Peloton tread review: How does it compare to the bike in the battle for the best at-home workout?

·9 min read
<p>There is simply no better way of getting better at running without leaving your house</p> (iStock/The Independent)

There is simply no better way of getting better at running without leaving your house

(iStock/The Independent)

Update, 5 May 2021: Peloton announced voluntary recalls of both its treadmills, the Tread and Tread Plus, after the machines were involved in the death of a child and numerous other reported injuries. For more details, click here.

Peloton achieved the apparently impossible once before: its internet-connected spin bike is a phenomenon, a meme, and probably the best at-home workout there is.

Its new treadmill is an attempt to capture the magic a second time, in a form that is, for a range of reasons, potentially more difficult than the first. Can it succeed again? We put it to the test.

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Peloton tread: From £2,295, Peloton

Peloton
Peloton

The new tread is a great achievement, capturing all of what made the Peloton such a sensation the first time around.

It has its downsides, of course – both the problems that come with Peloton, mostly in the form of its high price and its low compatibility with other systems, and the downsides of running – but they are not enough to stop this being, yet again, a great way to work out at home.

It might even be the best way to keep fit without leaving the house. That is, if Peloton hadn’t already achieved that with its bike.

When it came to indoor cycling at home, in the form of the bike and the newly upgraded bike+, Peloton did something that appears in retrospect fairly simple: make a very nice piece of home workout equipment, attach a TV screen to it, and pipe in workouts over the internet. It worked brilliantly and became even more relevant when much of the world went into lockdown.

It has done the same simple but wonderful thing with the tread, except this time, obviously, on a treadmill. You get running classes – though you can also just run on your own – as part of a suite of programming that also includes workouts that can be done without any of the hardware at all, such as yoga or core-strength programmes.

As with the bike, it all works together perfectly, with just the right combination of wonderful design, engaging programming and friendly competition. If you’re looking either to improve your running at home or to expand your Peloton collection, you won’t go wrong with the tread.

Design

The design of the Peloton tread will be familiar to anyone who’s seen the bike. It takes a traditional treadmill – though a very nicely made one, with matte black colouring, and a neat design – and sticks a large and engaging display right in front of you, so that you can follow along with whatever programming you like.

It works exactly as you’d expect a treadmill to, allowing you to switch quickly between different speeds and gradients, and with plenty of readouts so that you know how you’re doing. There are neat additions like the fact that the pace and gradient are controlled with wheels to your side, which make it easy to adjust even in the middle of a difficult interval.

One thing that’s worth noting is that the bike, and certainly the bike+, are among the best-designed pieces of hardware on the market, even without all of the extra bits that go on top. That isn’t necessarily the case with the tread, which is a very decent treadmill but not quite as good as ones you might have used as the gym. (The tread+, which is only sold in the US and used to be known as the tread until this one came along, is that good, according to reviews.)

It means that the treadmill won’t allow you to run blazingly fast, that the changes are not instant, and that every so often you might feel a bit of slip as your foot hits the deck. It also doesn’t have the option to fold up in any way, meaning that it will take up a significant chunk of your room, and is too heavy to move around, so you’ll need to find plenty of space. None of those things are outright bad, and they’re all to be expected from a treadmill at this price point with these features, but they are worth keeping in mind.

Programming and workouts

Peloton
Peloton

What really brings the tread to life, however, is not the hardware but its screen and the workouts that come through it. While it might seem strange to go to a running class – they’re certainly not as mainstream as spin classes – they actually turn out to be even more engaging in some ways.

All of the classes are run by Peloton’s fleet of inspiring, energetic and well-trained instructors, some of whom are the same people you’ll see on the bike or in other classes. And the teaching is done in much the same way as a spin class, too: telling you when to focus on going fast or adding some hills, for instance.

Just as with any workout class, on or off Peloton, music is at the centre of the experience, and the company has been improving in that respect ever since some high-profile lawsuits about the copyright of the music used. Instructors even host classes themed around specific artists, and there is now such a huge catalogue that you’ll be able to find exactly what you want when it comes to music, workout style, instructor or anything else.

