I’ve been traveling for work too much. How do I know? I have been away from home enough that when I return home my cat actually misses me. I know because she actively displays affection towards the shoes I wore when I get back.
Starbuck missed me
This year I started taking Peloton spin classes, which was an expensive decision. Six months into the purchase, I want to compare the cost to the alternatives for some perspective on whether or not it was worth it.
One of my goals this year is to be more active. My past attempts to be disciplined about my exercise routine have failed miserably. When deciding how to attack my goal stop this travel and computer-induced sedentary lifestyle, I listed out the main reasons for past failure:
- Outdoor exercise is great, but the weather in Washington DC tends to break all good habits during the winter months.
- Having practically grown up in a martial arts studio, indoor exercise bores me quickly without a good instructor.
- My home is too small for a home gym but I know a dedicated space aides formation of routine.
- My work can have unpredictable travel which disrupts routine.
- I work from home about 50% of days and have conversations across many time zones, so I like my mornings predictable and efficient.
A combination of Peloton advertisement bombardment and a dismal winter caused me to investigate getting a home spin bike. A bike is small enough to fit in the corner of my basement TV room, and having a home cardio equipment option helps keep mornings efficient. Peloton is definitely the luxury option but I valued thought of having the instructor and high production quality to keep me motivated. Peloton smart bikes have a large mounted computer display showing live and recorded classes with overlaid sensor data from the bike in the form of a resistance number for the impact of manual turns of a resistance knob and a cadence number indicating how quickly you are riding. Peloton was clearly the leading luxury home brand but had a hefty upfront investment of a $2000+ smart spin bike and a $39 per month ongoing subscription adds up quickly. Also, as an outdoor cyclist, my interest in this bike was likely to be very seasonal. Predicting the effective cost of the bike per class was difficult without knowing how frequently I would ride as I know my attention tends to drift to other modes of exercise when the weather is nice. There is, however, a less luxurious option from Peloton.
That cheaper option is to create a do-it-yourself (DIY) Peleton smart bike by combining an off-brand, non-smart home resistance spin bike, an iOS-based phone or tablet that can run the app version of Peloton’s service, and standard Bluetooth bicycle sensors to measure cadence. A rider still has to adjust resistance manually and develop a “feel” for how difficult the resistance numbers called out by the instructors should be. Combined with some handlebar device holders and one’s cell phone to record the indoor cycling session with the sensors you have a significantly cheaper bike with only one missing feature, the resistance meter. Peloton offered the app subscription for $13 a month earlier this year. They raised the price to $19.99 when they expanded their service to also have videos for treadmill and floor exercises but I appear to be grandfathered into the old price.
To decide whether or not spin classes were even something I liked doing I took a class at Soul Cycle, one of the many boutique pay-per-class exercise studios popping up around Washington DC and other major US cities. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. It wasn’t as much fun or relaxing as a great ride outdoors on a sunny day, but now I had a tough decision in front of me. Should I:
- Buy a Peloton
- Make my own DIY Pelton or
- Try making a Soul Cycle part of my new disciplined routine.
Soul Cycle classes require no upfront investment but had a high per-class cost of $30 when bought individually with only small discounts for larger bulk purchases. If I was still moving from apartment to apartment in the busier areas of the city I could definitely see this as a great option. The bigger problem was that I don’t live walking distance from a Soul Cycle or any of its competitors. I’d have to take two buses to get to one, about $4 per round trip and 45 minutes of travel each way. Rather than computing the cost of driving and the uncertainty of parking on the street in the busy parts of DC, which I try to avoid. Given that I’m comparing Soul Cycle to the cost of extreme Luxury home smart spinning for my lazy weather-weary self, I’ll just throw two $10 Uber rides into the mix to make Soul Cycle comparable to the convenience and work compatibility of a home setup. Soul Cycle classes are not the same as Peloton, focusing more on good vibes and a group experience. But I need something to compare to home Luxury for my situation of being in the city but not close enough to travel to the gym easily.
- $2599.89 of equipment and accessories
- $49.99 per month subscription
- $0 transportation to a gym
My DIY bike
- $793.89 of equipment and accessories
- $12.99 per month subscription
- $0 transportation to a gym
Soul Cycle with complete abandon
There are certainly cheaper ways to take a spin class, even at Soul Cycle, but they take too much time to be comparable options.
- $30.00 per class fee
- $0 membership or subscription
- $20.00 of transportation costs to save time and avoid bad weather conditions
- $3.00 shoe rental.
Buying good cycling shoes and cleats would break even after 30 or so rides, which as it turns out is beyond the time span of this analysis
The cost per ride of Soul Cycle is fixed
Effective cost per ride (CpR) of the two Peloton options is computed by taking total costs accumulated divided by the running sum of rides taken thus far.
Rides per month with a goal of riding an average of once per week the next 6 months
Following my prediction, I rode the DIY Peloton frequently for the remainder of the cold months and then had summer interrupted by good whether causing me to get out swimming, running, and road biking as well as encountering some work travel. Six months in, I’ve only taken 17 Peloton classes. Using the above method the current effective cost per ride of the three options were I to walk away now comes out to:
- Peloton: $164
- DIY Peloton: $50.52
- DIY Peloton (new pricing): $52.58
- Soul Cycle + luxury transport: $53.00
So six months in, my DIY bike has become less expensive than my ridiculous Soul Cycle option. Here’s the “over time” view of progress towards now and into my planned future.
Cost per ride
Forecasting once per week riding into the future has the DIY option matching a transport cost-free ($30 per ride) Soul Cycle option by December (10 months in). To match the cost-effectiveness of a transport free Soul Cycle I’d have to do 104 rides on an actual Peloton which is averaging 2 rides per week in 12 months.
Of course, the home bike options, if I make them a habit past 12 months, will continue to grow more cost-effective until I have to replace or repair the bikes. All in all not a bad deal for those who place an extreme value on time and have my need of removing all obstacles to exercise.
Daily exercise minutes trending
So far it’s working. My daily exercise average since March is up to 34 minutes vs 26 minutes for 2017 and 27 minutes for 2016. I’m burning about 100 more calories a day on average than before using the DIY Peloton to jumpstart some better habits.