If 2019 was the year of the barre class, 2020 was most definitely the year of the Peloton. Admittedly, Peloton bikes are remarkably suited to the needs of a quarantined exerciser. They’re sleek, they’re smart, they’re compact enough to be unimposing in the living room, and they’re equipped with a screen for live class streaming. As lockdowns eased in 2021, the appeal endured. Last month Peloton made headlines (again) after opening a new factory in the USA to help ease insatiable demand (even after the company recalled its treadmills earlier that same month). Peloton counts Alicia Keys, Roger Federer, and Ciara among its devoted fanatics. And it’s not just celebrities: It feels as though everyone knows someone who’s bought one.
The thing is, Peloton bikes aren’t actually that affordable. For the basic model, expect to pay at least £1,750, and for the premium Bike+, prices reach around £2,300. So what’s the alternative? We spoke to eight industry experts to track down a Peloton dupe (one that, crucially, comes with great resistance options, a screen, connectivity to fitness apps, and fitness-data tracking). Our advisers include a GB Cycling Team spokesperson, a celebrity-endorsed physical therapist, and the co-authors of Ride Inside (the indoor-cycling bible). Keep reading to find out how to choose between resistance styles, which bikes have the best app-compatibility options, whether a direct-drive trainer could be the answer to your problems, and more.
A note on delivery and setup: A number of the experts warned that wait times can fluctuate according to demand, sometimes leaving you to wait months for your kit to arrive. To avoid frustration and accidentally demotivating yourself, BLOK personal trainer Maiken Skoie Brustad advises double-checking the delivery times before committing to a bike. She also recommends considering assembly and setup options: “Setting these bikes up can be quite difficult, and checking whether any parts are missing or broken can be tricky. So checking how it’ll be delivered, whether anyone will assist in setting it up, or whether it’s an easy bike to assemble yourself is important.” Brands should offer setup assistance, but that isn’t always free and in some cases could add £100 to 150 to the total price you pay.
Best Peloton dupe
Bowflex’s bikes offer a “smooth and sturdy ride” — just like Peloton bikes — according to Dr. LA Thoma Gustin, an American physical therapist who counts Camila Mendes and Madelaine Petsch as clients. She likes the C6 model for its flexibility with workout apps (a bonus compared with Peloton, whose functionality depends on a subscription to the brand’s own app). With a Bowflex, you’re not locked into any particular subscription commitment; it works with Peloton, Zwift, Explore the World, and beyond. This not only keeps things more interesting but could also cut some longer-term costs. Plus the lack of a screen keeps the price way down.
The only bad news is that the C6 model is more readily available in the USA than in the U.K. But its younger, shinier cousin, the Bowflex C7, is majorly discounted right now. At £1,499, it slices £250 off the price of the cheapest available Peloton yet boasts similar features (a touchscreen for classes, 100 levels of smooth resistance, a heart-rate-monitoring device, and Bluetooth speakers). It’s just as flexible app-wise as the C6, which means you could offset that higher price point with your fitness memberships, too.
Best (less expensive) Peloton dupe
Two of our experts recommended Echelon. Absence of screen aside, it’s probably Peloton’s most like-for-like competitor. It even copies — possibly to a flaw — Peloton’s exclusive membership model (it costs £39.99 per month for the app). “Using a weighted flywheel, you’ll get a great deal of resistance from this, which will challenge most people — assuming you’re not the Hulk,” says George Palmer, a fitness trainer and cycling instructor at Core Collective, Gymbox, and Echelon. “This bike has everything you need for a tip-top home workout at an incredibly affordable price.”
“You will get the most out of this bike connected up to the Echelon training app from propping your own device, such as an iPad, within its built-in cradle,” Palmer explains. As with the Peloton, the pedals clip to cleated cycling shoes on one side but can be flipped if you’ve got only regular trainers handy — an aspect Palmer appreciates. If you’re willing to up your spend, both Palmer and Dr. Gustin also recommend the pricier Echelon EX-3 (from £1,199). That higher spend gets you the additional qualities of heavier flywheel weight and Bluetooth connectivity to help you compete on Echelon’s class leaderboards. (You can also use Apple Health, Strava, and Fitbit to track your data.)
“Resistance on indoor bikes is usually powered by magnets or a weighted flywheel,” explains Palmer. He warns to look carefully at the bike specifications to make sure the resistance type suits you. “Magnetic-resistance bikes are generally quieter, have better longevity for your buck, and have a greater ability to adjust resistance level but are usually more expensive to buy,” he explains. “A weighted-flywheel bike will typically be more affordable but may be less durable over time.”
