Zwift and Peloton are two of the best indoor cycling options on the market. Both are highly rated by diehard fans, and for good reasons, just not the same reasons. Zwift and Peloton seem similar at first–they’re created for indoor cycling with a fun and motivating virtual cycling experience. But beyond that, they’re loved by two distinct audiences with different goals and preferences. Zwift brings competitive, professional cycling indoors, and Peloton offers live fitness classes led by celebrity instructors without leaving your home. Learn which option suits your cycling style as we compare Zwift vs. Peloton.
What is Zwift?
Zwift is an indoor cycling training app that brings a competitive outdoor experience. Once you hook your bike up to the turbo trainer and sync your Zwift app, you can create your avatar and enter one of 8 virtual cycling worlds to train or race with other cyclists. Zwift will guide you through fanciful worlds like Watopia or real-life cities like Richmond or London. Zwift is also compatible with third-party apps like Strava or Training Peaks.
The Zwift worlds provide a virtual cycling community. You can ride or race with other cyclists at all hours and chat as you go using the Zwift companion app. The Zwift operates like a game where you earn points to buy new cycling gear for your avatar or to level up.
To start riding with Zwift, you’ll need a turbo trainer, the Zwift app, and your computer, tablet, or phone. A smart turbo trainer will provide the best and most life-like experience. Without it, you won’t receive the benefits of automatic adjustments in resistance that match a real road or trail.
What is Peloton?
Peloton is a fitness app with multiple workout types, however, Peloton gained its popularity with its bike and cycling workouts. Peloton bike is an indoor exercise bike with workouts led by live instructors. It provides the experience of “boutique fitness” classes at home, and in the end, is much less expensive than paying for live classes at a gym. And, you can hop on your Peloton as often as you please. The Peloton bike’s primary feature is its spin classes, but it also offers yoga, HIIT, and strength workouts. The workouts aren’t live 24/7, but Peloton has an extensive library of pre-recorded workouts.
You can view your performance stats and watch your ranking on the leaderboard on the large Peloton screen as you ride. After you complete your workout, your performance metrics will be logged on a dashboard that you can share with your fellow cyclist friends.
To start riding with Peloton, you’ll need a Peloton bike and a monthly subscription. A Peloton bike is not required, but you’re seriously limited as a cyclist without it. The Peloton bike provides automatic resistance for a challenging workout.
What are the benefits of at-home cycling?
The ability to enjoy rigorous and fun workouts from the comfort of home is one of the most common reasons people turn to indoor cycling. It allows you to train with a group with little to no planning, on your own time. Indoor cycling with Zwift and Peloton provides the experience of exercising with a personal trainer or cycling with a group of professionals on a hilly, strenuous route at home without seeking a trail or trainer.
2. Cold or rainy weather training
Cycling in cold or wet weather is possible and can be fun, but it takes a lot of preparation. There are some mornings when it’s just too wintry or rainy to be enjoyable or when you don’t have the time to get ready to cycle in frigid temps. You may have days where you wake up with a slight cold and don’t want to risk the winter weather worsening it. On such days, indoor cycling is the perfect alternative.
3. Training on a busy schedule
At-home cycling makes regular exercise possible in the busy seasons of life. Routes and workouts are pre-planned and accessible without leaving home so you can make the most of just 15 minutes.
4. Training with an injury
You don’t have to let an injury sideline you for long. Indoor cycling is a low-impact exercise that allows you to continue to train through recovery without the risk of falling or loss of control. Zwift and Peloton track your improvement so you can see your progress toward recovery. Professional cyclists have used Zwift to bounce back from injury and win races.
5. Increased focus
Cycling at home can eliminate the distractions or diversions you experience on the road. There’s no traffic, roadblocks, or stop signs to be mindful of. Once you start cycling you can zero in on your performance and cycle hard, non-stop.
6. Great low-impact cardio and strength training
Indoor cycling provides the same great fitness benefits as outdoor cycling but with a lower risk of injury. With increased focus, you can keep your heart rate up for a long time, making at-home cycling good for endurance training. Increasing or lowering resistance is automatic and strategic and sure to increase your strength while remaining gentle on your joints.
Indoor cycling can be much safer than outdoor cycling. You don’t have to deal with cars or be alert in remote or sketchy areas. When cycling at night or in the early morning, there’s no need to worry about hazards due to limited visibility in the dark.
Zwift vs. Peloton
Zwift and Peloton both bring the benefits of at-home cycling, but they each have unique advantages and features.
