Peloton exercise bikes

Yeah, I struggled for awhile picking my adjective. Bubbly didn’t feel quite right. I had also just done a Hainsby ride earlier in the day, so I think I was influenced by that. Cheerily enthusiastic? Hyper positive? I dunno what’s right, but they’re definitely not drill sergeants.

Heh… fair enough! One thing I appreciate about the bike is all the different encouragement varietals.

Kendall Toole just wore me out with about 8 very emo 2000s-era songs so now I know what I wasn’t listening to 20 years ago.

Hey neat, they just updated the app a couple days ago and now it lets us switch between our profiles on the TV app without logging out, just like the bike!

So not Peleton, but it’s Peleton adjacent:

My free one month trial (yes, it’s only one month in Canada) ran out, so I decided to do an Apple Fitness+ tryout with their free one month trial. I’m two rides in now.

I’ve tried two Apple Fitness+ instructor vs. about six of the Peleton instructors, so I don’t have as wide a range of experience yet, but overall these are my impressions:

  1. I like the Peleton studio setup better. The mirror behind the instructor and the regularly moving camera helped me visualize the instructor’s posture and legs better, and helped me keep the cadence more by sight than just by purely looking at the number onscreen. I know that Peleton normally has other riders in the room, but during the pandemic they went down to only the coach. Apple Fitness+ has a small group of five instructors all taking the class, with one leading it and centred in the fairly static camera shot. At least one of the other riders is doing a modified, less intense/impactful ride, so you can follow them if you need to. It’s a good idea, but I feel weird seeing 5 people biking their hearts out in close proximity without masks during the pandemic. Yeah, they all look to be distanced the necessary 6+ feet apart, but it’s still weird. They’re in LA, and that’s not someplace with no cases.

  2. The Apple Fitness+ instructors, due to the fact that there’s no standardization on the bikes (or at least no assumptions of it) only ever mention specific numbers for cadence. Never for resistance. They talk about how it should the resistance and effort should “feel” all the time, and that’s fine, but it just doesn’t come across as precise as a Peleton ride. I am kicking my own ass, as I’m definitely pushing myself harder due to the ambiguity, but I’m not sure that’s always a good thing.

  3. The way that Apple Fitness+ when Airplayed (I’m on the 14.5 beta) shows the Apple Watch activity rings in real time, which you can also get by just using the Apple TV 4 or newer Fitness+ app, is very cool, and very motivating. As is the way they do onscreen display of Time, Heart Rate, Calories and the Burn Bar. The latter is the special sauce that Apple’s crowdsourcing brings to the table. It compares your local performance to others that have done the same workout with similar physical characteristics (based on your Health data in Apple Watch) and compares your effort to an averaged, anonymized version of theirs, by what seems to be either total calories or perhaps (less likely) calories per minute. It’s like chasing a previous player’s ghost car in a racing video game. It works. There’s some other cool “technology” driven features in Apple Fitness+, showing off Apple’s software and integration chops. When the instructor makes comments on the time left on the ride, that part of the screen gets highlighted with time related metrics, and the same is true when they talk about heart rate. It’s also very nifty. They can also call up an extra special timer to help you push hard for short bursts.

  4. Apple’s music is probably… milder? I don’t know if it’s better, but it’s not as out there. It feels more curated by the large team at Apple Music, vs DJ John Michael at Peleton.

  5. There are a tiny fraction of available rides on Apple Fitness+ compared to Peleton. It’s a new service, so that makes sense, and they’re adding to their collection, but not at the pace that Peleton does. So if you value variety, it’s clear Peleton is the way to go.

  6. If you sign up for a full year, and use those always-discounted Apple iTunes/App Store gift cards from Costco, Apple Fitness+ is less than half the monthly cost of a Peleton Digital subscription (at least here in Canada).

So, those are some thoughts and impressions. After my Apple Fitness+ trial runs out, I’ll probably finally sign up for the two month free trial of “JRNY” that came with my Bowflex C7. It’s similar, but also more AI driven coaching, apparently. I’m just doing cycling stuff, not messing around with the other kinds of workouts right now.

