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Home / Tips and Tricks / DIY Platoon bike: how you can build your own smart bike cheaply

DIY Platoon bike: how you can build your own smart bike cheaply


Do you want the Peloton experience without the Peloton prize? You have options.


Indoor exercise bikes are nothing new, but almost & # 39; at night Peloton has turned what used to be a boring, repetitive fitness activity, something flashy, exciting … and expensive. With a price tag of more than $ 2200, the "smart bike" from Peloton costs 1

0 times as much as so many "stupid" ones. And that doesn't even include the required subscription for exercise classes that costs $ 40 a month.

Let us abandon the debate about whether the bicycle and service are worth the money. Instead, let's look at ways to get a Platoon-like cycling experience at home for less money – perhaps a lot less.

To start with, I have already tested a handful of affordable Peloton alternatives – "connected" bikes with similar designs and, in some cases, similar offers of spin class. But even then you look at least around $ 900. Surely there must be cheaper do-it-yourself options for cyclists with a limited budget?

There are:

  • You can buy a cheap exercise bike and use it with any number of "experimental" iPad or iPhone apps – including Peloton (see below).
  • You can buy a "trainer" and use the outdoor bike that you already own – again with apps to enhance the experience.

The hardware is actually the easiest part of the comparison, so let's start looking at the software.

Read more: The best smart home-gym tech

It's all about the app (s)

  platoon-ipad-app-screenshot "data-original =" https : // cnet4.cbsistatic.com/img/UgSIzKXojkbPH6sRhH2bCt4gel8=/2020/02/06/2dce9b50-7919-405e-8a6c-fad79445fdc7/peloton-ipad-app-screenshot.jpg

Available for Android and iOS, with this you can use "BYO bike" (or treadmill only FYI), although with one major omission: you do not all get the same live statistics and statistics (distance, resistance, burnt calories, etc.) as you would with a Peloton bike. Similarly, it may be difficult to reflect the exact resistance of instructors during the lessons; a "20" on the Peloton bike has no real correlation with a bike that uses an analog dial for resistance. You will also not get the big screen from the Peloton to view lessons or keep track of your statistics, but I will discuss how to replicate the experience below.

You can, however, pass on heart rate data to the app – all you need is an inexpensive third-party external heart rate monitor . Similarly, the app can record cadence data (i.e., pedal speed), which can again come from a low-cost sensor. More about those options later.

This is the real surprise: the Peloton app only costs $ 13 a month, not $ 40 as for owners of the Peloton bike. Whichever bicycle you use, your total costs will be much lower.

Of course you don't always have to use the Peloton app, because you still take the BYO route. Or you can switch between that and any number of others. You may not be interested in spin-type classes; maybe you prefer virtual rides through famous city streets or beautiful mountain paths. Maybe you want to participate in virtual races. There are many cycling apps designed to let you do all that. A few examples:

Of course there is no law that says you should not use a bicycle app at all. You may prefer to read a book in the Kindle app or stream your Cheer on Netflix. That is about as far away from the "Platoon Experience" as you can get, but it is also a very cheap option. (Here are 10 free Netflix alternatives to keep costs down.)

Cheap exercise bikes

  pyhigh-s2-indoor-hometrainer.png "data-original =" https: / / cnet3.cbsistatic.com/img/-rVPiW3YXR75nPzMLN5jcP0yafI=/2020/02/06/d5b3bbb5-b7b7-4386-bfd4-354cb642d8f1/pyhigh-s2-indoor-exercise-bike.png__highs-2626-exercise196590isexercercise196590 bike.png

This Pyhigh bike sells for less than $ 300. It's not a Peloton, but if you use the Peloton app to take lessons, will you even notice it? Pyhigh

As noted earlier, there are home trainers that cost a fraction of what you pay for the Peloton. Of course you don't all get the same functions and the build quality might not be that good. But if your goal is to just drive in while enjoying classes under the guidance of an instructor, that is easily achieved.

What should you look out for with an indoor bicycle? A few important specifications: the weight of the flywheel (conventional wisdom believes that heavier is better), the type of resistance (path or magnetic, the latter usually quieter) and the inclusion of a tablet holder. The latter is pretty important because you want a tablet for every app (s) that you plan to use. You can also buy a separate tablet holder if you can't find an exercise bike that you like, including one – more about that below.

However, every bike in the $ 200- $ 400 range is not "connected", meaning that it cannot be connected to that tablet in any way. If you want heart rate and / or cadence data for your trips, you must add that equipment yourself (see below).

Search the Amazon for indoor exercise bikes and you will find a dizzying array of choices, many of brands you probably won't recognize: L Now, Pooboo, Pyhigh and so on. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can make your decision much more difficult.

After looking at many of these brands and models, I found a few that seem to tick the most important boxes. The Pyhigh S2 Indoor Cycling Bike has a flywheel of 35 kilos, an LCD monitor with standard bicycle statistics and a tablet holder. It currently sells for $ 295, although a coupon on the page will be $ 15 off that price.

The S2 is also remarkable because it has more than 600 user reviews, and that averages up to an impressive 4.6 stars. With that kind of review volume, you are less likely to see a predominance of counterfeits, something to consider when looking at a product that only has a few dozen reviews. (Read more about this in my story about how you can find fake Amazon reviews ).

