The Road To 50k: You Spin Me Right Round, Peloton

As an amateur endurance athlete who has to strategically squeeze workouts into an excessively busy work schedule, I have always struggled to make time for consistent cross training. It’s hard enough to fit runs and strength training into each week. Finding that extra time to bike or swim or row or whatever frequently feels impossible, especially during the winter months.

Who wants to cycle in the snow? Not this guy.
Who wants to cycle in the snow? Not this guy.

Now, I love cycling … but I’m a fair weather road rider. Cincinnati winters can be wicked and I’m just not that big of a bad ass to hop on my road bike when the days are short, cold, and frequently frosted. I’m also not a huge fan of indoor “trainers,” which feel too artificial for my tastes. I know plenty of serious cyclists who love their trainers and their Zwift workouts, so I’m sure it’s a personal problem!

I’ve occasionally dropped in on spinning classes at Cyclebar, and generally enjoyed the experience, but the cost of those classes quickly adds up once you run out of “introductory” passes.

After spending most of the last year succumbing to and recovering from running-related injuries, though, it became painfully clear that just running more would not be my path to new PRs. As I began last fall’s racing season in a pretty compromised state, I knew it was time to train smarter.

I had been intrigued by Peloton’s approach to live studio spin classes at home for a while now, so that seemed like a good lead as I began researching in-home options for cross training. I had three primary concerns, though:

  1. The bike itself would feel too insubstantial, like the exercise bikes of my youth rather than the formidable modern spin bikes used at studios like Cyclebar, making out-of-the-saddle riding nearly impossible;
  2. The rides would have the same “artificial” feeling that bothered me when I used my trainer, resulting in one more piece of fitness equipment gathering dust in the basement;
  3. I would encounter unanticipated extra costs related to bike maintenance, which would turn an already large investment into a true financial mistake (to financially justify the bike, my wife and I would both cancel our gym memberships).

After speaking with several Peloton users who gushed about the company’s customer service, and after visiting the company’s physical showroom in Columbus for an actual test ride, my wife and I officially took the plunge about six month’s ago.

The output for my "Century Club" ride with Peloton.
The output for my “Century Club” ride with Peloton.

I completed my 100th and 101st ride this morning (leaderboard name: #kamandicurt), capping off 25 consecutive weeks and 44 consecutive days of rides. It should go without saying, then, that the bike hasn’t been collecting dust in my basement. Instead, it’s become a pretty constant part of my 50k training this winter. The bike provides a solid workout on my cross training days, but it’s also great for warm ups and cool downs before and after runs and strength training. I’ve found that spinning for 20 minutes after a serious strength session definitely expedites my recovery. For my cross training days, I have been particularly impressed by Matt Wilperspower zone training rides. If you get the bike, definitely complete your FTP (Functional Threshold Power) test and input that data for a far more structured training experience. As a firm believer in #StravaOrItDidntHappen, I was also happy to find that the bike works seamlessly with that beloved app.

With all of that said, I also welcomed a pair of XPO technicians to my house this morning to replace the bearings on my flywheel. I definitely didn’t expect to encounter maintenance issues this soon. My bike’s issue seems to be a pretty common manufacturing defect, which I first noticed in December. It took Peloton’s service technicians well over a month to even respond to my request for maintenance, which really was quite disappointing, but they have been very proactive about trying to “make good” on that mistake ever since.

Joining Peloton's Century Club on Feb. 8, 2019.
Joining Peloton’s Century Club on Feb. 8, 2019.

After 100 rides, I’m still happy with our decision to ride with Peloton. The bike is solid, the community is engaged, and most of the instructors are the real deal. I am glad we purchased the extended warranty, though, because I suspect this won’t be the last time that XPO technicians have to visit my house. For now, though, I’m going to keep riding and see how this aspect of my training pays off once the spring racing season begins. Stay tuned.

If you’re considering a Peloton purchase of your own, I would recommend that you:

  • Purchase the extended warranty. These bikes take a lot of punishment, so it’s very likely that you’ll need maintenance eventually … even if you’re religious in your day-to-day upkeep on the bike.
  • Use a heart rate monitor, but don’t bother with the Peloton-brand heart rate monitor. I use Scosche’s Rhythm24 armband heart rate monitor for both my runs and my rides. The monitor pairs seamlessly with my GPS watch and my bike.
  • Don’t bother with the Peloton-brand headphones, either. I find the cord for the headphones to be incredibly distracting. If you need to ride with headphones, consider a wireless option.
  • Take the FTP test and add your best average output number into your Account Settings. Having your power zones display on your touchscreen is super helpful. You can find a simple walkthrough here.

Have other questions? Feel free to leave a comment and I’ll share my “two cents.”

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