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Peloton Spin Bike Alternatives - girl on bike

Peloton Spin Bike Alternatives – How to Setup Your Indoor Bike for Group Spinning Classes or Virtual Group Rides on a Budget

For many people, and for various reasons, getting to a spin club for daily workout sessions isn’t an option.  If you fall into this camp, and are either bored with your current at home indoor spin bike or are reluctant to buy a spin bike because you are worried about being bored, then Groom+Style have some indoor spin bike alternatives for you.

Nowadays it is possible to take part in live group training sessions, or recorded sessions run by an instructor, or even take part in virtual group rides via an indoor trainer, without spending a fortune.

 

The Peloton Bike and Instructor-Led Classes Are Great but on the Expensive Side

The first and most popular option for instructor-led spin classes at home is the Peloton bike and system, which allows you to check-in to any of thousands of spin sessions, led by qualified instructors. It’s a great program, no doubt, but the Peloton bike and subscription are expensive when you consider you’re doing it at home. At $2,000, the bike itself isn’t cheap, then there’s the $250 delivery charge, and $39 a month subscription.  If you have the money, motivation, want to take part in instructor-led spin classes in the comfort of your own home, and interested in saving time then this is the option for you.

 

Peloton Spin Bike Class Alternatives Without the Cost

What other options do you have if you can’t afford the Peloton setup but still want to take part in the classes? Are there any apps and services you can use to turn a regular old spin bike into one which mimics the Peloton setup?  The answer is yes, and setup is relatively easy.  You choose your indoor spin bike (maybe a budget version like the Sunny SF-B1001 Indoor Cycling Bike), attach the Wahoo Cadence Sensor (as described below), load the Wahoo app onto your desired device, download and subscribe to the Peloton app and you are good to go for hours of sweat and fun.

Note: if you buy a premium exercise bike (such as the Keiser or Schwinn), or a mid-range bike (like the Diamondback), they will already come with a computer monitor which means that there is no extra setup required if you want to use the Peloton App.

You will just want to confirm your exercise computer has cadence/RPM (if you have a mid-range to Premium bike then you might even get resistance which would be very helpful).

Note 2: for group ride application setup, see more information below (zwift, FulGaz, TrainerRoad, Snufferfest etc), you will generally need to be able to measure power/watts (unless the application you choose says it can calculate/estimate power based on your speed/cadence).

 

Wahoo Cadence Sensor Setup on Your Indoor Spin Bike

Peloton Spin Bike Alternatives - bike future

One of the things you’ll hear Peloton and other instructors talk about during classes is cadence (otherwise known as pedaling rate) which is the number of revolutions of the crank per minute (RPMs). If you’re using a Peloton bike, then you’ll have no problem following along, but for everyone else, finding the right cadence can be tricky. That’s where the Wahoo sensor comes in.

The Wahoo RPM & Cadence Sensor (link to Amazon) does exactly that; it measures your cadence. Cadence is important when following along with instructors who specifically ask you to reach a certain number. It means you’re experiencing the workout as intended, and that you’re not over or under-doing it.  Note: you only need to buy the Wahoo Cadence Sensor, not the Speed Sensor.

Setting up the Wahoo Sensor is easy, too. All you need is the sensor, a bike, and an iPhone or Android phone with Bluetooth connectivity. You can set it up in five easy steps:

  • Check the batteries on the sensor are working by looking for a blue flashing light
  • Using the cable ties, attach the sensor to the inside of the pedal arm on your bike
  • Download the free Wahoo sensor app and update the firmware if necessary
  • Open the app once your session starts
  • Match your cadence with what the instructor says

If you need visual instruction, then check out this video on how to attach the sensor.

Note 1: You can’t have the Wahoo app and the Peloton app open at the same time on your phone. You’ll either need a separate tablet or a laptop to run the Peloton app on while you cycle.

