When the coronavirus pandemic was declared earlier this year, many gyms and fitness studios around the country were forced to shut down operations in an effort to curb transmission of the highly contagious virus. This means that people who normally would have headed to the gym every morning for a spin class with their favorite instructor suddenly had to investigate other options.
Luckily, there’s a rich marketplace of at-home exercise equipment out there, and this industry has seen an enormous influx of customers in 2020. If you’re among them and looking to replace your in-person spin class with an at-home spin option, you’re probably weighing the pros and cons of two of the most popular: Peloton and Echelon.
Overview of Both At-Home Exercise Bikes
Peloton launched in 2012 to provide a boutique fitness experience at home using high-quality technology and exercise equipment superior to what might be found in many gyms. From there, Peloton has built a reputation for high-end, at-home spinning bike equipment, live and on-demand streaming classes and a thriving community of fitness enthusiasts.
Users can access live classes at scheduled times where the instructor can give shoutouts to individuals on the leaderboard to motivate riders. In addition, members can access on-demand offerings to ride when it’s most convenient. Riders can choose the type of music they want to ride to and are encouraged to find a favorite instructor to work with.
In addition to its bike-specific offerings, the company also provides a wide range of fitness classes in other modalities. There’s a whole library of yoga, meditation stretching, strength training, cardio, boot camp, running and walking classes. The digital membership also offers access to challenges and achievement goals to help keep you motivated.
Today, more than 3.1 million members are part of the Peloton community. There are 33 instructors, and the company broadcasts 10 to 14 live cycling classes a day — or more than 350 per month. As of September, more than 164 million workouts have been completed by All-Access subscribers in 2020. The company employs more than 3,500 people worldwide.
Echelon Fitness Multimedia also offers a heart-thumping ride-at-home experience not dissimilar to what Peloton offers. The Chattanooga, Tennessee-based company was created in 2017, when founder Lou Lentine developed a more affordable stationary bike with the tracking and interactive features of other higher priced rivals.
The company has 40 instructors and films “over 2,000 classes a month from our two studios” in Chattanooga and Miami, Lentine says. The company streams over a million classes each month, and rider members work out more than three times per week on average. At any given time of the day, some 10,000 members are taking classes, according to Lentine.
Lentine notes that because there’s such a heavy emphasis on developing new and exciting classes, “we’re as much a media company as a fitness company. We have to entertain, and we’re always working on ways to keep our members entertained,” with new class offerings and options.
Since the pandemic hit, Echelon’s business has expanded 600%, Lentine says, and in just the past six months, they’ve added more than 100 employees, topping out at over 200 employees. “It’s been overwhelming to say the least,” Lentine says. But he says the company has ramped up to meet the challenge and is “prepared to grow” at home and abroad.
Both companies make sleek, steel-construction stationary bicycles that use flywheel technology. The flywheel is a heavy weighted (usually metal) disc that’s usually located at the front of the bike, instead of the wheel. That’s what provides enough resistance for an intensive workout. Both bikes can support users of up to about 300 pounds. Both companies also provide the content and technology you need to connect these at-home workout machines to the outside world.
In addition to the Original Bike, Peloton also offers a more expensive Bike+ option, which features both on- and off-bike exercises, and two treadmill options.
The Peloton Original Bike weighs 135 pounds and features carbon steel construction. It boasts a “near-silent” belt drive to ride quietly and 0-100 levels of manually controlled magnetic resistance. Each bike includes a 22″ HD touchscreen that offers a real-time leaderboard that lets you track your progress against other riders and your own personal bests. Its footprint is 4′ by 2′.
The higher-end Peloton Bike+ is designed to make it easier to incorporate strength, yoga, stretching and meditation classes into your daily workouts. That bike is also 4′ x 2′ and weighs 151 pounds. It boasts a larger, 23.8″ HD touchscreen that offers 360 degrees of rotation to make it easier to transition from cycling to floor-based workouts. The Bike+ also integrates with fitness apps and can pair with your Apple Watch or heart rate monitor.
Peloton riders need to use special Peloton-designed shoes that clip into the company’s special pedals. They’re different from regular road bike riding or spin shoes.
Echelon makes four bikes and many other pieces of gym equipment, all at various price points to “make fitness more accessible. Inclusivity is big for us,” Lentine says. The company offers a comprehensive bike comparison grid to make comparing the Echelon options to each other easier.
The two less expensive Echelon bikes are smaller than a Peloton bike, taking up 42″ x 22″ while the two higher-end models are longer and narrower than a Peloton at 54″ x 20″. Echelon bikes also weigh less, ranging from 105 to 124 pounds each. All models offer 32 levels of manually controlled magnetic resistance. While Peloton bikes come with a touch screen, only the highest end Echelon model comes with a touchscreen. For the others, you’ll need to supply your own tablet.
The two higher end models have a competition aero handlebar system that can be adjusted for performance or comfort, while the two less expensive models have ergonomic handlebars with an adjustable console to hold your smart device. All Echelon consoles can be rotated 180 degrees. The three more expensive models all have the same adjustable competition seat, while the lowest priced option has a “comfortable seat with seat mounted dumbbell holders.” Echelon bikes all offer SPD-compatible pedals.
