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When lockdown was announced in March, fitness fanatics were forced to adjust their workout regimes to account for gym closures.
The demand and subsequent sales of at-home fitness equipment skyrocketed by 170 per cent by the end of our first month in lockdown, and the wealth of online classes rapidly increased.
Barry’s Bootcamp, for example, offered free Instagram Live sessions throughout the day, and later launched “Barry’s At-Home”, a virtual “live red room” providing daily strength, HIIT, and conditioning classes via Zoom. These at-home classes proved such a success that they will continue despite studios being open again; demonstrating the continued demand for at-home fitness.
If you too are reconsidering your expensive gym membership in favour of at-home equipment and virtual classes, investing in an exercise bike is a great place to start.
When looking to get the most out of your spin sessions there are a few important things to consider. Firstly, set up is essential, check that your seat is the right height and is far enough forward and that your handlebars are set to a comfortable level; if you're new to spinning it's recommended that you go for a slightly higher height.
Secondly, think about the amount of resistance you are adding; a faster speed doesn't always equal a better workout, particularly if you are bouncing up and down in the saddle. To combat this, you want to make sure there's enough resistance on the wheel.
Paying attention to your form is also important, so make sure that your shoulders are relaxed, your spine is neutral and your core is engaged. Once you've got this sorted, it's time to enjoy the ride.
Serious exercise bikes don't come cheap, but if you're looking to make the investment, turn to Peloton or Wattbike since these are the leading manufacturers of high-end indoor bikes.
Peloton has been dubbed the best way to work out from home, and has acquired a cult following thanks to its upbeat and motivational classes as part of its subscription memebership. Wattbike, on the other hand, is best known for authentically mimicking the sensation of riding outside and is loved by keen cycling athletes.
In a bid to find out which one comes out best, we put both brands to the test – reviewing ease of use, comfort and additional extras, including classes.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Connectivity: Wifi, 100 Mbps ethernet, Bluetooth for headphones and heart rate monitors,
Display: 21.5in HD screen
Weight: 61.2 kg
Size: 149.9 x 134.6 x 58.5 cm
Peloton is a New York-based fitness company that has taken the indoor cycling world by storm with its high-tech at-home spin bikes. It has amassed a large fan base including the likes of Barack and Michelle Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio.
The brand's offering is multi-faceted. As well at the bike itself, it provides an interactive fitness program that offers users virtual access to studio-style workouts with real-life instructors that guide you through a spinning session.
The easy (sweat-proof) touchscreen interface is positioned between the adjustable handlebars, and you can join classes – livestreamed or pre-recorded – at any time of day. With thousands of hour's worth of content, there really is something for everyone. When choosing a specific class, you can filter by length, class type (such as beginner, intervals, metrics), instructor (our favourite is Hannah Frankson), and music genre. Much like an ordinary spin class, instructors provide a ballpark for where your resistance and cadence (speed) should be. The classes are high in quality and intensity, and the upbeat instructors provide the perfect amount of motivation needed.
If you need further incentive to keep going, the bike's screen shows a leaderboard (something you can hide should you wish), displaying your output compared with those who have already completed the same class or who are currently in the same session. This data can be filtered to select people who are the same demographic as you. And there's even the option to virtually high five people who are riding at the same time as you. Perhaps the fiercest competition though is the fact you're always riding against your personal record. Racing against past versions of yourself serves as a reminder of how quickly exercise bikes can improve your overall fitness.
The app is not exclusive to cycling, it also has a range of additional classes including yoga, audio-guided running, post-ride stretches, and strength training. All of which can be streamed via the bike's installed interface, your phone, or on your TV using Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Chromecast and AirPlay.
If you look beyond the classes on offer, the bike itself is comfortable and will suit all shapes and sizes. The wheels use magnetic resistance that can be adjusted in one per cent increments via the red handle beneath the handlebars. While the workout data isn't at quite the same level as Wattbike's offering, you can still view time (elapsed and remaining), speed, distance, resistance, calories burned, and heart rate (if your monitor has been connected). There's also a range of helpful guidance videos that you can watch, with advice on everything from adjusting the height of the handlebars and seat, to the correct form.
As you might expect from something of this high calibre, it comes with a hefty price tag. The bike itself costs £1,750, but the intial purchase also requires you to sign up to its subscription service (where you'll find all of the classes), which costs £39 a month. You can cancel this at any tine, but to get any real value out of the bike, we'd recommend factoring this in.
You can opt to buy the bike using Peloton's financing options, meaning you can get the bike for £45 per month over 39 months. With a continual subscription to the app, it will set you back £91 a month for the financing period, which is roughly the same price as a premium gym membership, and once it's paid off, £39 is less than a normal gym membership. Really the only downside to the Peloton is its steep price, but we do think, if you can afford it, it's totally worth it.
While motivational messages during your workout sessions might not be for everyone, each class is positive and enjoyable, while also being addictive and tough. This bike really will transform everything you know about working out from home.
Buy now £1750.00, Peloton
Connectivity: ANT+, FE-C and Bluetooth for tablet or smartphone and heart rate monitors
Size: 100cm x 50cm x 150cm
Wattbike has long been the master of professional level indoor cycling equipment – way before spin classes were a thing. The atom is the brand’s most accessible bike in its range, which launched in 2017. Perfected over 10 years working with athletes and sport scientists, the brand claims this model offers the most authentic ride feel of any smart bike.
Tailored towards road cyclists who are looking to improve their performance, fitness and form, it’s less of a beginner’s bike and better suited towards keen cyclists who want to get a ride in, but don’t fancy braving the bad weather outside.
Unlike the Peloton, the Atom doesn’t have a display screen, rather you connect your own device to the bike – our advice is to opt for an iPad or tablet that has a larger screen to make following routes more enjoyable. The process of connecting via ANT+, FE-C or Bluetooth is seamless.
What it lacks in enthusiastic personal trainers encouraging you to keep going, it makes up for with data-heavy features that sync to fitness training apps such as Strava and Zwift.
The Hub app (the brand’s training and analysis platform) has more content than you’ll ever need – including a range of warm-ups and cool-downs, detailed training plans, famous tracks, live races and challenges. The route or ride you select syncs with the bike, meaning you can either opt for a normal, manual ride where you adjust the gears and go at your own pace, or switch to "ergo: mode, which changes the resistance for you, excellently mimicking the inclines and hills of a normal road ride; a standout USP.
In comparison to the Peloton, the Atom is loud when in use, so if you can, we’d suggest placing a mat or rug underneath. When it comes to its appearance, much like the Peloton, it’s a good looking bike. The lightweight steel frame makes it easy to move around, and it's compact enough that it will not take up too much space. The handlebars and seat are fully adjustable, and you can even change the pedals and seat if you have alternatives you’d rather use.
Buy now £1899.00, Wattbike
The verdict: Peloton vs Wattbike
Arguably the bikes are aimed at slightly different audiences – one is more concerned with motivational spin-style classes and entertaining encouragement, while the other is better suited to keen cyclists looking for something that will mimic the feel of being on a road bike.
If you're a serious cyclist looking to improve your performance and track improvements, it's got to be the Wattbike Atom; its ability to mimic road racing and the analytics on offer are faultless.
But, if you're a spin class newbie or even a fanatic, there's really nothing better than the Peloton. What it doesn’t provide in the sort of data and feedback a lot of competitive cyclists will want; it makes up for in entertaining, hardcore and enjoyable workouts. Nearly every possible music taste is catered for, and the classes on offer really do provide something for everyone. While the initial price point is steep, if you think of it as a gym membership, we think it is totally worth every penny.
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