5 Hacks That Will Make Any Bike Feel Like a Peloton (Without Wasting $2K)

A woman eats pizza while exercising on a stationary bike.
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The pandemic had more people looking for ways to stay fit without stepping foot in a gym, and it looks like Peloton is one of the most popular options these days.

The at-home spin bike that offers thousands of on-demand and live spin, strength, yoga and meditation classes helped grow the company’s revenue to $1.8 billion by the end of 2020, up 100% from the previous year.

But at a whopping $1,895 for the bike and delivery — or $2,045 for the bike plus shoes, delivery, bike weights and headphones — and delayed deliveries, you may be wondering about other options for getting your cycling sweat on.

The good news is, you don’t have to have Peloton-style money to enjoy Peloton-style fitness.  We pulled together a list of alternatives that’ll give your muscles — not your wallet — a good workout.

Here’s How to Build a Cheaper Peloton Alternative

Use the App

A Peloton monthly membership is $40, but the price for the app alone is $13 per month. The app offers essentially the same experience as a membership; the difference is that those on the app don’t get to see their place on the leaderboard.

Use your app on your phone, tablet or any device, and pop it on any bike. You can also stream it to your TV on Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku and Android TV.

Cost: $13/month

Pair the App With a Cheaper Bike…

Choosing the right bike to serve as your Peloton alternative is critical. Many brands of spin bikes are available at the moment, and they all appear to look and do the same thing.

Spoiler alert: They don’t.

You could get a really inexpensive bike — some cost as low as $100 — but the bikes could be stiff, prone to breaking, or uncomfortable, and they may not come with the ability to read your metrics.

Because you’re probably going to log many hours on this bike per week, you’re going to want a solid alternative. Remember: A bike that hurts you when you ride it is a bike that you probably won’t ride at all.

The most popular choice, by far, is the Sunny bike. At $399, It’s still relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to the Peloton. It even looks like the Peloton, and you can adjust the resistance, the wheel is smooth and it’s got wheels to make it easy to maneuver around your home.

The Sunny exercise bike isn’t flimsy, whereas many of the other spin bikes in this price range wobble, and it feels similar to spin bikes you’ll find at most standard gyms. This bike should take about a half hour to put together, or you can pay to have someone assemble it for you.

Cost: $399 (if you get the Sunny bike)

…or Use the Bike You Already Have

If you already own a bicycle, you’re in luck! You can turn your outdoor bike into a stationary spin bike with a simple attachment.

The Sportneer Magnetic Bike Trainer Stand turns any bike into a spin bike. It’ll also reduce the noise coming from your wheels so it should be just as quiet as a spin bike. The stand has six resistance settings, which you can control from the handlebar.

When you’re done, you can fold up the attachment and store it into the closet, and your bike is ready to hit the road again.

Cost: $130

Buy Some Sensors for Your Ride

During Peloton classes, the instructors will ask you to adjust your cadence and your resistance. This is key to following along during the spin classes and getting a great workout.

But many of the spin bikes — Sunny included — don’t come with the sensors you’ll need. Fortunately, they’re easy enough to buy and install.

The cadence sensor is a must-have so you’ll know how hard you’re going. (It’s the difference between riding on a flat road and going up a hill.) This Wahoo cadence sensor is $40 on Amazon, and it pairs really well with most spin bikes, including the Sunny bike.

It’s also nice to have a speed sensor so you know how far you’ve gone. You can usually find speed and the cadence sensors bundled together, like this one from Wahoo, which can be purchased for $70.

Cost: Between $40-$70

Find an App for Speed and Cadence

Since your Peloton app won’t tell you your speed and cadence, you’ll need another app to connect to your bike that’ll tell you all your workout stats. Ideally, you’ll want to know your cadence, speed, calories burned, distance and time.

The sensors mentioned above will be able to collect all of this data for you, but the app is how you’ll actually know what the data says.  Most sensors should come with an app, so if you’re buying the ones from Wahoo, you’ll get the Wahoo Fitness app, which is free and connects wirelessly to the sensors.

Cost: Free

Set Up Your Tablet or TV

You could always use your phone for your Peloton workout, but if you have a tablet, you can prop it up on your spin bike so it really mimics a Peloton. Any tablet will do, but a larger screen is better because you’ll really get an immersive that way experience. If you don’t have a stand for your tablet, you may want to invest in one.

You can also put your bike in front of a TV, and use Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku and Android TV to log onto your Peloton app.

Cost: Depends on what you already have

Nice-to-Have Accessories

You don’t have to have these accessories to get a good Peloton-style workout in, but if you’ve got some extra cash, you may want to consider investing in these accessories.

Cycling Shoes and Cleats

Some bikes, like the Sunny, come with adjustable toe cages, which allow you to wear your sneakers while you ride. But cycling shoes will up your game; their stiff soles offer maximum power and the shoes themselves are light. You’ll notice that you’ll be able to go faster and harder with a good pair of cycling shoes.

There’s a wide range of cycling shoes on the market, and you can really run the gamut depending on what you’d like to spend. Be aware, though, that cycling shoes can be pricy, and even a solid affordable pair — like the Nike SuperRep Cycle — could set you back $120. However, if you find yourself really getting into indoor cycling, you may want to consider this investment.

Also, you’ll need some tools to make the bike compatible for the cycling shoes, which have cleats. The Shimano SH-56 Multi-Directional Release SPD Cleats will do the trick for $15.

Cycling Shorts

Many people like to wear bike shorts when they spin, as these are flexible, comfortable and add extra padding on the bottom. These bike shorts from Old Navy cost $20 for two pairs, so you don’t have to spend a ton on expensive cycling shorts to give them a spin.

If your bike seat is uncomfortable, see if you get used to it in a few days. If not, you can add a bike seat cover, like the Schwinn Sport Memory Foam Bike Seat Cover, which is $19 at Target.com.

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.