so I am now more likely to do a yoga class immediately before, or a stretching class immediately after, a cycling session. On the other hand, I still do meditation in a different, secluded, space in my home, and just use my phone for that, as I did before getting the Bike+.

Mechanically I don’t notice much difference from the original Bike, expect that the new handlebar shape is better, offering more different comfortable hand positions that feels closer to riding my actual road bike outside. Also, the seat adjustment is a little more user friendly when switching back and forth between my husband’s settings and mine, and in both cases, these are very smooth, rock-solid, gym-quality bikes with digital 100-point resistance. However, the Bike+ adds a few other notable features, including a headphone jack, handy for working out when your household is working from home at the same time, so your class doesn’t get picked up in the Zoom meeting in the next room. It also pairs with an Apple Watch (I don’t have one so cannot speak to this) with just a tap, making it easier to track your metrics, and most importantly, the Bike+ adds “Auto-Follow,” a touch-free option that automatically scales your resistance, based on target metrics, changing your resistance for you during class, using instructor’s guidance. Peloton describes this feature as “allowing you to fully immerse yourself” in the class, but really it’s best for those less disciplined riders who have trouble following the instructor and need more workout oversight. Basically, it stops you from skating by with lower resistance and an easier ride.

Bottom line? If you are starting from scratch with Peloton and buying a bike, I think in most cases the extra for the Bike+ is worth it, as you will get a turnkey solution that is space efficient and that you are more likely to actually use. Likewise, if you want the motivation of the Auto-Follow feature, there is no viable alternative – get the Bike+. But there are a few caveats and exceptions.

If you are space constrained to the point where you roll the bike out to ride and put it away after, you probably won’t be able to take advantage of the off-bike features and the Plus makes little sense, unless you are motivated to do the same for the non-cycling workouts. The opposite exception would be if you already have a sizable, dedicated home workout area set up, in which case a flatscreen bigger than the bike monitor for less than the price difference might make more sense.

If you have the original Bike, the trade in and upgrade option is nearly $1,800, and doesn’t make as much sense. Again, you can add the advantages of the better screen separately for far less money, even if that means buying a dedicated TV and Firestick or such just for Peloton.

Alternatively, because the classes are what sets Peloton so far apart from its competition, another option is to just subscribe to the App, without buying any hardware, an especially good option if you already have a cardio machine (bike, treadmill and/or elliptical). In fact, if you want workout classes at home without any cardio equipment at all, just doing yoga, Pilates and bootcamp-style classes, I’d still heartily recommend the App. For newcomers, Peloton is currently running a special 60-day free trial of the App for those who sign up by the end of the month (January 31). That’s double the normal 30-day period and more than enough time to see if your New Year’s Resolutions are going to stick.

In a world where single studio classes for yoga or name brand cycling can run $30, $40 or $50 per session, the unlimited Peloton App subscription – for less than thirteen dollars a month – is THE best buy in the home workout world. You get access to all of the 10,000-plus classes across nearly a dozen indoor and outdoor fitness disciplines that can be used on other bikes, on your own, and across many digital platforms.

Be well!

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