If you want a bike that uses magnetic resistance, which will certainly bring you a bit closer to a Peloton-like ride, check out the Joroto X2 for $ 399.99 . It has a 4.5-star rating from around 250 buyers, and those ratings are almost completely legitimate, according to Fakespot and ReviewMeta.

Again, these are just two of the many options. You can also go to your local sports store to find bikes that you can actually try before you buy.

Indoor trainers for your outdoor bike

  saris-cycleops-m2.png "data-original =" https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/lkU5xYYThybavo7Lm8pODNl64lI=/2020/02/06/9b9bb560-e90a- 4355-aafe-8e2b7959806c / saris-cycleops-m2.png

BYO bike and mount it on something like the Saris CycleOps M2 ($ 500) for a more realistic (but still) app) connected) indoor cycling experience. Saris

Avid outdoor cyclists will tell you to skip these chic (and even less chic) ​​exercise bikes for the benefit of those you already own. You spend considerably less money and you get a much more trusted (and realistic) driving experience.

The most important piece of hardware you need: an indoor trainer, which usually combines a simple, non-moving stand for your front wheel with a roll for the rear. The trainer keeps your bike upright; all you do is jump and kick.

These things range in price from less than $ 100 to $ 1,000 and more, depending on the design and functions. A highlight is the Saris CycleOps M2 a "smart" trainer that connects directly to apps such as Rouvy and Zwift. The electromagnetic roller automatically adjusts the voltage to match your virtual ride. (Up a hill, for example? The tension will increase.) The M2 stands for $ 499.99, although it is currently $ 431.87 at Amazon.

  sportneer-bike-trainer.png "data-original =" https://cnet3.cbsistatic.com/img/Pujp-Hyq-A76gJyXr4o0a8NbHrs=/2020/02/06/7c83c0fe-e9c6-45f1-9975-48389d5f9c68 /sportneer-bike-trainer.png cialis19659050Buchsportneer-bike-trainer.png cialis19659016-16Your bike + $ 90 gives you an indoor bike setup. </p>
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Looking for a cheaper option? For just $ 90, the Sportneer Bike Trainer offers a simple rear wheel roll along with a steering wheel-mounted remote control that offers six resistance settings. It has a 4.3-star rating from more than 1,300 buyers.

Only one wrinkle in this plan: your bike probably has no place to place a tablet. You can always put it on a nearby table or board, but that makes it harder to see and impossible to reach while driving. Fortunately, there are super cheap tablet holders designed for indoor bicycles (ironically!) That should also work with your racing bike. Here is one that costs $ 15 .

Other equipment you need

There are a few important statistics that go hand in hand with the Peloton experience: heart rate and cadence. Fortunately, you can follow both without spending much, and enter that data directly to each app (s) you use.

  wahoo-cadence-sensor.png "data-original =" https://cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/CNMk7z9LUwtjVTfLjy6q-gs_Nzo=/2020/02/06/d8d3743b-632c-4d10-ac13-ef1d5eb60163/wahoo -cadence-sensor.png

The Wahoo cadence sensor can be installed on almost any bicycle. It provides speed data to bicycle apps.


The Wahoo cadence sensor is a popular choice; it can be mounted on your shoe or, more permanently, on one of the crank arms of your bike. It sells for $ 40.

Wahoo also makes a heart rate monitor on the chest strap, the TICKR that runs for $ 50. However, if you don't mind going a bit off-brand, you can get something like the CooSpo heart rate monitor for $ 34 .

Finally, do not forget the tablet. Ideally, you want one with the largest screen possible, the better to see your instructor and / or virtual bike route. One of the cheapest options: the Amazon Fire HD 10 that sells for $ 150 but is routinely for sale for $ 30- $ 50 less. A version of the Peloton app is available for Fire tablets, the same as for Android and iOS tablets.

Now the bad news: Peloton is just about the only popular cycling app available for Fire. No FulGaz, no iFit, no Rouvy, no Zwift. If you want to implement it, you need an Android tablet or an iPad. View CNET & # 39; s overview of the best tablets of 2020 if you need some recommendations.

My advice: Look for the iPad 10.2, which stands for $ 329, but is often for sale for $ 249. (In fact, from this writing it is now for sale at that price . ) There are not many Android tablets available today and everything with a 10-inch screen will probably cost you more than that iPad.

Let's do math

So, when everything is said and done, how much will it really cost you to recreate the Peloton experience without the Peloton bike? That of course depends on how much equipment you already own and how much you have to buy. But the Peloton app itself feels like the real bargain for just $ 13 a month. In addition to live and on-demand cycling lessons, it offers a wealth of other fitness content: cardio, HIIT, yoga, meditation, stretching and more.

At the top you can spend $ 400 on a bike, $ 250 on a tablet and $ 100 on various extras for a total of around $ 750. That's still just a third of the price of a Peloton bike and you are not tied to a subscription of $ 39 per month.

Now let's hear from you: what kind of home brewing Peloton set-up are you planning to build? And if you already have one, what kind of equipment does it have, and how does it work?

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The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care professional for any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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