I bought a cheap, DIY Peloton. It’s good, but not the real thing.
It’s relatively cheap. • It doesn’t take up too much space. • The ride is relatively smooth. • Paired with the Peloton digital membership • you’ll get a great workout.
It doesn’t have all the stats and feedback you’ll get with a real Peloton. • The ride isn’t as good as super-expensive alternatives.
A DIY Peloton set-up with a Cyclace bike and a few accessories is a really solid alternative to the real deal.
It’s tough to remain active in a pandemic.
Even as restrictions have loosened in some U.S. states, we’re all still far more tucked away in our homes than usual — and for good reason, since it helps cut down the transmission of a virus that has now killed more than 500,000 people globally.
But, again, that makes it hard to move around. Since they can’t go to their usual gym or fitness studio, many people have gone looking for an at-home exercise solution, myself included. My fiancée and I enjoy spinning classes, an impossibility nowadays, considering a workout studio feels like the perfect environment for viral spread.
So while I enjoy jogging — perhaps a bit too much — we went searching for a cycling alternative we could use at home. We’re not the only ones seeking a spin class replacement. Peloton, the company that makes the premier, at-home spinning bike and experience, has seen sales jump 66 percent during the pandemic.
So yeah… my fiancée, myself, and a couple of other family members with whom we’re quarantining went searching for a Peloton experience without the Peloton price tag. I’d say we arrived on something pretty damn good, if imperfect.
After a bit of back and forth, we ended up buying this Cyclace spinning bike. To be frank, we chose it for a couple of reasons. It was relatively cheap at $369.99. It had decent reviews. It was available to be delivered via Amazon during a time when it was near impossible to get an indoor bike, as they were sold out left and right.
And while a Peloton bike is a beautiful piece of machinery — seriously, it’s like a piece of art — the Cyclace is a decent-looking indoor cycling bike… you know, as far as fitness equipment goes.
After about ten rides, I’d say the experience is pretty good. Let me define pretty good.
It’s a decent spin bike. The ride is relatively smooth, the handlebars jut out into an H-shape of sorts, which allows for different holds, and the seat is wide and comfy, unlike a typical saddle. (To me, the seat was a plus but for purists, it may be a negative.) You adjust the pedal resistance by using a big red knob and, in general, it’s easy to get a really good Peloton workout on the bike. You feel like you’re spinning. That was a big concern of mine — would it feel like spinning or would it feel like riding a clunky, old-school exercise bike?
The spin bike also seems to have been designed to fashion yourself a DIY Peloton. There’s a little calculator-esque monitor that tells you your speed, distance, and calorie count. There’s also a nifty little tablet holder. Both of these come in handy when you’re using the Peloton app. (Much more on that later.)
Now let be clear: I’ve never ridden an actual Peloton. But I have gone to classes at both SoulCycle and Flywheel, which are similarly pricey Peloton competitors. The Cyclace sure as hell isn’t as nice as a Peloton bike. Frankly, it would be nuts if the Cyclace was as nice — again, a Peloton costs more than $2,000.
The main difference is that a real Peloton bike uses a high-end, complicated magnetic resistance system. My spin bike uses a friction pad that I’ll need to grease to keep it from squeaking down the line. The highest level of friction on my bike doesn’t really come close to the highest resistance at, say, SoulCycle. But you rarely or never really use the absolute highest setting anyway.
A great spin bike lets you adjust the seat and handlebars to your exact specifications. My bike lets you make basic adjustments to the seat (both height and distance from handlebars) and handlebars. But the range of adjustment isn’t as exact as you’d get with a really expensive bike.
But again, this sucker costs $369 and when I’m cycling, I get a good sweat and never feel like it’s a bad experience. I’d even say my Peloton hack well overperforms the price-tag.
Some assembly required
If you order the exact bike I did, just be forewarned you’re going to have to put it together. I wouldn’t call myself handy, but I’m capable at basic construction things. It was a total breeze to put together. I’d say I had it done in 45 minutes. Nothing too complicated and it came with all the tools you’ll need.
If you’re dishing out cash for a spinning bike, there’s a good chance you’ll want to do some at-home classes. There are tons of free options on YouTube, but I wanted the full at-home Peloton experience. A digital membership costs $12.99 per month. It’s a pretty good deal. You get access to live classes, a backlog of tons of cycling classes you can pull up anytime, as well as bootcamp classes, running, and yoga. Using the Peloton app, you can access the classes on any smart device, including a TV. (I’ve used it on both an iPad and an Amazon Fire tablet.)
