Updated: Jul 18
I'm writing this for my best friend. I'm not an exercise scientist, a trainer, or anyone other than a casual fitness enthusiast who stays active as it makes me feel calmer and steadier on a day-to-day basis. My best friend, however, is not that. She's the smartest, kindest person I know who struggles to get consistent physical activity, buffeted by work demands, and a society that often expects women to give all without taking time for themselves. She asked me recently about the Peloton bike, my very expensive and favorite pandemic purchase, and
I promised her I would write a guide to answer all of her questions, so here we are. And absolutely none of this is medical or exercise advice, just my insights from six months of having and using my bike regularly.
"Oh sh**. Should I get a Peloton?"
It depends. Though I absolutely love my Peloton bike, it's a hefty financial investment, which I'll get into in the next section. If you don't end up using it, it could be a much bigger waste of funds than an unused low-cost gym membership.
I do really love mine and use it almost every day though. A few of the reasons I love it are:
1. The competitive aspect. There is an active leaderboard for live classes, which offers a chance to get that competitive rush, interact with friends, and engage in a communal activity. Peloton has also hosted interactive challenges with virtual cycling teams, something that can add even more of a competitive note to your riding if that's what you're into.
2. If competition is not what you're looking for, there is room for that as well. The focus of all of the trainers seems to be on just doing your best. They will push you and motivate you in their own ways, but I've encountered no weight loss or diet culture emphasis in the workouts, which is so refreshing. If you don't need competition but instead seek encouragement to just move, you'll also find that with the Peloton app workouts or on the bike.
3. Speaking of the app, the Peloton app has so many types of workouts both on and off the bike that there's always something for me to do no matter how I'm feeling. I can practice yoga one day and then the next really push myself on the bike the next if I want to.
4. The bike doesn't take up as much space as I expected. Our old apartment was tiny, and it fit. Think of the bike as taking up about a 2-foot X 4-foot space on the floor and needing space more in the sense of height rather than additional inches outwards outside of those dimensions.
5. The music is great! This is one of the biggest motivating factors for me, and if you're a music lover, then I'd guess that you will probably love the Peloton bike as the rides encompass all genres and vibes. I've taken rides with playlists of all Atlanta hip-hop, just Beyonce's hits, and more.
6. This varies depending on where you live, but for me, the Peloton offered a safe, harassment-free, and pressure-free space to engage in physical activity. I've always loved the gym but didn't feel comfortable visiting a gym during the pandemic. So at the beginning of the shutdown, I began running outdoors for my exercise. I ran regularly for weeks, determined to continue even though I hated it. I was persistently harassed running in DC, yelled at from car windows, followed, and made to feel unsafe every time I went out. One particularly scary day, I was chased by an aggressive and angry man, came home in tears, and vowed not to put myself through that again. In my search for an alternative, my community members recommended the Peloton bike most. It offers a method of exercise free from harassment, pressure to get dressed or even pay attention to appearance, and free from any commute to a separate location.
"Wealth is health"
I clearly love my Peloton bike, but it's also quite expensive. In line with other fancy workout systems marketed to folks fortunate enough to have space and funds for a workout system at home, the Peloton bike essentials package will cost you a little more than $2,000. That is a serious investment. There's also an additional $39/month cost for the all-access app membership which offers access to all classes plus the live leaderboard and the full suite of metrics Peloton offers. There are financing options available for the bike if you qualify, and of course, depending on how you feel about taking on debt for an exercise system.
I hate to say it, but wealth is health. Access to healthy and culturally appropriate food, safe outdoor spaces, and exercise and wellness activities is a privilege. Studies show that wealth is associated with better health and longevity. Certain groups and socioeconomic classes have more access and ability to take advantage of disposable income and leisure time to care for their well-being. I don't like this reality, but I must acknowledge it and the fact that for many, a system like the Peloton bike is out of reach financially.
"Do you feel like it’s beginner-friendly, though? I.e., for people who are out of shape, have been largely sedentary, and haven’t had a consistent routine?"
Cycling is hard. Or maybe it's just hard for me, as someone who was never really into cardio and would much rather lift weights than do any other form of exercise. I spent my first two weeks with the bike feeling incredibly frustrated, out of shape, and frankly disheartened. After some experimentation and advice from my husband, a competitive road cyclist, I've found a groove. Here's what I've learned thus far:
1. Focus on just getting on the bike, just pedaling, and forget the metrics. The leaderboard is fun when you're feeling up to it and have a base level of cycling fitness built up. At first, the target metrics that the instructors call out during the rides can be just too much. Honestly, months in, they're often still too much for me. But if I focus on just getting on the bike, listening to the music, and trying to finish the rides however I can, then I'm getting the benefits of exercise without putting pressure on myself that will ultimately end with me being discouraged.
2. There are multiple training programs within the Peloton app. While there is a Master The Basics Of Cycling program aimed at beginners, that may also feel too hard for you to start with. It did for me, so I switched to Discover Your Power Zones, which made all the difference. While typical Peloton rides focus on a standardized target for resistance and cadence that everyone tries to hit, the power zones classes are scalable. Each period of effort is rated from 1-7, based on your current level of fitness. As you progress and take more power zone classes and eventually take successive FTP tests (a short but intense ride to measure your functional threshold power), your zones will change as your fitness changes. Since the efforts are based on your own capability, I've found that the power zone classes hit that sweet spot of making me "comfortably uncomfortable," as the trainers say, without being out of reach.
3. On most of the rides, I think that the built-in warm-ups are too short. The majority of Peloton rides have just a few minutes of warm-up before going into a difficult and comparatively lengthy period of hard effort. I was exceptionally sore and the rides so much more difficult for me when I relied on those short, built-in warm-ups. I've heard about the importance of a warm-up and cool down my entire life and could really feel the difference on the bike. I now plan for an additional ten minutes (minimum) of riding time so that I can take one of the many short warm-up rides offered in the Peloton cycling course database before starting the main set of the ride that I chose for the day. This goes for all of the rides I've tried except for the power zones rides. Those rides have a longer warm-up built-in, usually about 10-12 minutes before the main workout begins.
So, should you get a Peloton?
Maybe. If you think it will work for you. If you have the financial privilege and it fits into your goals and lifestyle. If it seems like a good option for what you want or need.
I honestly can't tell you if you should get one. But if you do, I'll be there cheering you on. You can find me on the leaderboard under the name
And if you do decide to get one, you can use my affiliate code KJSERE for $100 off (the discount is on accessories, so you have to purchase one of the bike packages which comes with accessories.).