So I’m a week into the Peloton experience and I’m overall extremely happy with it. I didn’t manage to do 7 days in a row, but I have worked out 6 of the last 8. That’s about 32 miles biked, over 1000 calories burned, etc. For a guy who was basically not exercising other than walking the dog, this is pretty huge for me. The instructors have been motivating and often entertaining. Music selection has been great. Sure I’m almost 3 grand plus $40 a month into this, but it has done the seemingly impossible - kept me active and I’m anxious to keep doing more. Thumbs up.

I’ve not seen it but I’m just commenting on Apple’s, “we can do that,” late-to-the-party. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s Apple. What would worry me on anything more than a month is, “are you going to be here in a month.” To be fair, Google is worse for stuff like that but Apple is not immune either. Peloton has the advantage of that being their ONLY income. Apple is like a, Me-Too!

For what it’s worth, be a bit wary.

Sure. Maybe going for the full year subscription isn’t the most prudent move. But I do think Apple is all in on this. Services revenue is now their big thing, and Fitness+ is a huge motivator when it comes to Apple Watch purchases. And Apple has clearly shown that it’s committed to the Watch after 7 generations with clear improvements each version.

I suspect paying their dozen or so instructors and running the Fitness+ studio is a rounding error when compared to Apple Watch revenue. They could drop this, but I’d be shocked. They’ll abandon something like Apple TV+ long before they get to Fitness+.

In any case, I’m not committing to anything at all until I try them all! But my first impression is there is definitely power in Peleton’s back catalogue that will takes years for Apple to match. I also think Peleton has a deeper bench of instructors, which is a real advantage as loyalty to your preferred fitness guide is a big element in getting healthier.

I think you’re fine with the year. I’m just in the once-bitten-twice-shy camp. Apple has done a lot for exercise with their watch line and it makes total sense they would get into this as a service. I appreciate the review as well. I’m feeling out what to get my wife for an exercise machine and this opens up more options.

I’m finding my neck is stiff and tight after Peloton rides. I try to stay conscious of my posture, dropping my shoulders, not tightening up while riding, but it’s still happening.

Is this an indication that I have something setup wrong; do I need to move my handlebars or seat or something?

Or should I be doing some kind of specific stretches? I’ve been doing the post ride stretches but none of them seem to address my neck.

That’s typical for what cyclists call the "angry monkey’ posture. Especially as you tire, there’s a tendency to bend your elbows out, let your head drop, and your spine curve. You can tell when someone is about to bonk on a hill, because they look like an angry monkey laboring on the bike. There’s a lot more core engagement on a bike than people expect.

Also check you have fit the bike to your body. I’m not sure how to properly fit a Peloton bike, but I know about road bikes. These are just basics, there are people who make a living fitting bikes. First, keep in mind everyone is shaped differently, so two people the same height with different torso/leg lengths won’t be able to share the same bike (or the same Peloton seat placement). For example, I wear a 37" shirt sleeve and a 34" inseam, so I am much more orangutan in proportions than other people my height (6’4"). Humans aren’t symmetrical either, but bikes are, so fine adjustments and shims can come into play if you are riding hard or far & need a perfect fit.

Step one is getting the correct frame size, but from looking at pictures online, it looks like Pelotons let you adjust that geometry. On road bikes, you want to look mostly at the length of the seat tube (which affects pedaling and saddle placement), and the length of the top tube (which affects reach, which dictates the angle of your back & pelvis). There are five contact points with a bike - hands, feet, and pelvis. If the frame is within a few inches of the correct placement of those, the other bike components and adjustments will get you to a comfortable, correct fit. For a Peloton, since you can adjust the critical geometry, fitting won’t involve buying new stems or moving the brake/shifter handles around (and re-taping the handlebars, ugh). Pedals may be an issue, I’ll cover that below.