Zwift features group rides, workouts, and races. It’s designed to simulate real-life training outdoors solo or with a group of cyclists. The experience and the exercise are similar to cycling outside. The smart turbo trainer adjusts the resistance to match the virtual landscape you choose. Zwift hosts live events and races that are great opportunities to compete and connect with other cyclists. The Zwift workouts are designed to help you improve as a cyclist and to prepare you for competition. Peloton is great for improving as a cycling athlete and increasing your cycling power and endurance.
Peloton cycling workouts are like taking a spin class with an energetic instructor in the comfort of your home. You can choose your workout by instructor, workout type, or music genre. Peloton offers more than cycling–workouts also include strength training, HIIT, yoga, meditation, and other types of exercise. Peloton is great for high-intensity cycling workouts and well-rounded fitness.
Both Zwift and Peloton have leaderboards and encourage competition. Peloton promotes friendly competition for motivation, but the competition on Zwift is much stronger and more serious. Peloton does not factor body weight or gender into its resistance metrics. So larger individuals may have an advantage. The Zwift app gives you the opportunity to join the Zwift Racing League for the chance to compete in national and world championships in races that are as challenging as real life. Zwift lets you compete against riders within your weight and FTP categories. The competition on Zwift is every bit as serious as it is on the road.
Zwift and Peloton cycling programs create completely different moods and environments but are fun but in different ways. Zwift is designed to give you the most outdoor-like experience on the saddle without leaving your home. You connect your regular bike to the turbo trainer and ride virtual trails that feel like the real deal. The vibe is adventurous and gritty.
Peloton is not supposed to feel like outdoor cycling. Instead, it brings the experience of an energetic spin class to your home. You get the same motivating trainer and upbeat music that you would expect at CycleBar or SoulCycle. The mood is upbeat and exciting.
Both Zwift and Peloton create a cycling community in unique ways. Zwift allows you to chat with other cyclists as you ride on their companion app and ride with or compete against other members of the Zwift community in races and events. Peloton allows you to share stats with other cyclists and join their social media accounts with an active following.
Zwift can cost as little as $14.99/month, assuming you use your existing bike and already own a turbo trainer. If you don’t own a smart turbo trainer, you’d need to purchase one, which costs anywhere from $500–$1000. Smart trainers aren’t required, but you don’t experience the benefits of automatic resistance changes and aren’t able to enjoy the perks of competing in the Swift community. Regular turbo trainers also require additional cadence and speed sensors and ANT+ connection. Zwift offers a compatible smart turbo trainer called the Zwift Hub Smart Trainer for only $499.
A basic Peloton bike costs around $1,445. It isn’t necessary to purchase the bike, but you are seriously limited without it. The Peloton subscription with the bike costs $39.99 per month. You’ll also need cycling cleats compatible with your bike. Most road cycling cleats aren’t compatible, so you might need to purchase a pair from Peloton for $125. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the Peloton app by itself for $14.99 per month. This is a good option for strength or HIIT workouts but doesn’t serve much purpose to cyclists without the bike involved. You can purchase the bike without the subscription, but you won’t be able to participate in the competition and will be limited to only 3 workouts. Peloton is pricey but so many fitness lovers swear by it.
Zwift and Peloton have two fundamentally different goals. Zwift intends to make you a better cyclist, and Peloton intends to make you a fitter person. Zwift is the perfect app for cycling pros and others to participate in cycling as a sport. A Peloton is great if you want to improve your cardiovascular endurance and strength but don’t intend to train specifically for cycling.
Which should you choose–Zwift or Peloton?
To decide between Zwift or Peloton, first, figure out what your cycling goals are. Are you training for a race? Do you want to improve as a cyclist, or improve your overall physical fitness? Do you plan to combine your indoor training with outdoor cycling? What allures you most? Energetic instructors or cycling with the pros?
If you have goals to race, cycle on tours, or ride in a Gran Fondo, then the Zwift is the better option for you. If you want to have fun exercising in a low-impact, high-energy way, the Peloton is a great choice. Both programs are awesome–the choice depends on your preferences and desired outcomes.
Train with George Hincapie
If you want to ride with George Hincapie on Zwift, join us on Wednesdays at 7:20 p.m EST for a workout designed to increase your power and endurance. The goal of these events is to get cyclists ready for the Gran Fondo Hincapie, where you can cycle with George in person.
If you’re brand new to cycling, use our cycling training plan for beginners to improve your riding. And no matter how skilled you are as a cyclist, these 10 best ways to increase your cycling power will benefit your cycling performance.