The energy of the instructors and the well-designed nature of the classes means that running on the treadmill never gets boring – a major risk with indoor exercise. Instructors tell stories, switch up the music and intensity of your workout, and there’s a vast array of vibes, from serious marathon prep to fun walks.

In some ways these classes are actually better than on the bike: for one, the treadmill goes at whatever speed you set it, making it more difficult to cheat yourself out of a hard push by turning down the intensity. (The bike requires that you just keep pushing however hard you’re asked; some exercise bikes have a feature called erg mode that means you’ll just have to push harder if you slow down, but Peloton doesn’t.) Peloton’s recent addition of boot camps – where you jump off and do strength workouts in between intervals – also works better with the tread, since you’re not wearing the cleats required for the bike.

What’s more, you’ll get access to all the features that made the bike such a hit. You run up an output score as you work out, which you can compare both with your own previous scores and other people taking the class who appear on a leaderboard; everything works seamlessly together.

If there is an oversight in the workouts, it’s that no part of the Peloton system allows you to progress through programmes, or gives you much of a measurement of how you’re improving over time. Instructors will ask you to run at your tempo pace, for instance, but you’ll get no sense of whether that’s getting faster as you train; if you want to work on something specific, like your 5km performance, there are only individual workouts focused on that, not broader programmes to ensure that you are a well-rounded and improving athlete.

What’s more, the Peloton system is almost entirely closed off, meaning that it does not cooperate with other systems. You can’t watch anything else on its beautiful TV screen – long runs with Netflix aren’t possible – and you can’t export the data that it gathers to any other system, such as your running watch. It’s less of an irritation than it is on the bike – where it cuts you off from using other fun tools like Zwift or serious training systems such as TrainerRoad – but it’s still annoying.

But those are quibbles with something that is otherwise such a well-realised experience that it seems almost unfair to mention them – tread is so close to being the perfect home running workout machine. Aside from those issues, everything works brilliantly, and there’s a very good chance that you’ll get much faster and have more fun while running than you ever thought possible.

Bike vs tread

Most of the difference between the bike and the tread really comes down to differences between cycling and running, rather than the hardware. Running will give you more of an all-round workout, and probably with less of a learning curve, but with the downside of troubling your joints more. Spinning, meanwhile, is more numbers focused, less intense, and will give you a more sustainable workout.

Ultimately, you’re most likely to prefer whichever of the two you most prefer anyway. But if you’re unsure, then choose the bike: the offering is slightly different, you’ll get a safer and probably better workout, and Peloton’s spin offering is slightly better.

Price

As ever, if there’s a problem, it’s the price. The tread costs £2,295 and you have to pay £39 each month for the programming, otherwise your kit will become just like any other treadmill. Though the subscription does cover all of Peloton’s content, so you won’t pay more if you have multiple pieces of gear. It also covers an entire household.

There’s no getting around that it’s a lot of money: you’d have to go to a fancy gym for years before it would have cost more than having the Peloton in your home, and the programming subscription cost is as much as it would be for a not-fancy gym membership.

But it does become more palatable if two, three, or more people are going to be using it, and when you consider that gyms haven’t been reliably open throughout the pandemic. And if lockdown has made you realise you’d rather work out without travelling, it could slot perfectly into your life.

It is, however, a premium piece of kit. It’s premium quality and worth the high price, but you should be very sure about the commitment before you make it.

The verdict: Peloton tread

The tread is a fantastic piece of kit, and one that combines what is surely the two aims of working out at home: you’ll get fitter and you will have fun while you do it. There is simply no better way of getting better at running without leaving your house (or, perhaps, even if you do).

If you’re into Peloton and all that comes with it – the fun workouts, the thrill of the social features, the music and instructors, but also the price and locked-down nature of the system – then there is no question that this is the treadmill for you.

It is worth asking, however, whether the bike may suit you better if you’ve not already bought into the Peloton ecosystem.

For more on Peloton’s products, read our head to head review of the brand’s bike and Wattbike

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