Start fitting with saddle height, which is used to adjust the length of your pedal stroke. Where you like to put your feet on the pedals is a matter of preference, especially with cycling shoes on (they have incredibly stiff inserts built in, so they effectively lengthen the pedals front to back, giving you greater freedom in foot placement). From what I read, Pelotons require clip shoes, so foot placement may be solved. My feet splay out a bit, so I ride with the pedal spindle behind the ball of my big toe and in front of the ball of my pinkie toe (to find the angle of your feet, sit on a tall workbench or counter with a few inches of your thighs past the edge & relax your legs). Wherever your foot placement, your knee should be at 140-150 degrees at the bottom of the stroke, and your heel up about 10 degrees from level. Your knees need to stay in vertical line with your feet, so if your knees are angled in or out (top of the stroke is easiest to see this), then adjust your foot placement or your clips to get your feet directly under your knees. This is where Pelotons stray from my knowledge. SPD clips (short for Shimano Pedal Dynamics) and SPD-compatible pedals/shoes/clips dominate the market, but Peloton uses only Look’s Delta clips. I know many ways to adjust & shim SPD cleats & clips, but nothing about the Deltas (they’re plastic, which I think is why you don’t see Deltas on road bikes). I’ll assume they can be adjusted on Peloton’s shoes for foot placement and angle. If you have wide feet or naturally are heavily toes or heels in, you can buy spacers for road pedals to move the pedals farther from the cranks, or buy different pedals completely. Some thin washers of the correct internal and external diameter (deburred and given a thin coat of grease) can substitute for expensive alloy spacers, but I don’t know if there are aftermarket Peloton pedals. Look sells a wide variety of metal and ceramic pedals, almost all of which are SPD-compatible. Not sure why Peloton deviated from the industry standard here.

Next are the handlebars. Changing your hand contact points also affects your spine & pelvic angle, so adjust the height of the handlebar neck to change the angle of your back/pelvis. Higher will give you a straighter posture, but simultaneously decreases your reach. Peloton neck tubes look almost completely vertical, so reach won’t change much, they seem to rely on their saddle adjustment system for that. There are serious aerodynamic and steering disadvantages to high handlebars on road bikes, but those don’t matter here. Crank those things up like ape-hangers on a Harley if you need to, you have no worries about aero or steering. I’m not sure if Peloton lets you change the angle of the handlebars, but that’s something to look at if you want even more upright posture (for Zwift, I roll my drop handlebars toward myself until the drop ends are pointing up & 5-10 degrees past vertical, which gives me something to lean hard on when I get off the saddle for maximum power - I need to buy a tilt plate to truly stand & hammer on my trainer). But remember all of these angles affect each other, so you may need to adjust your saddle and clip placement. You may want to stick with certain grip areas on the Peloton bars to maintain posture.

When adjusting the handlebars, you don’t want to feel like you are reaching too far, that’s a sign you are straining your shoulders, spine, and pelvic angle. Neither do you want to feel cramped because the handlebars are too close. That usually will cause you to pull your elbows in or out and your shoulders up, putting you halfway to the Angry Monkey all of the time & almost certainly causing neck/shoulder pain. With that huge tube the saddle assembly slides on, reach adjustment looks very easy on a Peloton.

This isn’t related to neck or shoulder pain, but I don’t know if Peloton spends any time teaching muscle group engagement. “How to Pedal” should be lesson #1 in any exercise bike system. Your glutes should do most of the work when pedaling, closely followed by your hamstrings. Lots of people instead rely heavily on their quads, which will ruin your knees. It’s hard to describe a good pedalstroke form. It is mostly like you are stomping something with your heel, using your glutes & hammies to drive your fairly relaxed knee & everything below it down, but simultaneously keeping your feet relatively flat and moving them in little circles (not coincidentally, the diameter of your cranks). With clip pedals & rigid shoes, quads do more work than with flat pedals, but they shouldn’t be your main source of power. Quad-heavy cycling is guaranteed knee pain & injury. Quads & the smaller muscle groups in your lower legs stabilize your knees & feet, plus give you some power through the rest of the pedal circle, but glutes and hammies should be the kings. As you learn to isolate different muscle groups, you can become a distance god by alternating between them. My glutes and hammies will be screaming at the top of a hill or after a hard interval, but downhill or in the resting interval, that’s when you can alternate your calves and glutes under low stress & let the big guns rest. I’m lucky to have learned good form early in life (and been a nerd who avoided contact sports), because I have ridden hundreds of thousands of miles, I’m in my mid-50s, and my knees & hips don’t hurt.

