It feels like we’re living in the golden age of at-home fitness platforms. There are plenty of contenders out there, but few are as famous as Peloton, the expensive exercise bike that has inspired an almost cult-like community. It’s like the Kitchenaid of exercise. This week, after years of anticipation, Peloton finally launches in Australia, and I think I now understand why it has such a loyal following.
While Les Mills On Demand and Apple Fitness+ want to get you started and then work as an add-on for what you do at the gym, fitness juggernaut Peloton wants to be your total home gym. Sure, it’s all based around an exercise bike with a giant screen, but the classes aren’t just limited to the bike; there’s yoga, strength and even audio training for running outside with your phone, and it’s built around community. There are leaderboards you can opt into that show you who is working out now and allow you to compete and interact with them, and live trainers who might acknowledge your existence.
When I say Peloton is expensive, though, I’m not kidding. The basic Peloton Bike, which gets a 22-inch touchscreen and 2×10 watt sound system, is $2895. The fancier Peloton Bike+ (the one I’ve been testing), which has a 24-inch rotatable touch screen, significantly better speakers, auto follow resistance and integration with Apple Gymkit (it uses your watch for heart rate) is $3695. If that’s not enough, to access the classes and everything else that makes it more than just an exercise bike with a giant screen, you need to pay $59 a month for the Peloton All Access membership. After the 3-month trial ends, that’s $708 a year. At least it’s just the one membership to cover everyone who uses that bike.
The way Peloton would like you to think about it is to compare it to a gym membership, which is closer to $1500 a year. But while you certainly do get a more personal experience with Peloton than in other streaming workouts, it’s not the same as a gym class where an instructor can correct your form.
Putting the money aside, though, I have loved the Peloton experience so much more than I expected. The workouts are so immersive and encouraging that the top three fastest cycling workouts I’ve ever done have been on Peloton, and I was already riding at least 100 kilometres a week. I do slightly prefer the way Apple Fitness encourages users to select their resistance by feel, because it can be disheartening when I can’t keep up with the pace set by the professionally fit trainers, but it’s giving me something to aspire to.
I’ve really enjoyed the bigger variety in music, too. They might not have my favourite band, Sleater-Kinney, but they do have Tegan & Sara and Pvris, along with the soundtracks to Wicked, Rent and Hamilton. More often than not there’s been at least one workout available with the kind of music I was craving at the time. I also like the scenic rides, where you can go on a tour of somewhere in the world at your own pace for when you want something more chill than a workout, or just want to zone out and travel when it’s raining outside.
It’s also been cool discovering cleats for the first time; those cycling shoes that clip you into the pedals. I would never wear them on a road bike, lest I forget to unclip at the lights and fall over like a poleaxed ox, but of course the Peloton utilises them. This does mean that you should probably get a pair of $120 shoes for everyone in the household that is going to use the machine. They truly do make a difference to how fast you ride and which muscles you use to do it. Just be aware that the shoes run a little small.