Apple Fitness+ Cycling vs. Peloton, a Beginner's Perspective

My recent start on a fitness journey had absolutely nothing to do with a New Year’s resolution. It had a lot to do with a tremendous amount of work a did a few years ago to lose 70 pounds, and the fact that I had put about half of it back on. It had even more to do with being surrounded by a slew of health problems amoung friends and family, virtually all caused by a lack of fitness in some way or another. All of this seemed to be sending a message that I heard loud and clear. “Time to take better care of yourself, or even more hard to ignore messages will be coming your direction, soon.”

I’ve had an exercise bike for a couple of years. I was never interested in the Peloton bike itself. It wasn’t really the cost of the bike that put me off, it was the cost of the subscription. The fact that the monthly fee for the app is considerably less than the monthly fee associated with the bike always struck me as very odd. I did quite a bit of research, and a Schwinn IC4 seemed to be functionally equivalent, and even the color scheme is the same. I purchased a little tag on Etsy that provided conversion numbers for Peloton resistance numbers1, and I was ready to go (I have ridden my sister-in-law’s Peloton bike, to just give those conversion numbers the eye-test [or would it be leg-test?] and they do seem to be very reasonable.)

My setup is as follows:

  • The IC4 bike (an IC8 is an identical piece of equipment, it’s just the European version), which has Bluetooth connectivity (the Peloton app does not communicate directly with the IC4, which is a completely reasonable restriction)
  • An iPad Pro, capable of running Stage Manager
  • Either the Apple Fitness+ or the Peloton app, and the Kinetic app to read cadence. Resistance is read from the IC4 screen itself

I’m a beginner. If you are up at the very top of the leaderboard in your Peloton sessions, than this review is probably too remedial for you. I do 30 minute rides, and I do them reasonably close to the top of what I am capable of. I’m not looking to cruise for 30 minutes, I’m looking to do intervals, breathe hard, and work up a good sweat. This is my experience with both apps, where they both excel, where they both fall short, and which I’ll be using going into the future.

Workout Experience

Both apps provide a premium workout experience but they are very, very different from one another. Peloton has resumed recording in a live studio with bikers who paid to be there. Even when they did not have cyclists in studio, they went a bit out of their way to hide that fact. Peloton really plays up and is based on, the live experience. I understand that Peloton is trying to establish that community feel with their presentation, they want you to feel as though you are aprt of something bigger (heck, it’s in the company’s NAME). The Peloton studio looks more like a dance club, its crowded, with lots of black, mirrors, and spotlighting.

Apple, on the other hand, does not even try to hide the fact that the workouts are recorded beforehand. While there are other participants in the studio where the workout is being recorded, and they are extremely vocal, the Apple workout stage is far more spartan, almost to the point of feeling empty. The contrast with Peloton could not be more stark. The Apple Studio is fill of wood flooring, well-lit, and airy.

Extremely frequent name checks of those in the studio and those following along live at home are a hallmark of the Peloton experience. I suppose if that is your thing, this could be a huge plus in favor of Peloton. For me, I find it tremendously irritating. It’s a matter of personal preference.

Beyond the presentation and the look of the studio, the workouts themselves are different. Apple Fitness+ is simpler here, but that may not be to their benefit. A 30 minute workout is a 30 minute workout. There is very little in the way of warm up, and even less in the way of a cooldown or a post workout stretch. Peloton, on the other hand, a 30 minute workout is about 25 minuttes. The rest is taken up with an explanation of how the bike works, a 2-5 minute warmup, and a 1-2 minute cooldown stretch following the ride. It seems very much as though Apple expects you to do one of their cooldown workouts immediately following your ride, even to the point that they have a button at the bottom of their workout summary that suggests you do just that, and takes you immediately to a selection of those workouts when touched. Post-workout, Peloton asks if you liked the ride, and how difficult you would rate that ride as. The difficulty rating as given by users of the app is visible before you select a specific ride, and I found it to be both useful and accurate. Apple simply says of every ride that it could be any difficulty level, with modifications. While true, it’s not particularly helpful information.

I found the Peloton app approach to be more encouraging of good habits that will lessen the chances of injury, and in that small way, probably safer than Fitness+.2

Even the actual content of the workouts is significantly different. The intervals in Apple Fitness+ are considerably longer, of stretching through an entire song. Depending on exactly what you are doing, in Peloton, they can be as short as 15 seconds, and rarely last for more than 1 minute. In my experience, the Apple Fitness+ workouts seemed harder, but the number of calories burned was almost identical for similar length sessions.

App Integration

As you would expect, the Apple Fitness+ integration with iPad OS and with my Apple Watch is incredibly well done. You can see the progress of your rings on screen at all times, along with your heart rate and time to activity change (for example, from recovery to a climb). Apple also gives you a “burn bar” which is meant to show how well you are doing against others who have done the same ride. In my experience, I have rarely seen the burn bar move away from the very middle, indicating that I’m about average.

