The pandemic has been kind to Peloton. Sales are up 66 per cent year-on-year and the company has now sold around 900,000 bikes (and treadmills, available in the US only) in the US, Canada, UK and Germany. And while it could easily continue flogging existing hardware, the company has just launched two new products – the Bike+, which we’ve been testing for the past week, and Tread (£2,295), a new, smaller Peloton treadmill that will be available in December.
For the uninitiated, Peloton sells Wi-Fi connected exercise bikes with touchscreen displays that stream live and on-demand spin sessions 24-7. The instructors are beautiful, the production slick and the ‘community’ members fiercely devoted. It’s an expensive fitness cult, but one that’s executed brilliantly, and is easily the best exercise bike available.
Bike+, is Peloton’s first hardware upgrade since inception, and while there are lots of aesthetic updates, there are two significant improvements; the newly designed touchscreen now rotates, and the resistance (how hard it is to cycle) can be adjusted automatically.
A rotating screen, how exciting! Admittedly it doesn’t sound all that revolutionary, but the display can now rotate through 180 degrees left and right, which transforms the exercise bike into an interactive fitness studio that can be used for yoga and stretching, strength and HiT sessions as well as cardio on the bike.
The display is 2.8-inches larger than the original 23.8in screen and has a thinner profile, smaller bezel and noticeably better resolution. Importantly, the rotating hinge is smooth, strong and isn’t top heavy, so there’s no extra wobble when riding the bike hard.
The £39-per-month Peloton app includes lots of other fitness classes and programmes, each featuring the same high-quality production values and upbeat motivational tropes. While you’ve always been able to cast the videos to your TV or prop up your phone near the yoga mat, they were difficult to do properly using the bike’s display. It wasn’t seamless and felt clunky – and therefore easily ignored – but by simply rotating the screen to a position that suits the space you’re in, you have access to a whole suite of fitness classes. And no more excuses.
More than just spin
Cardio-focused spin sessions are addictive, pump you full of endorphins and burn calories, but all-round fitness, whatever your age or condition, needs a mix of activities, and with the Bike+ it’s now much easier to try something other than spinning. Psychologically, being able to do more with the bike, and not having to use your phone and faff about with screen casting, somehow makes the high price of the subscription feel better value.
Our review bike came supplied with various weights and a workout mat (both sold separately, £TBC) that has one side for yoga and one reinforced rubber side for weights. The tough side has been designed to withstand dropped weights, sweat and cycling cleats to coincide with a new Bike Bootcamp class (from September 15) that combines spin cardio and floor work. It’s not a unique idea – the Nordictrack S22i Studio Cycle iFit does this already – but the pre-release workout we tried was well executed and suitably demanding on and off the bike.
Our only issue with this multifaceted workout was having to clip in and out of the pedals. Peloton uses proper cycling shoes with cleats, and even after six months using the original bike, unclipping remains the most irritating aspect of the whole experience. Cycling shoes are also not great for floor work (or parquet), and we’d be interested to see how long the rubber mat will survive being abused by plastic cleats. Chances are we will swap shoes, or go barefoot for bootcamp sessions, but the stop-start experience is not totally seamless.
The other major upgrade for the Bike+ is Auto-Follow, which lets the instructor automatically adjust the resistance on your bike, so you can pedal without having to adjust. Auto-Follow chooses a mid-point in the resistance range, and if you need it easier or harder a quick twist of the control is all it needs.
Compared to the manual resistance control it feels far nicer to use, and while we never had issues adjusting resistance during a session, just getting on and riding helps you focus, and reduces the urge to be lazy. It will be interesting to see how much of a difference this makes after a few weeks.
Peloton has also added GymKit for Apple Watch compatibility, which lets you use your Apple Watch’s heart-rate monitor instead of a chest strap. Arguably a chest strap offers more consistent results, but it’s nowhere near as convenient as simply waving your watch at the logo. Technogym has had this feature for a few years, but it’s a welcome, if not slightly niche, update.
While we generally use Bluetooth headphones, Peloton was keen to stress the improvements it’s made to the sound system, which has four new speakers, two on the back and two hidden behind the cloth grille on the front.
With music such a significant part of the Peloton experience, better sound quality is welcome, and it’s a noticeable improvement on the original, with better separation between the instructor and their music playlist.
The Bike+ is a better all-round design than the original, with many of the minor niggles getting ironed out, but, if all you want are really good spin sessions the original Peloton Bike is still more than capable. It is also now £150 cheaper at £1,750 (£39 subscription required).
Should you buy Bike+?
Is Bike+ good value? £2,295 plus £468 per year for the subscription, plus shoes, weights and floor mats and you’re looking at £3,000 before you break a sweat. Average annual gym membership is around £500, personal trainers cost at least £15 an hour, but crucially, all of these things require leaving the house, not crossing the bedroom. The Bike+ is pricey, but convenient and the number and variety of fitness classes available is beyond generous, and if you can’t motivate yourself to do something from the app, there’s no hope for you.
But the reason we rated the original Peloton Bike so highly isn’t the bike, but quality of the classes, the live interaction with fellow riders, the competition of the leader boards and the unfailingly upbeat instructors.
Yes, it’s cultish and the motivational mantras can irritate when you’re flagging, but each class is positive, punishing and – once you buy into it all – thoroughly enjoyable. The fact that the Bike+ brings extra variety and gives you more ways to stay in shape just makes us want to take another sip from Peloton’s particular brand of Kool-Aid.
Price: £2,295 (£59 per month for 39 months 0% APR) | Peloton
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