Tl;dr: Sharp pain and persistent localized aches are bad, they are usually caused by improper bike fit, find the problem and fix it before they get worse.

Wow. Thank you. What an incredibly informative read. You’re a real mensch for taking the time to write that up.

Yeah, that was really something!

I’m glad you liked it, hopefully it can help get some folks on the path to injury-free cycling. There are literally entire books on the biomechanics of cycling, I’m just barely scratching the surface here. If you want to ride a lot but keep getting unwarranted pain or injury, it’s worth the money to have a professional fitting done.

I’ve got 45 days in a row and counting! Nothing too intense… I usually do 20 minute rides, occasionally 30.

We’re heading out of town away from the bike next weekend so I guess I’ll have to do some little workouts on the app if I want to keep my daily streak going.

I’ve noticed that with the arrival of Spring and the growing sense that the pandemic is over, the number of Zwift riders has fallen off a cliff. Is there any way to know if Peloton is going through the same cycle (no pun intended)? I haven’t checked any of their SEC filings. My hypothesis is that the Peloton market is more like the market for gyms, and will be more resilient, while Zwift is more of an off-season cyclist market and isn’t going to recover well in the US.

The hours I usually ride (8pm to 10pm Pacific Time), during winter there would be 5,000+ people on, sometimes up to 7500 (when I looked at similar hours in Europe, there would be 22,000 - 25,000 people on - too bad that is just after lunch for me). Now users have been dropping by 50% a week. Fridays are always a little lower, pandemic be damned, but tonight there were only ~1750 on, world-wide!

Many Zwift users are cyclists who use it to stay in shape and do a little training during the winter months, but apparently most stayed on during the warmer months of 2020 due to the pandemic. But lots of them chatted and posted about longing to be back out on the actual road, and now I think they are. You earn xp and in-game currency more quickly riding in groups, so kind of a bummer to see the virtual roads so empty. On the other hand, that means less competition, and tonight I won my first green jersey for the best time on a sprint segment (you keep winner jerseys for an hour, unless you are beaten or log off). It helped a lot that there were only 68 people on the timer list! I’m usually very happy to make the top 30% when up against the usual 350-500 people, there are always a bunch of A-class riders who blow my doors off (or whatever gets blown off a bike).

So Peloton folks, have you seen any decrease in the number of live classes, or attendees? Is there any way to see how many others are online at the same time? They sold so many bikes during the pandemic that they quit advertising in the US, and the stock (PTON) peaked at $169, giving them a market cap of almost $50 billion. But they were still losing money, and now the short-sellers have come after them saying they won’t replace gyms once the pandemic is over. PTON crashed hard starting about the middle of February to mid-March, and has been bouncing around $100-$115 since.

Zwift isn’t even in the same ballpark of cash and size. It is still private, and has received about $1 billion in investment. If their user base (especially in the US) drops off significantly & permanently over the warm months of 2021, they will surely have cash flow problems if they don’t already. At $15/month, they aren’t really raking it in. They are just starting to move into hardware design & eventual sales (they have been hiring hardware people for a few months, and just acquired a company that makes electric motors - the smaller alternative to a flywheel in a smart trainer), but they are a long way from being a competitor to Peleton. Plus, the biggest smart trainer manufacturer (who also have been selling all they can make during the pandemic) just hired a reasonably-sized software team that looks like it will be making a Zwift competitor.

I feel like I am talking about MMORPGs in 2005.

I dropped Zwift because I started to listen to audio books while riding and determined that I was no longer watching the screen. I am on a Spin Bike so I mainly used Zwift for something to watch while riding. But is watching worth 15 bucks a month? I switched to the RideSocial App on iOS which lets me see something as I ride and I can choose to pay one time for the routes I want.

I then used the 15 bucks I was spending on a Valheim Server.

I’ve still never had the confidence to join a live class.

It’s crazy Pelaton fought so hard against this. It’s even crazier they didn’t design a safeguard in the first place; it’s common on other treadmills.

non-paywall BBC

Goddamn it the reply bots are out in full force on the BBC twitter - ‘it’s not a product problem, it’s a parenting problem!’