How I Re-Created Studio Cycling Classes at Home Without Draining My Bank Account
For fitness enthusiasts, the "new normal" during COVID-19 means more than just working from home. It means no gym equipment. No cardio machines. And no space to sweat. Prior to the pandemic, I spent every Tuesday and Thursday taking a high-energy cycling class at my local gym. Once COVID-19 hit, I quickly realized running in the Florida heat wasn't sustainable. But with reduced hours and a limited budget, a super-expensive bike was out of the question.
After a bit of research — and some trial and error with bikes I ordered from other sites — I was able to purchase a bike, shoes, and a streaming subscription, all for hundreds less than I would have spent on some of the more exclusive options. If you're missing your favorite class — or never had a membership to begin with — here's how you can bring an affordable but studio-like cycling experience to your makeshift home gym.
When I started my research, I was delighted to find that you can purchase a bike for about $300, but you will get what you pay for — and a headache trying to return it.
After comparing the features of several bikes across a wide range of prices, I settled on the Bowflex C6 Bike ($999). It's still an investment, but a worthwhile one in my experience. Much like more expensive options, the Bowflex C6 comes with magnetic resistance, complete with 100 micro-adjustable resistance levels and a pair of 3-lb. dumbbells that rest just below the handlebars. Dual-link pedals have a side with toe cages for conventional shoes and a side equipped to handle cleats with SPD clips. You'll also get a Bluetooth-enabled heart-rate monitor armband.
While the Bowflex bike doesn't offer a large screen or its own streaming classes, it does have a media tray on the handlebars that can hold a tablet or phone. My fiancé and I use an iPad to stream cycling workouts from apps we've installed. The bike also comes with a backlit LCD screen that tracks RPM, time, speed, calories, distance, resistance level, and pulse. And if you're using one of the third-party cycling apps the bike connects with via Bluetooth, the bike will display your speed on the screen of your phone.
One of the best features of the bike is its adjustability. I'm 5'1", so I need the bike to adjust into a compact position, which is difficult to find in all models on the market. My fiancé, on the other hand, is 6'4", so he needs a bike that will adjust for someone twice my size. After about two months of use, we're both thrilled with the fit and the ease of use when adjusting the seat and handlebars.
Since the bike allows you to prop up a phone or tablet for streaming cycling workouts, we're able to choose any apps we like. I opted for the Peloton Digital app ($13 per month), which gives me access to a library with thousands of on-demand classes that I can play in that moment or preload for later. And for days when I don't want to hop on the bike, there are also classes for running, walking, strength training, outdoor workouts, yoga, meditation, and abs.
The Bowflex C6 bike allows for either conventional sneakers or cycling cleats with SPD clips. Since I cycle a few times per week, I wanted a shoe that would offer strong arch and ankle support when I'm out of the saddle. I also wanted a pair I could walk in after class without having to change sneakers.
After some research, I settled on the TIEM Slipstream Indoor Cycling Shoe ($130). While they look like normal athletic shoes, they offer extra arch support and a stiffer feel to help save your feet while cycling. You can add a set of clips for $20, but clips are included with the Bowflex bike.