I think the app’s biggest plus is its massive backlog of recorded classes. You can search for a class by hyper-specific requirements: length, type of music, instructor, type of workout, and more.
If you’ve ever taken a spinning class, Peloton will feel familiar. It varies from instructor to instructor, but you can expect the usual barrage of ~motivational~ platitudes you’d get in a live class. One particularly bro-ish Peloton instructor I had kept misinterpreting lyrics to the songs he chose, which I found to be both funny and mildly annoying. A different instructor seemed to always bring up how she just missed out on the Olympics. If that’s your jam, cool. I mostly tune out instructors beyond what they’re telling me to do. Eventually, you’ll find out if you have a favorite instructor though (shoutout to Cody Rigsby, my fiancée’s definite favorite.)
Similarly, with time, you’ll find the classes you like best. I gravitate toward interval-style workouts and rock music. But if you want, say, pop music and endurance workouts, you’ll find those, too.
The workout itself is always good. I leave every single Peloton class sweaty as all hell. They’re really good spinning classes.
But there’s something missing. The DIY set-up makes it impossible to follow along with a Peloton cycle experience perfectly.
The DIY set-up makes it impossible to follow along with a Peloton cycle experience perfectly.
A real Peloton bike has specific measurements for resistance, cadence, and output. Obviously you don’t get that with a DIY setup. But, with time, I started to get a feel for classes enough that I could equate my speed (measured by the analog display) to the cadence dictated by the instructor. I did the same with my resistance knob, keeping a good eye on where I had it set for different parts of rides. As long as you trust yourself to feel how hard you should be working, it’s workable to use the DIY set-up paired with the digital membership.
Will it be as good as the real deal? No. But it works just fine.
If you want to get the most out of your DIY Peloton set-up, you’ll likely have to spend a bit of dough on accessories. I’ll walk through what we did — if you have multiple members of a household interested in this Peloton hack that definitely helps ease the cost — but how far you go is obviously up to you.
You’ll almost certainly want a cycling mat. It helps protect your floor and dulls the noise you’ll make while pedaling. We bought this mat (it’s currently out of stock) for $29 on Amazon and it works great. It’s 64-inches by about 37-inches. If space is a priority in your set-up, we tucked our bike behind an in-swinging door and we don’t need any space beyond the mat’s dimensions.
The pedals and shoes
OK, so here’s where you may incur another pretty major cost. The pedals that come standard for the Cyclace are to be worn with normal athletic shoes. If you’ve ever taken a spin class, you know that the clip-in cycling shoe offers a better experience.
Is it absolutely necessary? No. But I enjoy it much better than the sneaker-experience, which feels more like a trudging, old-school stationary bike experience to me. We bought Shimano, clip-in pedals that cost $50. They were simple to install on the Cyclace, using the same exact method as the standard pedal.
The problem is, once you get clip-in pedals… you need clip-in cycling shoes. That meant, for me, shelling out $85 for a pair of cycling shoes and $12 for a set of cleats. All-in-all an extra $97. Woof.
To be fair, a cycling class at SoulCycle costs more than $30 and you have to pay extra each time to rent cycling shoes. At least now — if I ever feel comfortable going back to a studio — I won’t have to pay for shoes.
And again, to be clear, the shoes and pedals aren’t necessary for a good workout. But I felt they were a worthy investment if I planned to use the bike a lot.
I pretty much only do weight-free classes. I’m cycling for the cardio and have always found the weight sections of classes annoying. But if you want to do classes with weights — my fiancée does from time-to-time — you can always use household items or go for a set like this, which we got for $29. It’s worth noting, though, that weights are out of stock all over the internet. So maybe count on the household item route if you don’t own weights already.
The DIY Peloton isn’t perfect. But if it were, it would cost more than $2,000. It is quite good, however, and a comparatively cheap way to have a nice at-home spinning experience.
If you’re one person buying my exact set-up it’ll run you about $587. That includes the bike, new pedals, cycling shoes, cleats, a mat, a set of weights, and one month of Peloton digital. However, you can usually get a month trial of the app for free.
For comparison’s sake, a Peloton package that includes the bike, a pair of shoes, two weights, earbuds, a mat, a heart rate monitor, but no membership costs $2,494.
And let’s be real: 30 minutes into a 45-minute ride, it doesn’t matter all that much which bike you’re using. You’re going to be sweating your ass off. That’s really all that matters.
I love that I can roll out of bed in the morning, stumble over to the bike, and log a hard workout before signing on to work. For a few blissful minutes, while cooped up in the home, my focus lies entirely on pushing the pedals. Everything else is gone but me and the bike. That’s a godsend during a pandemic.