If you haven’t read my FAQ regarding Bike Calibration FAQ, I suggest starting there before reading on.
The obvious question, and why you are reading this, is to understand if this is an issue, why it could be an issue and ultimately is it worth it trying to address the problem.
Well, I wasn’t all that interested until I made my first trip to the mothership in NY and to make a long story short, I just didn’t perform as well as I did at home and I noticeably felt that the bikes in NY were much harder- but was it really due to travel, lack of sleep, first time in a group SPIN class, etc.
After returning home I began to Google topics such as “Peloton bike calibration” and as you can see today, there are a ton of Facebook posts, Reddit discussions and other forms of information regarding peoples “feelings” about how much Peloton bikes seemed off, outlandish output numbers from some in the community, etc. Eventually I learned that my bike actually came with calibration tools and there was actually a video on YouTube that walked you through calibrating your bike [No longer available by the way, and in all truth it was not very good nor that detailed].
Regardless, as much information as there was on the internet, everything was still based on peoples “feelings”, no hard data, no real instance where someone was able to compare Apple’s to Apple’s if you will – at least close to being able to compare them. I guess what I was looking for was a compelling reason to not only explain what happened in NY and to give me a reason to care enough to see if this was really an issue.
Then came a challenge from my local Peloton Boutique, a competition for all riders that involved taking a 20 minute historical class in the boutique and giving the winners in each category (Male / Female) a shirt. Hell, they were going to also have Champagne and Donuts, who could pass this up.
Let’s begin with the sample ride; Alex Toussaint’s 12/23/17 @ 9:30 AM 20 Min Pop Ride.
Before we get into the data; in all rider history for this class, the top three rides, for this 20 minute class are; As a note, you can no longer look up the historical leaderboard rankings at http://www.onepeloton.com, you can only view this information on your Peloton tablet.
1st Place Rider – 934 total output with a 780 average output – As Of 3/21/2018
2nd Place Rider – 900 total output with a 752 average output – As Of 3/21/2018
3rd Place Rider – 631 total output with a 536 average output – As Of 3/21/2018
Think about the numbers above…really, think about it…….
Back to Alex’s ride………
Ride #1 – Live Ride On Home Bike – 12/23/2017 – 390 Output Total – 326 Output Average – 477 Output Max – 8th Place Out Of 1001 Riders As Of 2/14/2018 – Previous Bike Calibration Date Unknown.
The ride chart is shown below; I specifically took this ride at the time as I hadn’t taken a 20 minute class in ages – it stands as my PR for a 20 minute ride. A few items to note; in general, a pretty large delta (difference) between my output and my HR – for 3/4’s of the ride, my HR was around 168 to 173 – in that 92% HR max level giving my HR max setting of 185. Remember, having a large delta between your HR reading and your output is a very good indicator if your bike is severely off in calibration [if your HR reading is abnormally low given the corresponding output reading]. Meaning, if you were to have a HR reading of say 120, regardless of age and an average output of 270 or higher – your bike is more than likely not calibrated correctly.
Ride #2 – Recorded Ride, Same Ride, Peloton Boutique Bike Newport Beach, CA Live – 1/20/2018 – 266 Output Total – 189 Output Average – 344 Output Max – 320th Place Out Of 1001 Riders As Of 2/14/2018 – Previous Bike Calibration Date Unknown.
My local Peloton boutique is the best, every one there is great. They decided to hold a little competition for local riders – come to the boutique on the same day, ride any 20 minute class on demand and the rider with the highest output in the male and female class would win a shirt. I was in; I decided to ride the same ride as above; why not, it was my PR, I was going to go for the win. Oh boy, look at the data below.
As you would expect, with it being a competition, I was going to go all out. Then I got on the bike to warm up and instantly knew I was in trouble. The bike was materially more difficult, taking more force to move the crank, than my bike at home.
I pushed as hard as I possibly could, my HR average was a bit higher than when I took the ride live (94% versus 92%); I really couldn’t give any more. You can see almost no delta between my HR and my output and you can clearly see where given as hard as I was working I had parts of the ride where I simply had to rest. This bike was clearly calibrated harder [does not mean calibrated incorrectly]; meaning, it took more force to move the crank at the same resistance level as my home bike.
Ride #3 – Recorded Ride, Same Ride, On Home Bike – 2/15/2018 – 320 Output Total – 267 Output Average – 352 Output Max – 35th Place Out Of 1001 Riders As Of 2/15/2018 – Bike Calibrated 2/14/2018.
The bike was calibrated on 2/14/2018. As you can imagine, knowing the outputs of Ride #1 and Ride #2 – my objective was to push this ride to the ultimate limit.
Well, what stands out? Looking at heart rate you can clearly see that it remains around the same as Ride #1, a bit higher when looked at detail, but notice the delta between output and heart rate – focus on the final numbers (93% versus 92% in Ride #1). Ride #3, post calibration proved to be a “harder” bike to ride; harder than my bike in Ride #1 when we had no idea when it was last calibrated, but much easier than Ride #2, the Peloton Boutique bike ridden during the competition.
Looking back at the top of the article, it’s clear that when looking at the top riders in each ride, their bikes are clearly out of calibration.
The only way for you to know you are riding an accurately calibrated bike is to do it yourself; and to keep doing it to make sure it is as consistent as possible.
The only way to compare different bikes is by using a heart rate monitor and to gauge output versus HR levels – you need to be using a HR rate monitor anyways or you have no idea how you are exercising versus your goals, how you are making progress and to what degrees.
I would argue we all owe it to the community to be riding as accurate bikes as possible. There is no way to remove your rides during a live class from the leaderboard – to give the community an accurate picture, ride a calibrated bike, simple as that.
Please feel free to follow me, let me know of any comments or questions.