What does it mean for my bike to be “properly calibrated”?
A calibrated bike means that your bike has been adjusted so that at a given resistance setting, the force needed to move your crank in a circular motion is within Peloton specifications – and ultimately, matched as closely with all other bikes in the community.
Is the proper calibration of Peloton’s bike really an issue?
Depends on if you care about the accuracy of your bike or not; if you don’t care about an accurate bike and don’t use the leader board then you saved yourself some time and can move on. If you do care read below.
First, the leader board is driven by output figures; if you get motivated by this feature or even worse, discouraged by the leader board when people are sailing right by you, then of course you want everyone to be on as level as a playing field as we can.
Second, you might be thinking that you are a monster on the bike, producing fantastic levels of output. There was just a recent post where a Peloton user stated that it was quite possible to average an 80 cadence at a 100 resistance level – yaaaaa, no. Having a poorly calibrated bike can be a detriment to your progress. Think about being able to workout at a 100 resistance and 80 cadence – how do you improve on a bike that maxes out at that?
What are the specific calibration settings?
Peloton does not provide a document stating how much force it should take to move the crank at X resistance. However, you can read this post which visually shows you what an accurately calibrated bike looks like following the calibration process. This Is What A Properly Calibrated Bike Looks Like
What do the calibration steps or instructions attempt to do?
In the simplest terms, the calibration instructions attempt to standardize the distance the magnets are to the flywheel given your resistance setting [magnets move up and down, not right or left to the flywheel. The closer the magnets are to the flywheel, the more force it takes to move the crank in a circular motion.
For example; at a 40 resistance the magnets should be specifically X inches away from the flywheel. At a 50 resistance the magnets should be specifically X inches away from the flywheel; a bit closer to the flywheel than when at 40. A 60 resistance would be closer, etc, etc.
Keep in mind, the calibration process not address cadence readings; this is done via a sensor that measures the rotation of the flywheel – not at the crank and it cannot be adjusted or changed.
Bikes that are not calibrated correctly mean, as an example, you could have a bike that at a 40 resistance level has it’s magnets set 2 inches away from the flywheel – meaning, it would be much easier to move the crank in a circle. You could also have a bike that at a 40 resistance level has it’s magnets set 1/4 inch away from the flywheel – meaning it would be much harder to move the crank in a circle.
I’ve been told that a properly calibrated bike means “that at a constant and specific resistance setting and a constant and specific cadence a properly calibrated bike will produce the same output number”.
Just to be clear – the math behind cadence plus resistance = X output is the same across the board. We are talking about how much force it takes to move the crank at a resistance and how to get the bike calibrated to Peloton specifications.
Simply put; you can have a bike which takes 10 pounds of force at a 40 resistance level to move the crank in a circle. You can have another bike that takes 5 pounds of force at a 40 resistance level to move the crank in a circle. Both bikes would produce the same output number, or relatively close; however, the 2nd bike, which only takes 5 pounds of force to turn the crank, would be much easier to ride than the first bike.
So hold on; is there anyway I can tell if my bike is not calibrated correctly?
The two quickest ways to determine this;
First, and by the far easiest to determine if your bike is materially out of calibration is to simply be honest with yourself. Are you always in the top 5% to 10% of all riders but can’t run a 7:00 minute mile? Conversely, can you run a 7 minute mile but find yourself consistently in the bottom 3/4 of all riders in a given ride? If so, you have an issue.
Second, you should always be riding with an HR monitor? If you don’t, then you have no way of tracking/ measuring your progress from a cardio vascular development perspective. Second, it’s an easy way to determine if those Tour De France level output levels are even close to accurate; if you are always in the top 5% of a given class yet your HR doesn’t touch the 90% level then again, you have an issue. In the past Peloton gave users the ability to easily look up peoples rides; when I examined the top 5% of all riders in over 100 rides, less than 1% of all the riders used an HR monitor.
Is there not a tool to measure the actual force it takes to move the crank on a Peloton bike?
Yes; it’s called a dynamometer, it’s too expensive and the explanation of how to use such a tool is beyond the scope of this blog and most riders.
Is there anything else that impacts how hard or easy my bike is to pedal?
Not really; but you do have the ability to adjust how much pressure / friction the belt on the bike applies to the flywheel – but you only read need to adjust this if you feel the belt slipping and usually this is only felt when riding out of saddle at a heavy resistance, you can read more about it here Answered – Why Is My Bike Slipping?
How common are poorly calibrated bikes?
Impossible to tell – the only real way to see a bike that is off is to see super human output levels on rides; however, impossible to really determine bikes that are “over” calibrated, or much harder than they should be as these output levels would simply appear as just that, low rider intensity.
Finally, I’ve posted a first hand account of how big of an issue this can be here Peloton – Why Bike Calibration Matters?
Why could / should I care about this?
- You want to compete on as level as a playing field as you can; and you because you can only control you, you want to ride on a correctly calibrated bike.
- Bikes at the Mothership in NY are calibrated multiple times a month. Maybe you would like your bike to be close to as accurate as your instructor when they call out resistance settings. If you also plan on visiting the Mothership, maybe you want to be as prepared as possible for riding an accurately calibrated bike.
- You use the leader board.
- You would like your projected calorie usage at the end of rides to be as accurate as possible. Outlandish and unearned output results will impact this reading.
- Using a weight lifting analogy; if you lift 45 pound weight at your house – it should weigh 45 pounds. Not 45 pounds at your house, 35 pounds at your neighbors and 65 pounds at the gym down the street.
Why should / would I not care about this?
- You only ride one bike, you don’t compare yourself to others, your all good.
- Your having fun and you like the bike how it is.
- You don’t even use an HR monitor much less care how much force it takes to push the crank in a circle.
- You don’t use the leader board, you don’t compete against other riders and / or you don’t care where you stack up in comparison to others when rides are finished.
What are some reasons as to why I might not want to calibrate my bike?
While the process itself is not very difficult; it does take some work, a screw driver, an Hex wrench and some time. Second and maybe the most important, you have an entire historical record of rides based on how your bike was calibrated at the time of your ride. Stop……think about this.
Going back to the weightlifting analogy, let’s say you spent the last year lifting 45 pounds, you even set a PR at 55 pounds. Then you re-calibrate your bike; it’s correct now, but what you didn’t know is that 45 pounds was really 35 pounds – now all of your future rides will be harder. You might not hit a PR again for a while; maybe ever depending how far your bike was off. Some people would prefer to live with the previous settings; the impact to their psyche is to great regardless of how inaccurate their bike is, I get it – just understand the impact of calibrating your bike.
If you want to see what a properly calibrated bike looks like you can view my post of the subject here Peloton – This Is What A Properly Calibrated Bike Looks Like
Ok, I’m in, I want to calibrate my bike as accurately as possible.
Peloton Screen Name – #QuienEsMasMacho
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