DECIDING BETWEEN TWO LEADING PLATFORMS FOR YOUR INDOOR CYCLING NEEDS.
Deciding between Zwift and Peloton for your indoor cycling? Whether you’re new to the sport, a veteran of indoor trainers, or contemplating a switch from your current platform, this comparison is for you.
At first look, Zwift and Peloton seem worlds apart. Peloton’s high-energy, class-based workouts contrast sharply with Zwift’s immersive virtual cycling and racing experience. However, both platforms excel in enhancing your cycling skills, tailored to your preferred style of training and motivation.
To give you the best insight, we didn’t just test out these platforms ourselves. We also sought opinions from seasoned cyclists, coaches, and industry insiders. Insights from Kristin Armstrong, a multi-time Olympic Gold medalist, Kate Veronneau of Zwift, and cycling coach Lorri Lown, who collaborates with a top Peloton coach, shed light on the unique aspects of each service.
Interestingly, professionals from both Zwift and Peloton use each other’s platforms to maintain fitness, especially during the indoor cycling season.
Quick Snapshot of Each Platform
Zwift: Built with the avid cyclist in mind, Zwift simulates real-life cycling and competitive racing, perfect for those who crave an outdoor cycling feel and a bit of rivalry.
Peloton: If your fitness routine includes cycling and more, Peloton is your go-to. The app offers a variety of workouts including full-body exercises, relaxation techniques, and of course, indoor cycling sessions. Ideal for those seeking comprehensive fitness with a casual focus on cycling specifics.
Exploring the Features: Zwift vs Peloton
- Experience road-like cycling with group rides on virtual roads. Your smart trainer adjusts resistance to match the terrain.
- Races suitable for all skill levels.
- Access to structured workout plans and guided sessions.
- Regular updates with new routes and special events.
- Comprehensive cycling-specific metrics to monitor your improvement.
- Seamless integration with smart trainers, power meters, and heart rate monitors.
- Milestone celebrations include unlocking unique costumes and gear for your avatar.
- A vast array of spin classes varying in length, style, and intensity.
- Live classes with a leaderboard for a competitive edge and increased accountability.
- Extensive selection of fitness classes beyond cycling, including yoga, HIIT, and Pilates.
- Compatibility with various equipment, from Peloton bikes to any indoor bike with a cadence sensor and heart rate monitor.
- Milestone recognitions involve shoutouts from instructors during live sessions and acknowledgment of workout streaks in the app.
How They Enhance Your Fitness Journey
Zwift: Zwift revolutionizes indoor cycling by fostering a sense of community. It’s not just about solo rides; it’s about joining forces with others. As Armstrong notes, Zwift creates an environment where you recognize fellow riders and connect with them. The app offers a variety of clubs, races, and routes, mimicking real-life cycling experiences. You can even sync up with friends on Zwift routes and chat via Discord, merging real-world interactions with virtual ones.
Armstrong emphasizes the impact of these social connections. He believes that true change stems from happiness, which is fostered through community and connection. Without these, he argues, no amount of physical activity or healthy habits will lead to real transformation.
Zwift also excels in tracking your fitness journey. It collects power and heart rate data, making it easy to monitor your progress. The app even steps into the realm of esports, allowing you to simulate outdoor racing experiences from the comfort of your home.
Peloton: Peloton’s rise to fame is largely thanks to its charismatic coaches, like Robin Arzon. Their classes are more than just workouts; they’re emotional and motivational experiences. The coaches form the core of Peloton’s community, acting as a bridge between users. While it’s a communal platform, it’s perfect for those who prefer to stay low-key and not overly social (though Armstrong notes that wearing Peloton gear might spark conversations in public).
For serious cyclists, Peloton offers specialized classes focusing on real-world biking skills, led by experts like Matt Wilpers and Christine D’Ercole. The platform provides a supportive environment with its encouraging coaches, ideal for those who thrive under enthusiastic guidance.
While Peloton includes competitive elements, like leaderboards in live classes, the competition is more self-focused. It’s about personal bests rather than outdoing others, making it suitable for individuals who prefer to track their own progress without the pressure of direct competition.
The Limitations of Zwift and Peloton
Both Zwift and Peloton are excellent platforms, but depending on your preferences, each has its own set of limitations.
For new users, Zwift can seem a bit overwhelming. Unlike Peloton, which offers straightforward class-based options like a 30-minute ride with a specific trainer, Zwift’s plethora of choices in workouts, rides, and races can be daunting. This can make it challenging for beginners to just jump in and start.
For those who are competitively inclined, Zwift presents another challenge. The urge to keep up with or surpass every rider that passes by can be strong, making it hard to stick to a more relaxed, easy-going ride when needed.
Another aspect where Zwift falls short is in its exclusive focus on cycling and running. Those looking for a more varied workout experience, including strength training or yoga, won’t find these options here.
In contrast, Peloton lacks the exploratory and social aspects that Zwift offers. While Zwift allows for casual rides with friends or solo explorations of new virtual worlds, Peloton is more structured. You’re either in a class or not, without the option to just freely ride.
