How to ‘Peloton’ on a Budget

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Echelon Peloton

The Peloton Experience is so much more than the Peloton bike. Here’s how to “Peloton” for a fraction of the cost.

January 2020 was full of such promise. Like many of you, I started a new exercise regimen, but then the pandemic hit. Gyms were closed and at-home fitness equipment became a commodity. Prices skyrocketed on exercise equipment as people were either unable or unwilling to attend a gym during the global health crisis.

I heard a lot about the cult that is Peloton but haven’t experienced it for myself until recently. I never tried cycling before and the cost of the actual Peloton bike is between $1,895 and $2,495 depending on the model you choose.

I was not willing to shell out that sort of money, so I sought out other options. Late last year I bought a used exercise bike off of Facebook Marketplace and began taking some cycling classes people posted on YouTube. This worked well as I wasn’t committed to cycling just yet. I had never taken a class in my life and I needed some low-impact cardio to get my blood pumping. 

Fast forward to January 2021. I am rehabbing a shoulder injury from December 2020 and in desperate need of some physical activity. Peloton was offering up a free two-month trial at the time so I decided to give it a shot. I instantly fell in love. The classes are great. The music selection is great. The instructors are great. I was hooked.

My Setup

The Bike

Echelon ConnectI said I started with a used exercise bike I bought off of Facebook Marketplace, but about a month ago I had an opportunity to upgrade. I upgraded from a chain-driven, friction resistance bike to one that was belt-driven with magnetic resistance. After some back and forth with what bike I wanted to go with I decided on the Echelon EX-15

The Echelon had a couple of points over the competition for me:

  1. The ability to connect via Bluetooth to view resistance levels. (More on that later.)
  2. A strong community of Echelon/Peloton Riders.

All that with magnetic resistance and a near-silent belt drive for under $500.

The Apps

Alright, this is where things get a little complicated, but I promise you it all makes sense in the long run. Well, at least it does for me. And keep two things in mind… this setup works for me since I have an Echelon bike and I am invested in iOS.

There are 4 apps I use:

  1. Peloton Digital app$12.99 per month
  2. qDomyos-zwif‪t‬$3.99 one-time
  3. Strava – Free
  4. Apple Health/Fitness – Free

The Echelon EX-15 comes with its own mobile app, Echelon Fit. The app includes live and on-demand classes. They offer this for about $40 a month. The app does offer a freestyle mode where you can do whatever workout you want and the app will show you your resistance, cadence, output, etc. This option is available without a subscription. 

I was already invested in the far-superior Peloton digital app so I stayed with the Peloton app because I enjoy the classes, the instructors, and the community. The $12.99 a month price was about how much I was paying for the budget gym I never went to.

There were a couple of issues with the Peloton app, though. How can I get my cadence and heart rate to show on my iPad screen? 

This is where the qDomyos-zwif‪t‬ app comes to save the day!

The qDomyos-Zwift app developed by Roberto Viola for iOS and Android allows users to create a Bluetooth connection between a treadmill or exercise bike and the popular online, virtual training world of Zwift. The qDomyos-Zwift app also allows users to create a customizable dashboard displaying various real-time metrics including elapsed time, speed, cadence, resistance, instantaneous output, average output, and power training zone among others. Source

qdomyos-zwift ScreenshotWith the qDomyos-Zwift app, I can connect the app to the Echelon EX-15 to record and display my cadence in the Peloton app. I can also connect the app to my Apple Watch to record and display my heart rate in the Peloton app. The app also includes a resistance calculator that takes the resistance you have set on the Echelon and converts that number to one that would be equivalent to the Peloton. This way you can have an idea of what resistance you need to be at in order to keep in step with the class.

This data is saved in the Peloton app and syncs up with my Apple Health/Fitness. (Gotta close them rings!) The data is also synced with Strava.

So, why use Strava and Apple Health? 

Strava ScreenshotThe Peloton app shows you your cadence and heart rate over the course of your workout. It also includes an estimate of calories burned. The heart rate and calorie estimate are imported into Apple Health/Fitness along with the time spent working out. These are the only metrics that appear in Apple Health/Fitness.

The reason I use Strava is to have a record my power output. Your output is probably the best gauge of how difficult or easy a ride was for you. It allows you to see how much effort you are putting into your workouts. A higher average power output over time could indicate that you are getting stronger. I’m a Project Manager and an analyst. I’m all about metrics and I like seeing those metrics, good or “bad”.  I can also track how many miles I rode that week which I can use for bragging rights later on. Strava also syncs with Fitbod, which is the app I use for my weight training routine. If you were to pay for Strava, perhaps there are more analysis and metrics available, but the free version works for me for now. 

The Hardware

Outside of the Echelon EX-15 bike, I use:

  • An Apple Watch to monitor my heart rate. 
  • An iPad Pro to view the classes.
  • An iPhone 12 Pro to view my stats. (Unnecessary since you can use the qDomyos-zwif‪t‬ on the iPad Pro with slide-over multitasking.)

None of this is a perfect one-to-one/apples-to-apples scenario. It certainly doesn’t replicate the Peloton experience, but it comes damn close. And really, at the end of the day, it is all about finding what works best for you to keep you motivated and moving forward towards your fitness goals.