Good Sweat

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How Peloton plans to revolutionize spinning—at home

Peleton rider screen

The view of your live or on-demand class—and your data—from the interactive screen of your Peloton bike.

 

It’s fair to say the dusty stationary bike in your (parents’) basement has ridiculously little in common with the experience of a ride at Flywheel or SoulCycle. Until now.

Peloton Cycle, a new New York-based company, is about to take the at-home cycling category into high gear when they launch in the fall, bringing many of the elements riders love about boutique spinning into your home.

Created by John Foley, the former president of Barnes & Noble eCommerce, Peloton has built a sexy at-home bike that won’t look out of place in your high-design living room. It comes with a 22-inch tablet-like, touch-screen monitor that allows you to ride along with live classes at Peloton’s 50-bike studio in New York City (opening in Chelsea in the fall), or stream one on-demand.

Peloton is as much a tech play as it is a fitness play

In the e-book business, Foley learned that you basically “give away the device, the Nook, and the revenue comes in downloads.” Peloton applies the Nook model to fitness. “We’re not trying to make money on the equipment, Foley says.

He’s selling the bike with its tech-enabled screen for $1,500. (For comparison, a good-quality stationary bike starts at $2,000–$3,000 and doesn’t have half the bells and whistles of Peloton’s.) Riders will pay $39 per month for unlimited spin classes, a price that rivals one session at a top-notch indoor cycling studio. Spinning addicts will amortize the bike cost pretty quickly.

Peloton’s digital innovation is no minor upgrade to the 1.5 million stationary bikes sold in the US alone every year (75 percent are for home use, according to the fitness trade organization IHRSA Trends Report). It’s a whole new way of thinking about the experience, promises Foley, who’s seizing the potential of a vast, under-served audience.

Peloton Cycle at-home spin bike with tablet

The matte-black finish of the bike was favored over the “Apple white” model by women in a market test, a surprise to Foley.

The business, in all its parts

A spinning brand with so many parts—we’re talking a brick-and-mortar spin studio and instructors, a super custom bike and touch screen, live and streaming classes, plus competition and social elements—might sound insanely ambitious (or just insane). And it begs the question: if you build it, will they ride?

In other words, will fitness aficionados skip classes at their favorite boutique studio in favor of spinning at home?

“We aren’t competing with Flywheel and SoulCycle, we’re competing with the at-home exercise world and its equipment and approach,” Foley says.

That said, he thinks Peloton will appeal to boutique-spinning diehards—“those who didn’t book their classes right at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, or couldn’t get into their favorite instructor’s class, or didn’t get the babysitter.”

Experiencing spinning studio culture at home

To that end, Peloton has borrowed a lot from boutique studios and what riders are addicted to, starting with the charismatic instructor. “Instructors who can command an audience and have great fitness knowledge are arguably like actors, they should be paid as such. We’re tripling what the going rate is to work at a studio,” says Foley, adding that with this platform, Peloton teachers will become “global celebrities, capable of reaching thousands of riders at a time, instead of 50.” (We’re expecting defections any second now.)

“We love riding in a motivating class, and we hope that with all the experience details we’ve obsessed over, that we’re 90 percent as good as that,” says Foley.

So how does a ride work? Once you’ve purchased a bike (they will be sold online or at the Peloton studio, which will double as a showroom), you can join a live class or access one on-demand. Every live class is added to the on-demand archive.

The bike displays your cadence/RPMs, your resistance in percentage, and your power output in watts—and gives you a pretty accurate read on calorie burn because your gender, height, weight, and age are part of your private profile. “Those in the anti-data camp can hide it during the ride,” explains John, tapping on the screen to make it disappear, and just have “a soulful experience.”

 

Screen shot 2013-04-30 at 7.29.46 PM

At the end of the ride, you’ll get a total score for the ride. And if you’ve set up competitive filters, you’ll know how you did compared to, say, women in your age group or your workout buddies.

 

During a session, the center of the screen is devoted to the spotlighted instructor, although several cameras positioned around the live studio cut to the riders from time to time in all their sweaty, inspiring glory. Another layer of motivation comes from the music, and the hefty fees Peloton is forking over for rights to the good stuff (“maybe 10 percent of every monthly subscriptions,” Foley speculates), so you won’t be riding to elevator music.

Although you’ll technically be riding alone, Peloton has pretty tricked out social elements such that you might never feel that way. Because you can sign in via Facebook Connect, you can see who among your pals wants to ride with you, as well as other riders who’ve elected to share their participation in the live class on a panel Peloton is calling the Global Leaderboard. There’s also a chat window (a la Skype) that you can have open to whine or congratulate your workout buddy during a live or streaming class. (Perhaps pop this open after the ride, so they don’t see you panting for 45 minutes?)

As for the bike, instead of a noisy, dirty chain, it uses a belt drive, so your sleeping spouse won’t hear your 6:00 a.m. workout, and no grease will drip on your hardwood floors. The ride feels smooth, and uses magnets for resistance, instead of pads that wear down. And unlike your iPad, the screen is sweat-proof.

If all this does for at-home cycling what the Nook did for the book market, Peloton could very soon be a household name. —Melisse Gelula

For more information visit, www.pelotoncycle.com

 

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