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?
Rob Ford says
Great article and thanks. It is getting me one step away from pulling the trigger. One question I did not see answered in this article would be this: If you use the Peleton app with the SB20 does it display the wattage/HR/Distance/Speed data in the Peleton app and is it able to be uploaded to Strava for fitness tracking? I think what I want to know is if my wife wants the peleton/spin class experience what will she actually be missing out on if anything?
Road Bike Rider says
Only the Peloton hardware records and displays wattage, and not the digital app. So it would record some of the data, but not wattage through that app even though the bike is broadcasting it. There’s a FB group for the Peloton app where you could probably look up a workaround or get more detail.
Lisa Kayafas says
Great article. My husband and I are in the exact same scenario. I (wife) am wondering if I use the Peloton app with a smart bike such as the Wahoo Kickr, is there a way to see a quantified measurement of either my cadence, wattage or resistance? I don’t need to see these measurements on my Peloton app, but is there a digital output of these measurements elsewhere on the bike or would I need to purchase a separate item for the bike that would give me that information?
Road Bike Rider says
Every smart trainer brand is going to be a little different, but you can figure it out with each one. They’ll all come with their own software. So with Wahoo, you’d run the Wahoo Fitness app at the same time that you were running the Peloton app, following the Peloton instructions. After you are finished, you could upload that Wahoo Fitness ride to Strava, where it would show all your wattage and heart rate info.
I’m using a Stages Bike SB20 smart bike, and they have their own software too, and it’s a similar situation if someone wants to ride it with the Peloton app and record wattage and heart rate.
Markie P says
Great article, was wandering if anybody is aware of more in depth version of this article to further help make the decision on smart bike vs peloton?.
My wife and I are in similar situation – I cycle, she spins so which single solution is best. I’m swaying towards Stages SB20 (I hope the smart bike / cycle app companies cotton on to this scenario and bring out “spin” style classes in their software updates).
The question above is also great, and to take it one step further, I’d like to ask…
Can you use the wahoo app that comes with my Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT for my road bike with Stages SB20 or can that only be used with the KICKR?
Road Bike Rider says
(Edit from my original answer.)
Here’s a list of all the different apps that can control the StagesBike SB20:
I don’t think you can use the Wahoo app to control it, but Stages has its own app that works kind of like the Wahoo app, and there are lots of other third party apps that work with it.
I asked in the Stages Bike Facebook group, and someone said that you can load a GPS course into Rouvy and control it that way, if for example you wanted to simulate a real ride that you have ridden on your actual bike:
A member of the Facebook group says, “You can control your Stages bike with the wahoo element. So normally no problem to re ride your route. Connect your wahoo element with the stagesbike.”
How long does it take for your wife to shift to get to the right resistance in the Peleton class?
What config-bike do you have setup for her and can you change profiles easily to accommodate best case scenario for her experience?
I am trying to decide between the Stages SC3 and SB20.
Cletus Boondoggle says
One key difference between a SB20 and a. Peleton is that the Peleton had a fixed gear tied directly to the flywheel and the SB20 has a freewheel and let’s you coast. I am a roadie and love the feel of the SB20 but my girlfriend hates it. Realism to her is something that mimics the experience of the spin classes she used to take in NYC.
Emily Peterson says
Ok, it’s October 2022, would you still recommend this smart bike or another one? Why did you choose a smart bike over a smart trainer? Thank you!!
Road Bike Rider says
I still own a Stages SB20 smart bike and still use it regularly and it’s holding up great.
I also like the look of the new second generation Wahoo smart bike, so if I were making a new decision today I’d still choose between the gen 2 Wahoo smart bike and the current Stages SB20.