Best Peloton alternative 2021: Top indoor exercise bikes
Indoor exercise bikes aren’t new. They’re just surging in popularity at the moment — partly because they’re smarter and internet-connected now, and because of viral ads plastered all over Instagram from companies such as Peloton. Not to mention a lot of people have been taking live classes online over the last year because of the pandemic.
Peloton, which went public in 2019, is the maker of a $1,900 indoor bike with a large screen attached to the front, providing access to a $40-per-month subscription service with thousands of live and on-demand cycling classes. By the end of fiscal 2019, Peloton said it sold over 500,000 connected fitness products — and it had just as many subscribers for its peloton classes.
While Peloton’s own high-tech bike and Peloton app is one of the more well-known smart exercise bikes available, it has some shortcomings. For starters, it has a high price tag. The bike’s handlebar also only moves up and down, not fore and aft, which means you can’t adjust it to your liking. It also has a fixed screen that can’t be used to surf the web, watch YouTube videos, or connect to apps. Peloton has become as big of a name as Apple and the iPad or Android.
Many people want a smart exercise bike to help them sweat it out in the morning before work, and while they may love the idea of the Peloton experience, it’s hard to stomach that hefty up-front cost, the price of the monthly subscription service, and the other limitations we described. You read that right—you have to purchase Peloton’s all-access membership separate from the bike itself. Luckily, there are cheaper bikes available, and they’re just as effective as the Peloton.
NordicTrack’s cheaper smart bike is still pretty fancy.
It has a 14-inch HD touchscreen with iFit on-demand and live studio workouts and trainers who can control your machine’s decline, incline, and resistance in real-time. The bike itself features a mechanical shaft to simulate the inclines and declines of actual bike riding. The first year of iFit is free. After that, it costs $39 a month or $33 if prepaid annually. It’s not required, however.
Some say the Myx is a true Peloton clone, as it features a 21.5-inch screen and original, in-house fitness programming. Myx costs just $1,299 (with a monthly membership fee of $29), which means it’s not only comparable to Peloton but also cheaper. It also has reversible pedals (toe-cages on one side with shoe-clips on the other), handlebar height and depth adjusters, and a monitor that can tilt and pivot. NordicTrack’s S15i does too — but it costs $300 more and has a smaller screen.
At $1,700, the VeloCore indoor cycling bike is a true Peloton alternative — especially if you get the model with the 22-inch screen, which brings your cost up to $2,200. If you’re interested in buying a competitor to Peloton and don’t care about saving money, VeloCore is the bike for you.
What’s also interesting about the VeloCore is that it actually lets you lean side to side. The bike chassis can swing left and right, so if you hold that lean during a workout, you will really feel it in your arms and abs. The bike itself has magnetic resistance and looks very premium, with pedals that support both regular and clip-in shoes.
It also runs Bowflex’s JRNY software and service, offering trainer-led and recorded virtual coach classes. There are scenic virtual ride and streaming radio stations, too, plus the ability to sign into streaming services like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. JRNY even supports syncing ride data with other apps, like Peloton.
The service costs $20 a month or $149 annually. You can use the bike without it.
Next up is the Studio Bike Pro from ProForm. It’s also the cheapest option. Let us explain.
Pay $39 a month for an iFit subscription for three years, and the bike is yours for free. That brings your total cost to about $1,400 – which is comparable to other Peloton alternatives. The bike itself comes with a 10-inch screen and offers access to live workouts where trainers can also control your resistance, but not your incline. The seat and handlebars are all adjustable, too.
Honestly, this is probably one of the best values you can get for a Peloton-like cyclist experience.
We’re straying a bit away from the Peloton at this point, but hear us out: The Echelon Smart Connect EX3 is roughly $800 cheaper than the Peloton, and it still offers interactive workouts with certified trainers via your own mobile device and the Echelon app. The fitness app serves up both live and on-demanded classes for $40 a month. Yes, there’s no screen attached to the front of the bike, but there is a handy little spot on the handlebars for you to slide in a phone.
OK, so this stationary bike from Sole is a little different. It has a 300lb weight capacity and features a backlit-LCD display that shows your time, distance, speed, kCal, heart rate monitor, and more. It also has a media device holder in case you want to use your own tablet or phone to stream classes from Peloton’s app or iFit. And it has an adjustable seat, pedals, handlebars, and toe caps to make it a comfortable ride for anyone. So, while Sole lacks a fancy touchscreen, you can still get fit with it and track certain metrics, all while saving cash.
Here’s your decision tree, laid out in a handy chart:
NordicTrack S15i Myx Fitness Myx Bowflex VeloCoreProForm Studio BikeEchelon Connect EX3 Sole SB700Peloton BikeStarting price$1,599$1,299$1,699$0$1,040$699$1895Monthly fee$39$29$20$39$40N/A$39Subscription requirementOptionalRequiredOptionalRequired for 3 yearsOptionalN/ARequiredScreen size (inches)14-inch21.5-inch22-inch or 16-inch10-inchN/AN/A21.5-inch
What’s the best indoor bike without a screen?
So, let’s discuss the Peloton Digital app. If you want to take classes from actual Peloton instructors with real-time shoutouts while using your own traditional indoor exercise bike, just use Peloton’s mobile app. The all-access membership costs $20 a month, comes with a 14-day trial, and can be used with any indoor exercise bike.
It’s not much more expensive than a gym membership, and it offers both live and on-demand classes, though it lacks the leaderboard and on-screen stats like cadence, resistance, output, fitness trackers, and other metrics calculated by the Peloton bike itself. The app includes more than just cycling classes, with class types ranging from low-impact yoga and meditation to high-impact bootcamps and strength training. Of course, if you want to try the Peloton bike itself, the company offers a 30-day home trial with the option of a full refund if it doesn’t meet your needs.
Let’s also not forget YouTube, which is home to countless cycling videos. The point is, you don’t need Peloton’s fancy bike and 22-inch screen to burn calories. With any indoor exercise bike and a mobile device, you can get a similar experience and save yourself thousands.
To get the full Peloton indoor cycling experience in your home gym, but again without breaking the bank, you might want to consider investing in some exercise accessories that come with the Peloton bike. For instance, you should get a bike mat, such as this one from SuperMats. You can also pick up a media device holder (if your bike doesn’t have one) like this expanding tablet mount. You might want to also consider a cadence sensor — we recommend Wahoo’s — and perhaps a pair of dedicated cycling shoes.
Our selection process explained
We put hours of research into compiling this buyer’s guide. We’ve also owned and used the Peloton Bike, and we’ve also owned and used alternative indoor exercise bikes with the various cycling accessories we mentioned. We even poured over bike reviews at CNET, our sister site, and scoured online retailers to find the best deals and learn more about what consumers had to say. While, in the end, any “best list” is subjective, we can confidently say our picks are among the top-rated options available, covering a range of prices, needs, and wants.