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Is It Crazy to Buy Fitness Equipment from Costco?

How else am I gonna burn off the 5,000-count package of Twix I just purchased with my membership?

If you’re looking to purchase food in bulk at a steep discount, Costco is the place for you. I’ve known restaurateurs who’ve stocked their commercial-grade refrigerators with purchases sourced from Costco’s food aisles, and I’ve spoken with owners of private gas stations who’ve made towering purchases of candy and soda at Costco, then marked them up substantially at their places.

Costco, however, isn’t the first place that comes to mind for quality fitness products — or fitness products of any level of quality. It’s not like I’d be inclined to do my fitness shopping at Walmart or Target either, mind you. It’s simply a matter of knowing that retail shoppers driven by the pursuit of rock-bottom prices are probably the least likely consumer segment to make a spur-of-the-moment, high-dollar purchase of an item like an exercise bike while they’re simultaneously bagging an economy size box of Twix. 

Which begs the question: What sort of exercise bikes are available for purchase at Costco, and are any of them any good?

That’s a good question! Can Costco be the redeemer of both my wallet and my wellness, all at an exceptionally low price?

Well, the only way to find out is to see what sort of exercise bikes Costco has available for purchase and compare them to some of the options at other stores. A cursory check of the Costco website reveals a grand total of five fitness bike options available to members across three different bike categories — upright, recumbent and spin.

Let’s start with the upright bikes: How do Costco’s compare with those available at fitness retailers?

Straight out of the gate, Costco has upright bike options for individuals who prefer flywheel resistance and people who prefer magnetic resistance. For the life of me, I’ve never met anyone familiar with the feel of an authentic, outdoor bicycle who prefers magnetic resistance to flywheel resistance. No matter how much quieter a bike with magnetic resistance might be, a bike with flywheel resistance will always feel better to me.

Anyway, the ProForm Folding X-Bike Elite may appear like a flimsy substitute for a beefier upright bike, and that’s because it is. However, its lack of size is respectfully reflected in its inexpensive price tag of $149.99, and it has more than enough bells and whistles to make it an attractive entry-level purchase for people who aren’t sure if indoor biking is going to become a permanent fixture in their lives. It offers 10 levels of flywheel resistance, a foldable design and a six-month membership to iFIT, which allows you to access the workouts of personal trainers through your iPhone or tablet, while your bike automatically adjusts its resistance to equate with the terrain your trainers are traversing. It also provides its users with a couple of two-pound weights, which isn’t much, but it’s consistent with some of the weight offerings of bikes that cost several times as much.

At another retail store, you could probably get a much sturdier upright bike, like this fancy Schwinn offering, which costs about three times as much. The Schwinn is definitely hardier, and has 25 different resistance settings as opposed to 10, along with MP3 compatibility and a much fancier LCD screen. It can also support individuals who are 50 pounds heavier — 300 pounds compared with 250 pounds — so individuals who are starting from a point that’s deeper in the hole will benefit from the heftier frame.

Okay, Costco’s upright bike doesn’t exactly seem like a piece of junk. So what about in the recumbent category?

Here, Costo pulls no punches. They offer an XTERRA SB 550 at a sales price of $699.99. It features flywheel resistance with 20 different settings, MP3 compatibility, a backlit LCD screen and a built-in cooling fan. In the recumbent category, this is essentially a top-of-the-line bike. The only way you’re going to do better is if you’re prepared to spend more money on a recumbent bike than you are on a first-class Alaskan cruise, while shelling out thousands of dollars for a touch screen and an adjustable reading station.

Awesome! It appears that Costco isn’t afraid to offer top-of-the-line fitness equipment if the situation calls for it. How does their spin-style bike option stack up?

If you’re an authentic Costco member, it appears that membership does indeed have its privileges when it comes to spin bikes. Costco offers its members a substantial discount on the Echelox EX-5s spin bike. It provides 32 levels of resistance with access to instructor-led classes through its HD flip screen. The resistance of the bike is of the magnetic variety, which doesn’t personally appeal to me, but I’m not prepared to nitpick when Costo is offering a huge discount on what is ordinarily a $1,500 bike. While this bike doesn’t have the widespread reputation of a Peloton, it’s generally considered to be just one rung below it.

Whoa! Costco doesn’t necessarily offer worse products than a lot of fitness retailers!

They’re not necessarily of an inferior quality, but Costo is unlikely to devote nearly as much floor space to fitness equipment as the vendors that specialize in such products. This means you don’t have many testing models at your disposal to compare side-by-side. That said, Costco’s corporate buyers are under pressure to stock items that are going to move from the shelves just the same as the buyers of any other big-box store. This may not always result in Costco offering the Cadillac option in every category, but it appears that you can find some quality fitness equipment at inviting discounts as you wander Costco’s aisles looking for 20-pound barrels of pretzels.

Always remember, it’s nice if your exercise bike comes standard with all of the gimmicks, but those of us who remember an era before such creature comforts were commonplace know that adequate pedal resistance and 30 minutes to spare are all it takes to achieve an adequate workout. Instructor-led workouts and MP3 compatibility are pleasant touches, but it doesn’t matter how many fit people you watch from the seat of your bike, whether it’s inside of a gym or from the comfort of your own living room.  No one on that expensive monitor can do the work for you. Whether it’s a $100 backlit LCD or a $2,000 HD touchscreen, you have to do it yourself.