Is the PelotonReally Worth It?
One man takes the leap to see if the connected bike lives up to the hype
When Peloton’s now infamous commercial debuted in time for Christmas last year, I joined in on the laughter. I wasn't offended, and didn't find anything overly controversial, but I did roll my eyes at our protagonist's need to broadcast every ride from her picturesque home—sharing her “journey” with her friends/followers/fans.
In the thirty-second spot she transitions from surprised, to nervous, to groggy (“It's 6 am, yay”), to ultimately grateful as she reflects on how the indoor bike changed her life, which already seemed picture perfect on the surface.
Unlike most recessions where the fitness industry slows, Peloton's connected bike business is booming because it's designed specifically to keep users home and healthy—two things we've all been focused on since mid-March. Their stock is surging, monthly users are up, and the brand just introduced their newest product, the Peloton+, a bike with a swiveling monitor upgrade that transforms a few square feet of floor space into a bespoke studio, doubling the bike's capabilities.
Last December, I joined in on the laughter; but this summer, I just joined in. With my gym shut down and my back in shambles from sidewalk jogs in Chicago's Northside, it was time to switch gears. With just a handful of indoor cycling classes to my name, I had a delivery date set and soon I'd be a full-fledged convert.
Evolving from being a spin novice to a Peloton owner is a leap of faith, to say the least. I'd invested in a new form of exercise with legitimate barriers to entry. Price: You're not finding a steal on Craigslist (there's already become a black market for simple dumbbells). Real Estate: Live in the city where space is a premium? Congrats on your new purchase, it weights 135 pounds and takes up 6 feet of space. Variety: Don't feel like cycling today? You're not bench-pressing your ride, so saddle up.
But, it's these exact barriers that have been such an inspiration to get me hooked. Peloton's 0% APR financing offer meant the bike costs me $68 a month: roughly equivalent to 3-4 spinning classes, excluding the monthly price of the Peloton app subscription. The economics are simple: the more I pedal, the less I pay per class. And I wanted to get my money's worth.
As with all shiny new toys, the novelty begins to fade, and you're left with an expensive piece of workout equipment in the corner, just begging you to become a high-tech coat rack. But, even as a non-athlete I've been able to stick with the Peloton thanks in part to the quasi-cult's overly-inspirational trainers and the beautifully designed interface that offers the analytics and detail you'd expect from a Formula One race car. But, there are other attributes that have kept me clipping in this summer as well.
Spinning with company is a unique way to stay in touch and compete, while striving toward a shared goal. Whether it's the bike's Video Chat function allowing you to stare at your friend sweating (you better be good friends) or just a group text coordinating a ride, the social aspect of the bike is more appealing that I thought it'd be and a great way to maintain some normalcy during the year of the Zoom.
If you've ever entered a spin class to learn the day's themed ride is going to be your personal nails-on-a-chalkboard soundtrack, Peloton has your fix too. Their backlog of playlist solutions have been the most refreshing way to mix things up. Turn off the lights for an Electronic ride, or throw on headphones for an explicit rap ride you don't want the kids to overhear. Every genre is accounted for and Peloton's “Artist Series” offers playlists from Lil' Wayne, Prince and more. Being able to see the playlist beforehand has become a priority when my morale is low, but I know Meek Mill's “Dreams & Nightmares” will guide me through the homestretch to the final flat road.
Finally, the actual instructors themselves are an All-Star collective of athletes, trainers, influencers and motivational speakers, all at your finger-tips. Yes, they're all very easy to look at and don't seem to leave the sweat pile that I do under my bike, but ask anyone with a Peloton who their favorite instructor is and you'll get an emphatic top three list. A standard spin class with forty people is going to require an instructor at the top of their game, so it's no surprise that a class taken around the world with ten-thousand live participants demands the best in the field.
I'm still basking in the honeymoon phase of my Peloton: no maintenance issues (fingers crossed), no weeks without multiple rides, and no tiredness of watching my total distance pile up. Soon enough the days will get shorter and colder and having a Peloton will become the best option for staying in shape at home. I'm hoping the bike's best attributes will keep me pedaling, but if my first instincts prove to be wrong I can always try to offload it on the black market.
The company offers a 30-day home trial. If you don't like it, they will actually come and pick up the bike and refund your entire order—no questions asked.