In addition to bikes, Echelon sells:
— Two touchscreen mirrors called Echelon Reflect that make working out with an instructor easier.
— Two connected rowing machines.
— A smart treadmill called Echelon Stride.
— Apps and a library of live and on-demand classes.
Pricing of Peloton vs. Echelon
Peloton recently dropped its starting price for the Original Peloton Bike to $1,895 (down from $2,245), which can be financed with a 0% interest rate for $49 per month for 39 months. That’s just for the bike itself – gaining access to classes and other connected features requires a separate monthly membership fee. The Peloton Bike+ option provides the “ultimate cardio + strength experience” and starts at $2,495. It can be financed for $64 per month for 39 months.
Both the Original and Bike+ options charge an all-access membership fee of $39 per month separately to connect the bike to course offerings. Without that membership, you can’t access classes or competition features.
The company also offers a Peloton Digital Membership that does not require any Peloton hardware that anyone can purchase for $12.99 per month. That digital membership provides access to a library of live and on-demands fitness classes that don’t require a bike and can be performed at home with other fitness equipment you might already have.
Echelon offers four connected bike options ranging from the original Echelon Connect Bike, that starts at $839.98 to the high end EX-5S at $1,639.98. Those prices include the cost of monthly access to content, which is $39 per month. You can save money by opting to pay a year or two in advance for that access. For example, the least expensive Echelon bike plus access costs $1,199.98 for one year or $1,399.98 — while the most expensive option is $1,999.98 for one year or $2,199.98 for two years.
Lentine says the company will be debuting another bike option “in the coming months, which is more expensive than Peloton but has better technology than you’ve ever seen before.”
Lentine says that by comparison to Peloton, Echelon offers a better value proposition through how it finances the various pieces of equipment members can acquire to make a full workout studio at home. “You can build your entire at-home gym out (with additional equipment) for $39 per month. It’s one membership fee for all modalities,” meaning that while any additional pieces of equipment you purchase will cost extra, the monthly membership fee covers online access for all of them for that single $39 per month payment.
And he notes that while the company may have started as a less-expensive approach to spinning, they have evolved. “We’re not trying to be a low-price point Peloton. We’re trying to create a product line that offers something for everybody,” Lentine says.
Other Differences Between Peloton and Echelon
It seems that in addition to budgetary considerations and fitness class options, there’s a less tangible comparison to be made between Peloton and Echelon with regard to some of the other add-ons and frills that can be accessed based on preference and interest level. These additional elements include:
Community and Instructor Interaction
For example, Lentine points to the robust online community that Echelon hosts (via Facebook) as being a big selling point for some buyers because it provides a fun, social way to stay connected with others, even while working out at home.
“People post all about their rides and accomplishments. We have people traveling to our studios from all over the country,” and they often become friends, he says. “Members are really able to connect with our instructors and become friends. Our instructors are real and very approachable. People can relate to them.”
These connections can span more than just a couple time zones, Lentine says. “It’s a global community. We’re in 14 countries,” and “getting a good footprint around the world.”
Competitive Leaderboard Features
Like Peloton, Echelon also hosts a Leaderboard panel that allows you to compare your workouts to others in real time. Some folks love this competitive element and really thrive with the social sharing of rides.
For some riders, however, they don’t need this sort of comparison to strangers, and would prefer to compare themselves to their own previous rides. Pam O’Neill, an avid spinner based in Wayland, Massachusetts, is one of them. O’Neill has been spinning five days a week at the gym for the past 15 years and says she gets a more efficient workout at home on her Peloton because she’s only racing herself.
“As a professional spinner,” she says tongue-in-cheek, “a 30-minute Peloton class is equal to a 45-minute live class because you’re working against yourself. The bike gives you constant feedback so you can see exactly where you are, relative to your personal best.”
This is highly motivating for O’Neill and lets her get an intense workout in less time than she might in an in-class setting where she doesn’t have the constant digital reminders to stay on pace.
O’Neill bought her Peloton bike this past spring when the coronavirus pandemic shut down her local gym. She’s says she’s used the bike every single day since it arrived and has found it to be a good replacement for the gym-based workouts she needs to stay healthy and moving.
Cost and Personal Preferences
O’Neill says she selected the Peloton “because they have the most variety of classes.” Another factor was because “several of my friends have one and we can ride together and share classes. I’m a gym person and have only worked out in classes my entire life. The Peloton classes most resembled the gym spin class” experience she’s accustomed to, she explains.
Though she says she did look at other at-home spinning bike options, ultimately, she went with Peloton because, for her, the name mattered. “If you’re going to spend $1,800 on a bike, you want to go with the tried and true” option that’s the “market leader.”
For other folks, that might not be as big a consideration, and having a lower-cost option might be preferable. Lentine says that the entry-level bike model made by Echelon, which retails for about $500, is available in Wal-Mart, Costco and other budget-friendly retailers around the country.
Like Peloton, Echelon equipment also provides constant feedback to users, so a lot of the selection between the two companies comes down to personal preference related to the types and range of classes, the personalities of the instructors who host them and your budget.
The two companies offer a wide variety of options so that consumers are bound to find the right mix of options for their specific exercise needs, preferences and budget.
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Correction 11/02/20: A previous version of this article misstated how instructors interact with riders during live classes.