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Last Updated: July 15, 2022
Some exercise bikes have 32 levels of resistance, some have 24, and of course, Peloton has 100 resistance levels. How can you compare the resistance between bikes that have such different levels and measurements?
Digital levels are determined by the strength of the magnetic current opposing the flywheel. Since different companies create and measure the magnetic current of each level differently, it’s difficult to compare exercise bikes straight across. However, the table below gives a rough estimate of the resistance levels between bike brands.
Is It Better To Have More Resistance Levels?
More levels are not necessarily better. While it would seem like having 100 levels would be the easiest to measure, when you’re on the bike, that is actually a lot of levels to navigate through. You may notice that Peloton instructors don’t cue a specific level or RPE, they typically give a 10-level range, so you aren’t navigating through a bunch of small levels.
Benefits Of More Levels
- If there are lots of levels, you have more options to find the perfect resistance. This is good for new riders who may want smaller increments to work through.
- You have more play between levels, so you don’t have to be as precise with the level you choose. For example, there’s not going to be much difference between level 33 and level 34 (out of 100) since they are such small measurements, so you can choose any level between 32 – 37 before you start to feel a measurable difference.
- Riders who want to keep resistance low, can still work through levels 1-20 rather than be stuck at levels 1-5.
Drawbacks Of More Levels
- Levels feel indistinguishable. If you like responsive tension, having too many levels may be frustrating.
- It’s a lot of levels to navigate through. It may take some fiddling with the resistance knob to find the right level.
- Most riders may never use the most extreme levels (like 1-3 or levels 90-100), so for the most part, you’ll ride in roughly the same resistance range on any bike.
When using an app on a different bike:
If you are using a digital app, but riding a bike from a different manufacturer, knowing the corresponding levels is helpful. If you are on a bike that doesn’t have preset resistance levels, you can assess your own based on RPE ratings. RPE stands for: Rate of Perceived Exertion. How hard you feel you are working is your “perceived” exertion. As you get stronger, you will be able to withstand higher amounts of exertion without feeling fatigued.
Another helpful tip is to combine the Trainer’s Cues with your RPE and cadence:
Most instructors will not cue effort much above 75 to 80%. This is because you should always maintain a little power reserve while on the bike. Pressing too much resistance can hurt your knees and back. Running too hard up a hill can leave you out of breath and possibly dizzy. There’s no need to do leg-presses on the bike. Find a heavy resistance at or about 85% max for steady climbing and no more than 80% for any standing intervals. Keep cadence at or below 120rpm at all times.
Incline / Decline
If a bike has built-in incline and decline, the angle of the bike will affect how each resistance level feels. For example, level 14 on a flat grade will be much easier than level 14 on a 10% grade — even though resistance is the same. Currently, only the NordicTrack bikes feature incline and decline. This feature makes it so each resistance level has the additional variable of incline grade. Even though the NordicTrack bikes don’t have as many levels of resistance, (24 compared with Peloton’s 100), they offer more variables – so you get more conditioning with the challenge of incline and resistance, rather than just resistance alone.
Assuming both Peloton and Keiser have their resistance levels evenly spaced, shouldn’t the Keiser numbers be closer to a simple Peloton divided by four? For example, how could Peloton 0-10 be equal to a six? Shouldn’t a Keiser six be closer to a Peloton 24, as opposed to a Peloton 10? The only other explanation is that one of the bikes isn’t evenly spacing resistance levels. Can you confirm?
You are correct – there is no standard measurement of what a “resistance level” is — each company sets and measures their own levels and increments, which makes it difficult to compare. Our chart is an estimated comparison of each manufacturer’s resistance levels — it is meant to give you more of an idea of general comparative range. It is also based on our testing and experience, since there is no way to scientifically calculate the actual resistance level on all the different bikes. We would love for every company to use the same measurement and/or leveled system! Unfortunately they don’t and not all the levels are equally comparable; for example level 16 on a Keiser bike might be level 58.4 on Peloton, 9.5 on ProForm, and only roughly correspond to Echelon’s level 17, etc. So in a comparative chart with 6 six different bikes there are going to be gaps based on where the levels are measured. If you are using an exercise bike at home with 16 resistance levels but you would like to use the Peloton app, we hope our chart gives you a general idea of what level would correspond, but of course you’ll have to adapt it per your bike and resistance metrics. Good luck!
This was so helpful. Thank you!
Thanks this is really great information. I need one more help though …I got a bowflex C6 and trying to compare with Peloton as I am using Peloton app. as I never used Peloton its hard to compare.
By any chance do you have any data you have ? If you can share details with me that will be great help .
Appreciate your help!
The Bowflex C6 has 100 resistance levels as does the Peloton, but they are calibrated and measured differently, so level 20 on the C6 may not feel exactly the same as level 20 on the Peloton bike. Additionally, the Peloton bike seems to have more resistance at higher levels (90-100). Bigger, stronger riders who can push more resistance on the bike may notice that the peak 100 level resistance isn’t as challenging on the C6 as on the Peloton bike. However, it is certainly enough to get your heart rate racing.
When following a 3rd party app, you may have to adjust your resistance based on how it feels rather than go by the level alone. Consider the ranges offered by the instructor to be a percentage. If they cue a range of 40-50, you should add resistance that equals about 40-50% of your riding power. 60-70% is hard. 70-80% is difficult and 90-100% power you would be fully maxed out and barely able to pedal.
Do you have any advice on how to compare the resistance on a Stages SC3 bike to a Keiser M3 please? I am looking to follow Les Mills spinning videos which use the Stages bike, but I have a Keiser and want to follow the correct resistance levels.
We haven’t tested the Keiser Stages SC3, so I can’t give you an informed comparison on that one. Keiser bikes are sturdy and built to last. They have a great reputation, but I don’t know how the resistance compares, sorry!
I’m using a bike that’s not listed and only shows my rpms. When peloton says 40-50 what percentage of my maximum say at 100% I can’t move my legs and 50% I feel resistance but could maintain for awhile… sometimes I feel I’m over doing it so I’m not sure what 40-50 or 35-40 means on peloton
I usually recommend interpreting Peloton’s levels as RPE (rate of perceived exertion) levels. For example, levels 40-50 would equate with 40-50% of your total exertion with 100% being max exertion and 20% being barely working hard. This makes it so users on any bike can roughly gauge how hard they are working in comparison to the recommended level. At 60% you should feel aerobic – you are working hard, but you can still breathe. 70% is roughly your aerobic threshold where breathing becomes more difficult. At about 80% you should begin to work anaerobically, 90% is fully breathless and 100% is all out power.
How does the max resistance of the echelon compare to the max resistance of the peloton? Are they equally as difficult or is one more difficult than the other?
Max resistance on the Peloton Bike is much higher than on the Echelon bike. I can ride the Echelon on max resistance and stay seated. On the Peloton bike I have to stand up to try and continue to pedal on any level past 80. The Peloton is much more challenging at higher resistance levels.