We blame Peloton for creating a whole new world of Bluetooth- and electronics-enabled “connected fitness.” For a monthly fee, members have access to not just a workout on their fancy spin bike with an attached screen, but an entire like-minded community of fitness enthusiasts in a competitive experience that’s been compared to a video game, including addictive thrills. And that was all before the pandemic happened; after March 2020, the company reported a sales surge of 172 percent.

But before dropping $2,495 on the brand new Peloton+ model and committing to the $39 monthly membership fee, we’d suggest doing a comparison shop to make sure that all of Peloton’s bells and whistles are exactly what you want in a stationary bike. Maybe you’re better suited to the Echelon Smart Connect, which costs $999 but swaps out the Peloton’s 22-inch screen for a holder that displays your own iPad. Or the Myx, which starts at $1,299 and includes its own pivoting screen (plus a $29 per month app). Perhaps you’d prefer hacking your own home rider experience, using hardware from one company and an app from another? Regardless, we’re here to find the right workout equipment for you.

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What to Consider Before Buying a Stationary Bike

What are your fitness habits and goals?

Ask yourself—honestly—how often you'll be working out each week, then multiply that by the cost of a spin class at your favorite studio. Divide that number by the cost of the bike, to see how many weeks it will take for your hardware to equal what you would have paid IRL. In our experience, this helps guilt us into getting off the couch and onto the bike.

Are you looking for a competitive experience?

People we spoke with had strong opinions about the culture of Peloton classes, with their cheerleading teachers and public leaderboard encouraging competition. (The Peloton Bike+ even has an “auto-follow” functionality that changes the resistance for you, per the teacher’s instructions.) “I knew exactly what I didn’t want, and that would be things like competitive leader boards and social media status,” said PureWow Senior Editor, Branded Content Cristina Gutierrez. Instead of go-go aggro teachers, Gutierrez says “I need someone to be like "you’re doing great sweetie speed up if you want, but no pressure."

Consider hidden costs

You’ll be paying for a membership in either your bike makers’ accompanying app or a competitors’, as well as investing in ancillary equipment that might include cycling shoes, a heart rate monitor, a mat to place your equipment on to prevent sliding, weights and more. Also, warranties can be tricky: Peloton, for example, has a 12 months labor warranty, but only if the bike is not moved after Pelton originally installed it in your home.

What about the extras?

Keep an eye out for the features that are important to you. Do you want a padded seat? Adjustable handlebars and seat? What kind of bike shoes do you already own? Will multiple family members use the bike? Make sure the model you choose meets your needs before pulling the trigger.

The Best Basic Stationary Bikes

These simple bikes don’t include the extras that have made Peloton such a sensation—they don’t ask you to create a username, or collect your metrics, or have glossy screens. But they can be solid, trustworthy pieces of equipment and can often be used in tadem with whatever biking app you prefer.

Schwinn

1. Schwinn IC2

This bike is sturdy and solid, according to reviewers, but there’s no media rack for your iPad, only an LCD screen that reports speed, RPM, distance, time and calories. The seat and handlebars are adjustable using screws, and the flywheel resistance is controlled via knob on the main frame. And since the pedals have cages—instead of spin shoe anchors—anyone can ride this bike in a normal pair of sneakers. One user who uses the Peloton app with this bike has come up with a creative workaround: “The Schwinn bike does not display resistance levels. One tip I have if you're using the Peloton app is to go and try the Peloton bike at one of their showrooms. You'll get a good feel for what a resistance level 20/40/60 feels like, so you can adjust accordingly with the Schwinn bike,” they suggest.

$519 at Amazon

Amazon

2. MaxCare Magnetic Stationary

Overall, the feel of the MaxCare Magnetic bike is that of a studio bike that uses manual tension adjustments. A simple LCD monitor on the bike displays your time, speed, distance, calories burned and RPM, and there’s a tablet holder (whether you use it for a cycling app or just to binge Netflix is up to you). Built with adjustable handles and seat that can accommodate riders from 4’11” to 6’3”, this bike gets bonus points for its mobility. It weighs less than 90 pounds (but can hold up to 264 pounds) and has transport wheels, so one person can easily reposition it without throwing their back out or scratching the floor. “The reason I bought this particular bike was the four-way adjustable seat and handlebars, which are heavily reinforced and solid, and the belt drive and magnetic resistance,” says one user. “The latter likely account for why this bike feels so smooth at many different cadences.” One note: Shipping takes from three weeks to a month.

$370 at Amazon

Bowflex

3. Bowflex C6

“Basically, when it came down to it for us the Bowflex was cheaper overall,” one user says about his preferred Peloton alternative. “We like that you can use different apps for it if you want, and you can use spinning shoes or not.” Since the bike doesn’t come with a screen, these users got a Kindle Fire and subscribed to the basic Peloton app for $12 a month—which doesn’t include live classes or the competitive leader board. This Bowflex includes a pair of three-pound dumbbells, which hang on the handlebars when not in use, and a Bluetooth enabled heart rate armband monitor. The warranty plan is more extensive than Peloton’s, too—the frame is covered for 10 years versus five, and mechanical parts and labor are covered for three years versus one. Bluetooth connectivity lets you connect with not only the Peloton app, but also Zwift and Explore the World apps.