While the Peloton app does properly register itself as a workout in your daily activity, it has no integration with the Apple Watch, so heart rate is not information you have access to unless you remember to start a workout on your watch at the same time you start in Peloton (Fitness+ does this automatically). Peloton does not even have an equivalent to the burn bar (the leaderboard is only accessible if you are actually on a Peloton bike, it does not show in the app).

Neither app integrates directly with my IC4, so cadence is a bit of a mystery. There are a couple of solutions to this, though. First, you could use any number of apps that integrate with the IC4 on your iPhone. While this will most definitely give you the information you need, you’re now trying to find some way to attach both an iPad and an iPhone to the bike above the IC4 integrated display, and this seems… accident prone.

If you have a resonably powerful iPad, and can run iOS 16 with Stage Manager, you can run both your cadence readout app (I use Kinetic) and your workout app at the same time. Both Peloton and Fitness+ run in Stage Manager setups well, however, anytime Fitness+ is not the foremost window, it pauses. I found this extremely inconvenient, both when I wanted to check on something in Kinetic, and due to the fact that I occassionally run a Shortcut that identifies the current song, and adds it to a playlist in Apple Music for me. Every time I ran my Shortcut, the workout in Fitness+ paused, and I had to restart it. Peloton did not have any such behavior.

Again, just as with the workout experience, there’s not a clear winner, as both apps have shortcomings I would very much like to see addressed.


Like everything else, the approaches here are different, and reflect each company’s values. Apple’s instructors are more consistent in their approach, and their frequent mentioning of modifying the ride if you need to and their use of ASL throughout the workout attempt to make as many people as possible feel welcome. Peloton’s instructors are MUCH more varied in their accent (Peloton also has a London studio they record in), their use of profanity (which I have not encountered in Fitness+ yet, I suspect I won’t.), and their promotion of their own social media.

I’m not a prude, I generally don’t care about cursing, and there are situatiuons when I curse like a sailor… and not all the Peloton instructors use profanity… but the ones that do, use it a LOT. I did find it off-putting. In this particular case, it’s a specific Peloton instructor who I didn’t care for at all, and the cursing was just one of many reasons, so I may be pretty biased here.

I found the best Peloton instructors to be the best available, and the worst Peloton istructors to be the worst available. Both by a large margin. Fitness+ instructors were solidly in the middle. This is such a matter of personal taste and musical preferences, I am not sure it would make much sense to even declare a winner. Find an instructor or instructors you like, and stay with them. There’s enough selction on both platforms to keep you busy for quite a while before having to repeat (although it is fair to point out that Peloton’s library is much, much larger than Apple’s. If you are hugely sensitive to watching a repeat, that may be something you want to keep in mind.)


I am in a unique situation, as the health insurance plan I have gives me a complimentary subscription to both apps. As such, I’ll probably use both. I genuinely like both. I sincerely wish, though, that Peloton had more intgration with the Apple Watch for on-screen display of rings and heart rate (although I completely understand why they don’t, and never will) and tighter integration with non-Peloton bikes (although again I completely understand why they don’t, and never will). And for goodness’ sake, let’s cut the number of name-checks during the workout by about 80% (I understand why they won’t do this, either). A feature that the application that runs on the Peloton Bike has that the app doesn’t is the ability to add the songs from the current ride to a Spotify playlist. I’d very much like to see the ability to save songs to a playlist (preferably to Apple Music, too) and then I would not have to use my shortcut.

Likewise, I wish Apple also had some integration with specific bikes (unlikely, although WAY more possible than with Peloton) so that I could see cadence on-screen with all those other useful stats, but in the meantime, Kinetic fills that gap for me, and does it well. Just like with Peloton, I’d VERY much like to see the ability to save the current workouts’ songs to a playlist in Apple Music, and I’m a bit dumbfounded why it does not do this already3. The addition of this feature would make the pauses when using my shortcut a non-factor.

It’s reasonable to say that I prefer the Apple Fitness+ app, and I prefer the Peloton content (even with the name checks). There’s not an across the board winner. Each does things well where the other app falls short. Which one I launch on any given day will probably just come down to my mood.

  1. I have decided, for the time being that “easy” in Fitness+ vocabulary is about a resistance 30 in Peloton (~9 on an IC4), “moderate” is 36-37 on the Peloton (~18 on an IC4), “hard” is 44-47 (~38-40 on an IC4), and “all-out” is whatever you can manage above that. ↩︎

  2. This vaies more by instructor than I originally realized. Emily, in particular, on Fitness+ provides warmup/cooldown periods, although there is still no stretching. Peloton still gets the nod here, but it’s FAR closer than I originally thought. ↩︎

  3. I have since figured out that this feature mostly exists in Fitness+. You can’t do it from within the workout, and you can’ do it for an individual song. But you can save a playlist that matches the music in your current workout when you finish the workout. Not perfect, but closer than I realized earlier. ↩︎