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PELOTON: A REVIEW

22.02.20

Peloton have certainly made a name for themselves in the seven years since they launched as an exercise equipment brand in New York City – and not just for lambasted ‘Peloton lady’ ad that went viral in December for all the wrong reasons. Hailed as the future of tech fitness, the company is now believed to be worth billions. Their core offering is a luxury stationary bicycle that allows users to stream spinning classes through a monthly subscription. 

Unsurprisingly, this American sensation quickly made waves in the UK and people are hooked. Including me. 

The solid quality of the build, slick interface and helpful data the bike provides are more than enough to warrant its premium price tag in my opinion, but I do enjoy the classes. There are dozens of coaches to choose from – all from varied backgrounds with different teaching methods to help you to achieve your goals – and you’ll soon find your favourite. The coaches even give shout-outs to newcomers, send birthday wishes to participants, and congratulate those super-committed folks who have reached impressive milestones.

 

Another plus is the anonymity the classes offer versus attending a spin class in person. It’s much easier to eliminate embarrassment (of not feeling good enough, being unfit, or not pedalling as fast as everybody else) when nobody knows who you are!

I must admit, I don’t always listen fully to the instructor. When you choose a class, you can also pick the length and a music genre. I can often be found doing a thirty-minute class soundtracked by either classic rock or 90s music! What’s not to like?!

When I do fully tune in, much of what the coach is telling you isn’t just instructions - it’s motivational talk which proves very effective. I recently did an intervals ride with Ben Alldis. Towards the end of the ride I was absolutely exhausted and about to slow for a break when he said “keep pushing, every second counts” – just what I needed to hear to keep me going in my moment of weakness!

Every ride ends with a stretch, guided by the instructor which is critical in helping you recover.  

When I travel, I take my iPad into the gym with me and stick it on the regular stationary bike to join a Peloton class. Whilst you miss out on the data from the bike itself, I know I push harder and for longer than I would just watching a distance count tick up on a regular bike. Some hotels even have Peloton bikes in their gyms now - you simply login to your account and it's just like your bike at home. Win-win!

On the flip side, there are users who have expressed concerns that it’s yet another way of making virtual connections rather than real ones. But, in reality, how many people actually make friends at the gym? For the most part, gyms offer a masterclass in how not to make eye contact with the sweaty stranger working out next to you. 

With prices starting from £1,990 for the bike alone (it’s £39 a month to subscribe to the classes) it’s not a small outlay. A few years ago, I would have winced at the very notion of spending so much on exercise – after all, a quick jog around the local countryside costs nothing. Regardless of shape or size, some people are just not built for the gym and I’m one of them. I’d love to think I have the willpower and dedication to get the most out of a gym membership, but I know for a fact that my enthusiasm would wane as quickly as you can say “where’s that pound coin for the locker?”

But Peloton is different. I genuinely enjoy it. I crave my cycling sessions, and I feel worse within myself for ever missing one. Just a twenty-minute burst in the morning is enough to improve my mental clarity, increase my energy levels and prepare me for the busy day ahead. Plus, housing the bike in my home office means I have no excuses. I don’t have to travel. It’s there, waiting for me at all hours of the day. 

The bike itself sports a 22-inch high-definition touchscreen with inbuilt speakers. You can access classes - either live or archived sessions - quickly and easily with a few swipes of your finger. The bike also provides data on performance, including cadence, resistance and power. The power reading is an algorithm based on resistance and power, rather than a specific indication of strain.

If participating in the classes, the instructor will give you a range for cadence (how fast you’re pedalling) and a range for resistance, which is controlled using a red knob in front of you. These come together for your output in Kj, which is used to calculate your place in the leaderboard.  All the data is there in front of you to track your progress and push as hard as you can…

Sometimes it might be a ride of 10k people (since you can take the classes on demand, the participant numbers are often pretty high) so I’ll aim to be in the top 1,000. Other times, my goal will be to beat my personal best. Your own PB in Kj appears in the leaderboard, so you can see if you’re tracking just ahead or just behind it.

Occasionally I focus on calories, as I know if I really push I can burn 500 in 30 minutes. But most of the time it’s because “Billy, 50s, Texas” just overtook me and I’m going to pedal like crazy to overtake him. I might even get a few “high fives” from fellow competitors in the process!

 

Those who are used to bikes with rollers will also value the Peloton’s ability to handle HIIT training more effectively. You can push harder, faster and with better resistance through gruelling 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off bursts. 

Aside from the expense – which will be a blocker for many – there are a few other negative niggles… 

The live shows are catered to the US audience and so the timings don’t always suit UK participants. Archived classes are easily accessible, but those set on enjoying the live experience may struggle.

The speakers are placed at the back of the screen, meaning the instructor can sometimes sound a bit distant. Using wireless headphones is one way to get around this issue, or by connecting to external speakers for improved clarity. I bought a Bluetooth module which enables me to pair with the Sonos in my office, so I can turn the volume right up with no distortion. I don’t expect it would be a deal breaker for anyone, but when you’re forking out thousands you want it to be perfect. 

There’s also a camera and microphone connected to the screen the entire time you are cycling. Peloton state this allows riders to video chat, but questions around data have rightly been raised. You can never be too careful in this digital age, after all! Although I highly doubt there would be much demand for video streams of red-faced, out-of-breath, sweaty cyclists! 

Lastly, it’s not possible to fold the bike away to save space – once it’s set up, that’s it. Hopefully a more compact version will be available in due course for those seeking space-saving solutions, but in the meantime, size and space are important factors to consider. 

It’s a shame Peloton’s Christmas ad missed the mark by miles. It is so much more than a device designed to lose weight, and the poor Peloton lady’s eyebrows did little to convey that message. It’s incredibly motivational to use and clears your mind, and that feeling of pushing yourself to achieve something you didn’t think possible is second to none. I always get off the bike out of breath, covered in sweat and smiling. They’ve managed to create a device which is so much fun to use. Even if I didn’t lose weight, I’d still use it.  

Despite the misgivings of some critics, I’m a convert – through and through. They’ve done a really nice job of creating a service which works seamlessly - you’re on the bike, up and pedalling with great music within seconds. It’s incredibly well-made – effectively blending hardware, data, content and services that encourage you to push yourself further than ever before. If you love tech, want to exercise on your own terms and can afford it, then the Peloton bike is most definitely worth it.  

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