Buy It ($999)

The Best Stationary Bikes with Streaming Classes

For a next-level home workout experience, you’re jumping to a higher number of features and a heftier price tag. Basically, these bikes aim to serve you what you like best about the in-class experience—high-quality instructors and a lot of biofeedback data—plus camaraderie. Most companies let users defray the high price of the bike by financing it, which makes it easier to compare the monthly cost of your bike, plus whatever app you use, to what you’d usually spend on classes in a studio setting.

Echelon

4. Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX3

Echelon’s got padded handlebars and a cool space-age design that only takes up a small footprint in your home or apartment. It’s got a built-in phone/iPad holder and you can sync your bike to your phone so that it shows your output and cadence while using with the Echelon app ($40 per month), allowing you to choose among numerous daily live classes, a library of on-demand workouts and the ability to compete with friends remotely. Our reviewer said she uses her Echelon bike with the Peloton app, since she prefers their instructors and music. “That means I don't get my cadence/output stats but I don't mind. I kind of prefer it so I'm not obsessively tracking my numbers,” she admits. Plus, the dual-sided pedals allow you to use the cage side if you don’t want to commit to clip-ins.

Buy It ($1,040)

Myx

5. Myx

We spoke with one woman who loves her Myx bike mostly because it doesn’t come with a hardcore competitive tribe and it features a price tag that’s well under $2K. “I wanted something marginally cheaper with high quality and encouraging classes that I didn't have to leave the house for, and that’s exactly what I got with MYX. I purchased one over the holidays because after a year of laziness I was getting a serious COVID Ass (TM) and found a sweet discount. Sure, it’s not the same as being in a dark studio with an emotional instructor giving you a $40 pep talk but it fits snugly into a corner, the screen is AMAZING and it has tons of classes like yoga, HIIT, you name it. I practically have to fight my hubs for it now—the same hubs who, when we purchased it, said he probably wouldn't use it.” Access to classes costs $29 per month, and the built-in screen is just a tad smaller than Peloton’s, at 21.5 inches. There’s a one-year warranty, free delivery in as little as two weeks and full assembly included.

Buy It ($1,299)

Nordictrack

6. NordicTrack S15i

This NordicTrack bike gets high marks for its iFit app, which not only gives you the interactive ability to compete with your fellow users on performance in live classes, it lets instructors adjust your equipment for you, so you don’t have to fiddle with resistance. And best of all, it’s got a bunch of rides in which you follow your leader through some of the world’s most beautiful locations like water’s edge cruising in Patagonia and mountain climbs in New Zealand. The iFit app is free for the first year, and $180 annually for individual memberships after that, but in our experience, sales staff are full of deal offers. As for the bike itself, a 14-inch screen pivots so that after, say, a ride through the Swiss Alps, you can dismount, swivel the screen and chill with yoga on the shores of Hawaii. And during live classes, you can even text your trainer questions.

Buy It ($1,599)

The Best Peloton Alternatives That Are Not Bikes

Peloton isn't all about the bike; the brand also has a treadmill and yes, it's just as tricked out as you'd expect. So naturally, a slew of innovative competitors have followed suit. Maybe you want a piece of home equipment that isn’t a bike, but you’d like the assurance that there are digital classes out there to keep you challenged? Here are three additional options.

Mirror

7. Mirror

The sleekest and most minimalist home gym we’ve seen, all you need to set your Mirror up is a bare wall. It’s been a pandemic sensation among all sorts of gym goers, dance class members, boxing enthusiasts, barre class devotees, yogis, bootcamp types because there’s something for everyone in these thousands of classes that range from 5 to 60 minutes. Monthly membership costs $39, and that lets you access the entire library of classes as well as work out with friends remotely (and, yes, compete, if that’s your thing). Additionally, you can arrange a private live session for $40 a pop, in case you want totally individualized attention.

Buy It ($1,495)

Fightcamp

8. Fightcamp

You get a free-standing punching bag, gloves, hand wraps and punch-tracking sensors to create your own home boxing studio. Fightcamp is a rather innovative way to really get your frustration out while building skill, muscles and endurance. The equipment takes two weeks to deliver, and you’ll need to maintain a $39 per month membership to access hundreds of pre-taped workout sessions that can be viewed via an iPhone app that tracks your progress.

Buy It ($1,219)

Tempo

9. Tempo

Have limited space, and can’t bear to have a treadmill or stationary bike staring at you from across your bedroom? The Tempo is a great alternative, since it’s got $1,000 worth of workout equipment stored inside a sleek cabinet that’s attached to a smart training system. On-demand and live classes give you instant feedback as you lift weights or do squats because sensors built into the cabinet’s screen can tell if you’re lifting correctly, standing up straight and all the other things that trainers tend to nag about. You’re required to commit to a year’s membership ($39 per month) along with the purchase, so you’re going to pay for all this tech. But also, the weights are such pretty colors!

Buy It ($1,995)

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