Though Peloton boasts a strong coach-led community, it lacks the interactive element present in Zwift. Zwift users often engage in conversations, plan future rides, or even share personal milestones. This level of interaction isn’t as prevalent on Peloton. However, Peloton users can still connect with friends for live classes and communicate outside the platform.
Lastly, Peloton’s cycling-specific data offerings are limited compared to Zwift, especially for those without Peloton’s specific equipment. Its integration with external platforms like Strava doesn’t match the depth of data provided by Zwift.
In summary, while both platforms excel in their own ways, they each have areas where they might not fully align with a user’s individual needs or preferences.
Setting Up Your Indoor Cycling Experience
To start your indoor cycling journey, whether it’s with Zwift or Peloton, the basic requirement is a stationary bike or an outdoor bike mounted on an indoor trainer. While you can use these platforms without a Bluetooth connection, linking them enhances your experience significantly.
Essential Gear for a Superior Ride
For Zwift Enthusiasts:
- Start with a speed/cadence sensor, available for about $40.
- For a fully immersive experience, consider investing in a smart trainer. This device integrates with the Zwift app, automatically adjusting resistance to mimic outdoor cycling.
For Peloton Users:
- Begin with a speed/cadence sensor for basic tracking.
- Add a heart rate monitor for detailed performance data.
- If you’re monitoring your training on apps like Training Peaks, a cycling computer is handy to record heart rate or power metrics.
Recommended Equipment for Enhanced Experience
- The Wahoo KICKR Core is highly recommended. It syncs effortlessly with Zwift, enhancing your virtual rides.
- Enjoy realistic outdoor cycling sensations with optional handlebar levers for a more engaging race experience.
Peloton’s Optimal Setup:
- While not essential, the Peloton indoor bike is a favorite among many. Some users, like Lown, prefer it over using an outdoor bike on a trainer, even using it for Zwift rides.
Subscription Costs: What to Expect
- Monthly subscription: $15
- Annual subscription: $150
- For comprehensive cycling and fitness experiences, Peloton App+ is available at $24/month or $240/year. This includes unlimited cardio classes and integration with sensors for a holistic workout, plus yoga, meditation, and strength training.
- Peloton App One offers a more budget-friendly option at $13/month or $129/year, providing unlimited access to non-bike classes and limited bike, row, or run classes.
- A free version with limited classes is also available for those starting out or on a tight budget.
Debunking Common Myths
Many believe Peloton isn’t suited for experienced or serious cyclists, but this isn’t true. According to Lown, a quick glance at Strava will show a range of users from professional to recreational cyclists. Peloton’s most sought-after feature, the power zone training developed by Matt Wilpers, caters to various fitness levels.
Peloton’s power zone training, inspired by Hunter Allen’s philosophy, offers diverse options. There are Power Zone Endurance rides focusing on moderate intensity, standard Power Zone rides targeting a higher intensity, and Power Zone Max for short, high-intensity efforts. “These classes, varying from 30 to 120 minutes, are perfect for creating a balanced training plan,” Lown explains.
Contrary to popular belief, Zwift isn’t just for competitive cyclists. Armstrong, a Zwift coach and ambassador, notes the diversity in her Zwift Women’s Training Club. Many members, new to cycling, joined since its inception and simply enjoy the experience.
The misconception that Peloton caters mainly to women is unfounded. Statistics from 2020 show a nearly even split between male and female users. Lown emphasizes Peloton’s flexibility, noting it’s a versatile training tool with content designed to enhance fitness for any user.
Setting up Zwift might seem daunting, but the process has become more user-friendly. Armstrong highlights the app’s improved onboarding, which guides newcomers to select activities that match their interests, whether it’s exploring, training, or racing. This streamlined approach makes it easier for beginners to start.
How to Choose Between Zwift and Peloton
When it comes to choosing between Zwift and Peloton, there’s no clear winner. It all boils down to your personal preferences and what motivates you. Each has its own advantages for cyclists, but they take different approaches. You might have a strong affinity for one while feeling less enthusiastic about the other, or you could discover that a combination of both is the way to go.
As Armstrong aptly put it, “Peloton helps you develop a love for cycling, while Zwift helps you improve your riding skills.”
After speaking with enthusiasts of both platforms, it seems that a winning strategy might be a blend of Zwift and the Peloton App. This combo provides access to a variety of non-bike workouts, including strength training, Pilates, and yoga classes, along with the occasional spin session to keep things fresh. Veronneau, for example, follows this approach and notes that Peloton’s strength and mobility classes contribute to her core strength, enhancing her performance on Zwift. Lown shares a similar sentiment, using Peloton and Zwift in tandem and attesting to her improved fitness level.
The good news is that both options offer free trials. Peloton grants you a month to test it out, and even offers a free version of the app with a selection of limited classes available indefinitely. On the other hand, Zwift gives you two weeks to ride without any commitment. We highly recommend giving both a try before making a decision. Even if you initially think that Peloton or Zwift may not be your cup of tea, it’s worth giving them a shot – you might just surprise yourself!