You’re constantly hearing about Peloton from your friends who love exercising, but your cycling buddies are telling you all about Zwift. What’s the difference between Peloton and Zwift? Aren’t they both for indoor cycling?
Let’s explain the basic differences between Peloton and Zwift and help you understand which one might be best for you.
What is Peloton?
Peloton is both an exercise bike and an app with streaming video instructors that teach spin classes that are either live or pre-recorded. (Peloton also makes a similar treadmill product, but we are not covering it in this comparison.)
If you are familiar with spin classes at your local gym, then you’ll get a pretty clear idea of what Peloton is all about. It’s basically like you buy the spin bike from the gym and then have a variety of instructors beamed into your home, whenever you want. If you like spin classes, you’ll probably like Peloton.
The Peloton bike itself costs around $2,300, although the company offers credit terms so that you can pay it off with monthly payments if you don’t want to buy it in one big lump sum.
After you get the bike, you’ll pay $39 a month for the Peloton service so that you can watch all the instructors and take the streaming or recorded classes and participate with other Peloton users.
Pros: Comes with all the equipment you need to start indoor cycling.
Cons: Bike is expensive, and monthly service is another $39.
What is Zwift?
Zwift is only an app, and does not include any hardware at all. You’ll need your own bike and a bike trainer, which you might already have at home.
You put your bicycle on your trainer, and you start the app. The app works with almost any basic bike trainer, but is significantly better if you own a smart trainer, which is a more expensive type of bike trainer that measures your wattage output and also controls how hard you pedal.
Zwift doesn’t come with spin class teachers, because it is designed to make indoor cycling seem like riding outside. You’ll see a cartoon world around you filled with hundreds of other bicycle rider characters on the screen. Each of those characters represents someone else who is using the app at the same time as you.
You can try to keep up with other characters, or go faster and leave them behind and race them on the screen. Or you can just ride at your own pace and watch the others go by. There are many different “locations” you can ride on the Zwift app, and you’ll find yourself pedaling through futuristic looking cities, and other regular cities like London.
You can find organized group rides, where riders all do the same workout together on the screen. You can chat online with the other riders as you workout.
If you like working out alone, there are dozens of workouts that the app of varying length and difficulty that allow you to complete a prescribed workout by yourself. There are even multi-workout plans to help you gain fitness and prepare for a specific event like a real life century ride (100 miles). You can even load your own workouts into Zwift, or workouts that your cycling coach has created for you.
Zwift also offers online racing, which is very popular for fit riders who like to compete. Many of the races require a smart trainer and a heart rate monitor, to help prevent any attempts at cheating. Races have different categories based on your current fitness levels, so you are racing against people of similar abilities.
It’s free to try for 30 days, but then it will cost around $15 per month to keep using it.
Pros: Cheaper at only $15 a month. It’s like a video game version of riding your bike outside.
Cons: Requires a separate bike trainer and bicycle to mount on it.
How to Choose Peloton or Zwift
There’s no right or wrong answer between Peloton and Zwift. It really depends on what you hope to accomplish, and what you like better.
If your main focus is to become a faster cyclist, you should go with Zwift. Zwift workouts are all built with cycling specific fitness in mind. The entire app is built around cycling as a sport. From the ability to just ride around to group rides to workouts and even online racing, it’s all about becoming a stronger and faster cyclist.
Peloton, on the other hand, is built around the idea of riding an indoor spin bike like the classes you see at gyms. You’ll burn a lot of calories and you’ll really improve your cardiovascular fitness, which will definitely help with your cycling. But the workouts are not specific to bicycle racing and are more generally about cardiovascular endurance and fitness.
If you love spin classes and the music and camaraderie that comes with an instructor cheering you on and telling you what to do, then Peloton is your best choice. It’s a terrific alternative to driving to the gym to take expensive spin classes there.