Note 2: The Peloton instructors might also mention a specific resistance level which is something only those people with a peloton bike will be able to set exactly.  If you do not have a bike that shows the resistance level (all magnetic resistance bikes will show this) then all you have to do is perform a rough conversion.  For example, if the Peloton instructor mentions a resistance of 50 then set the resistance on your bike to 50% effort (halfway between spinning with no resistance and not being able to move the wheels).

 

What Alternatives Are There for Virtual “Outside” Group Rides?

Peloton Spin Bike Alternatives - group

Zwift is a popular solution which lets you ride virtually with a group on your choice of outdoor rides.  You are able to choose a route that suits your mood and experience level, and ride with or compete against others.

Getting everything set up might take a bit of thinking/planning, but it is possible. Here’s a summary of what you’ll need.

Your choice of either a:

  1. Smart Indoor Trainer (see section below).  A compatible smart trainer like the Wahoo KICKR Indoor Bike Trainer (link to Amazon) which can broadcast power (watts) via ANT+ to Zwift and automatically vary resistance to match changing terrain and conditions. Scroll down to see an example setup!
  2. You can go for a Classic Trainer but then you will need to add the Wahoo Speed and Cadence sensor Wahoo Speed and Cadence Sensor (link to Amazon) which will connect to Zwift and TrainerRoad wirelessly.  You need to find a group ride application that supports Virtual Power (if you cannot transmit actual power via a dedicated power meter) such as TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, CycleOps Virtual Training. Other Group ride apps such as FulGaz will require an actual power meter – see section 5.
  3. Some specific High-End Spin Bikes are supported like the Cycleops Phantom 3/5 (link to Amazon), as they calculate and transmit power
  4. Smart rollers (link to Amazon) can also work as long as the bike is equipped with a power meter.
  5. It is possible to modify lower end Spin Bikes.  This means adding a power meter pedal (links below) which then lets you use any group ride application as you can then transmit actual power (this is generally more expensive but preferable solution).  Or installing a wahoo speed/cadence sensor but then you need to work with a group ride application that supports virtual power such as Zwift, TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, CycleOps Virtual Training (depending on your setup this might not always be the ideal solution so check with the group ride application before proceeding).

To modify a lower end spin bike to transmit power the easiest way is to attach some Power Meter Pedals to your spin bike which measure your virtual power (roughly speed multiplied by cadence and taking into account the power curve of your exercise bike) and then transmit this information via ANT+ to your computer/app.

Power Meter Pedals do not come cheap, but some options are (click on the links to check the price on Amazon):

Assioma UNO Side Pedal Based Power Meter 

Garmin Vector 2S Power Meter Pedals

PowerTap P1 Meter Pedals

Garmin Vector 2 Power Meter Pedals Black

The Zwift Subscription (follow the link above).

An iPhone or iPad or laptop to run the Zwift Application.  The better the graphics card on your computer the better the experience you will have.

Get all of that in order and you’ll save money and still have plenty of choices and high-quality instruction.

Our full review of bike rollers is also available if they interest you.

 

A Side Note on Indoor Trainers vs Spin Bikes

An indoor trainer is a great alternative to an indoor spin bike which effectively lets you continue to use your existing racing bike indoors.  Indoor trainers are a cost-effective alternative to indoor spin bikes which are portable, lightweight and take up a minimum amount of space. The key drawback of the indoor trainer is that you, of course, need to have an outdoor road bike to use on the indoor trainer and your road bike will then continue to require regular maintenance if you decide to use it this way.

indoor trainer - Wahoo KICKR setup with bike
An example setup using the Wahoo KICKR Indoor Bike Trainer (note the serious triathlon bike!). The Wahoo KICKR connects wirelessly to your computer device so you can use a training program like Zwift.

 

If you were going to consider an indoor trainer Groom+Style would recommend a high-quality one like the Wahoo KICKR Indoor Bike Trainer (link to Amazon) which has a realistic road feel and can be used in conjunction with group ride applications like Zwift (read more above).  You could go for a slightly cheaper indoor trainer like the Soozier Magnetic indoor Bike Trainer (link to Amazon) but the training feedback would be inferior.

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