If you plan on doing some indoor training to increase your aerobic fitness, you might be looking at Peloton and at the various Smart Bike options like the Stages Bike SB20, the Wattbike Atom, the Wahoo KICKR Bike and the Tacx Neo Smart Bike Trainer. Or maybe you want to use your regular bike hooked one of the popular smart trainers.
Here are some reasons why you might want to choose a Peloton or one of the smart bike or smart trainer options.
If you’re a fan of spin classes and that’s what you do to keep fit and stay fit, then the Peloton might be the best choice for you. Peloton basically replicates the spin class experience with live or prerecorded spin classes that you ride along with on the Peloton.
If you’ve ever heard many people talk about Peloton, then you’ve probably heard from someone who bought it to lose weight or get back in shape and then became obsessed with how much fun it is to ride. I know I’ve personally met several Peloton superfans.
I think Peloton is amazing for this type of scenario. If you just want a general type of aerobic fitness and a way to quickly burn calories and get in shape with a high entertainment factor from your home, then it’s a great choice.
If, on the other hand, you’re a cyclist or mountain bike racer who likes to race or train for fast group rides or century rides, then a spin class type of training system like Peloton will help you stay fit. But it won’t necessarily be specific enough to improve your cycling abilities that much.
So if cycling specific training is your number one goal, then Peloton shouldn’t be your first choice. I should point out that Peloton does have a series of cycling specific spin classes though, so you can get fairly close to a “bike trainer” experience with those.
Smart Trainers Control Your Wattage Automatically, Peloton Doesn’t
A big issue when you compare a Peloton bike to a smart trainer or smart trainer bike is that the Peloton uses a manual knob to control the difficulty of pedaling. Smart trainers, on the other hand, actively meter out exactly how many watts you pedal when you have them set to ERG mode. So if you are using a smart bike or smart trainer to do a workout in ERG mode, the trainer will force you to pedal at the correct wattage for the entire workout.
You can turn off ERG mode, and most of the apps also have settings to skip an interval or lower the difficulty if you’re having trouble completing it at all. The apps designed for smart trainers generally know your fitness level based on a fitness test, so they will set your intervals at the correct difficulty that you should be able to complete. That’s the benefit, in fact! Since the smart trainer knows how fit you are, it sets the intervals at just the right difficulty to force your body to adapt and gain additional fitness.
Peloton, on the other hand, has a knob that you turn with your hand. During Peloton classes, they give you general advice on where to turn the knob. But it’s not nearly as precise as a smart trainer, which can rapidly adjust the wattage to the correct amount even for a short, 20 second interval.
Guess What! You Can Use the Peloton App with Smart Bikes and Smart Trainers
At my house, I ended up buying a Stages SB20 Smart Bike. I’m a cyclist, and I primarily train with cycling apps like Zwift and The Sufferfest. My wife is not a cyclist though, and prefers the spin class type of experience and is just looking for general fitness.
It turns out that there’s a Peloton app you can install on your phone or tablet that lets you enjoy all the same spin classes that Peloton owners enjoy, but without the Peloton bike. (It requires a monthly subscription, just like cycling apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad and The Sufferfest.)
What you won’t see using the app on a smart bike or smart trainer is the approximate wattage that you are pedaling, because Peloton only shows that to people who use the actual Peloton bike. But you can still shift gears on your smart bike to make pedaling harder or easier while you are riding, and get pretty much the exact same benefit as riding the real Peloton bike.
Because remember, the Peloton bike uses a manual knob and only gets as hard to pedal as you make it when you choose to turn it. You’ll be doing the same thing by shifting gears.
So in my case, I have a very high quality Stages SB20 Smart Bike, manufactured by the company that makes commercial spin bikes that you’ve probably ridden if you go to spin classes. The only difference is that the SB20 has all the features of a smart trainer built into it too, so it works with all of the cycling apps.
My wife can use it with the Peloton app if she wants the spin class experience, and I can use it with all the cycling apps that I like.
I personally believe that this is the best of both worlds. With an open system like a smart trainer / smart bike, you are not limited to any single company’s app and training program. You can use any app you choose. So if a better app comes out later, or if I get tired of using Zwift and decide to switch to a different app like Rouvy, I can at any time.
With Peloton, you’re stuck with Peloton only on that screen that’s attached to the bike. You can sort of use it manually with other apps, but it will work like a dumb trainer and not like a smart trainer. If you love Peloton and that’s all you need, then it’s no problem. If you’re looking for more options, it might be an issue for you.
What’s your take on it? What kind of indoor system do you use, or plan to buy?