Some other exercise bikes of note
Maiken’s best advice when bike shopping is to think of the gyms you trust and enjoy attending and then find out which equipment they use. “Third Space and a couple of other gyms that I work for use Life Fitness,” she says. This bike offers impressive credentials with magnetic resistance, it’s ergonomic, and it provides a smooth ride. But it doesn’t have a console, so you’re not able to track your data and metrics. That said, the newer IC5 model is available for slightly under the price of a Peloton, and it boasts metric tracking via Bluetooth, plus other spec upgrades. The bad news is that this bike isn’t compatible with the likes of Peloton or Zwift (it’s still possible to ride along to workouts, but you won’t get metrics and feedback on your ride). The good news is that it’s exclusively compatible with the free Team ICG training app, which should help cut costs in the long term.
Dr. Gustin considers this bike “comparable to the Bowflex C6 in terms of build, durability, and use of your own device.” She adds that it’s another great choice for people seeking flexible app connectivity. Maiken agrees: “This is the sort of thing that offers the same experience for about 50 to 60 percent of the cost of a Peloton bike and subscription.” There’s a media rack for your tablet or laptop, which helps emulate the immersive Peloton experience, plus you can monitor your cadence and heart rate via Bluetooth. You don’t get to see live leaderboards, but you can spy on who else is riding and offer virtual high-fives to others.
Again, this bike is compatible with the three major cycling fitness apps, Zwift, Peloton, and Explore the World — a feature Maiken thinks is a serious plus. “Don’t completely lock yourself into a package,” she warns. “I think people would be better off investing in an okay spin bike and getting the subscription wherever they want. It’s much cheaper that way, and you can stop whenever you want.” She also confirms that Peloton bikes are compatible with only the Peloton app. This means a year’s worth of use adds £468 to the price of your bike.
It’s not just Logan Aldridge, a CrossFit athlete and director of training at the Adaptive Training Academy, who loves this modestly priced machine; his fiancée has also been charmed. “It is most definitely my favorite cycle-training piece of equipment. It has a damper that ranges from one to ten and is Bluetooth compatible. My fiancée does Peloton classes on it, and it gives her a great workout.”
Even though it’s firmly under the £1,000 mark, this bike has an impressive performance monitor that is Bluetooth enabled and connects easily to heart-rate belts, fitness devices, and apps (including Peloton, Zwift, and beyond). The seat and handlebars are adjustable, plus the website claims the model fits “most standard bike parts, so you can easily use your own saddle, handlebars, and pedals for the ultimate personalized experience.”
It may surprise you to learn that the GB cycling team doesn’t, in fact, train on stationary bikes. According to a spokesperson, they actually prefer a “smart trainer.” And the authors of Ride Inside, Joe Friel and Jim Rutberg, agree. “Money can be saved if you have a bike already and buy a trainer for it,” advises Friel.
Smart trainers come in two forms. There’s the “wheel on” model, which clips to the back wheel of your bike to provide resistance, and there’s the “direct drive” option, which replaces your back wheel. For both, you’ll need an outdoor bike, a laptop (for streaming your chosen cycling app), and Wi-Fi. You’ll also need to learn to pop your back wheel on and off if you go for this option.
“One of the features these trainers offer that few indoor bikes offer yet (the Peloton+ being one of the notable exceptions) is the ability for the apps to control the resistance the rider experiences,” Rutberg says. “This feature allows athletes to perform structured workouts with specific intervals designed around their personal physiology, or it creates a realistic simulation of riding the terrain being shown on the screen.” While the Wahoo is favoured by both authors, they also recommend the brands Tacx and Saris.
Twelve years ago, pro bike athlete and trainer Taye Johnson pioneered a form of hip-hop Pilates called TAYETIME with SoulCycle. For that reason, she’s most concerned with resistance credentials and features which help clients maintain form and rhythm. “The bikes need to be able to provide a smooth ride, which is why I like this one; one of its top features is a CarbonGlyde drive system.” (In nonexpert terms, that’s the part which replaces the chain in a normal outdoor bike). She also prefers this bike’s handlebar design, especially its signature RhythmBar which accommodates various hand positions — helpful if you’re into high-octane, dance-based, or aerobic spin classes. “The majority of my clients have sold whichever bikes they were riding on once they experienced TAYETIME on this bike.”
Those specialist features normally add a premium to the cost of a bike — and it should be noted that the full RRP of this machine is over £2,000. But Stages refurbishes its own models using certified engineers, reselling them on the same site as the brand-new models at slashed prices with three-year warranties. It’s the closest you’ll get to thrifting a bike without compromising on reputability, durability, and peace of mind.
Editor’s note: Unfortunately, this refurbished Stages model is currently unavilable. We are, however, expecting it to be restocked soon and will keep this page updated.
The Strategist UK is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Read about who we are and what we do here. Our editors update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.