THE CULT OF PELOTON
Last week I received an email from my Peloton instructor Cody. It began, “What’s up boo!” and I’d like to tell you I’m exaggerating when I say my heart skipped a beat. But, sadly for me, I am not. He said, “I want to personally invite you to share my 1000th ride and reflect on the crazy journey that brought us here.”
US! US HERE! US!
I immediately put this ride on my Outlook calendar and mentally made plans to leave work early so I could support Cody with whatever he needed. A man who does not know I exist. Like at all.
Maybe I should back up. But first, this is Cody:
What the Hell is a Peloton?
A “peloton” is the main group of riders in a race. Or it’s a $3,000 stationary bike. We’re talking about the $3,000 stationary bike. The fucking Acura of spinning bikes.
Why is it $3,000 and why would anyone be insane enough to buy it?
- It’s got a huge iPad-like screen attached to the front where you stream live (or on demand) spinning classes. The classes happen IRL in NYC and there are over 5,000 rides available on demand.
- The instructors are beautiful, but non-threatening and approachable. They’re your life coach, your best friend, your sexual fantasy—it’s real weird and wonderful in some sort of futuristic digital robot “Her” by Spike Jonze Us Weekly celeb culture sort of way.
- Some stuff about the bike’s fancy construction and wheel and whatever that I don’t care about. It’s got a great smooth ride, I don’t care about the details. You have to buy their fancy shoes that clip in like Lance Armstrong.
- TONS OF STATS. You see where you are on a leaderboard of other riders, your speed, your resistance, your miles, your calories, your gains and personal records.
- They will tell you this bike costs $2,000. It does not. You have to pay for white glove shipping and set up and shoes and streaming service and a mat to go underneath and tax. So just know, this bike costs $3,000.
Why I Bought a Peloton
Look, let’s be real, I am not an athlete and I did not “buy” this bike, I financed it for a year of exorbitant $257 a month payments.
Here were my circumstances when I bought it:
- I’m a single mom with a full-time job, This means I can’t leave my house to work out before work because my kid is sleeping and I can’t go after work because my kid wants to hang out with me. And don’t even ask me if I can “go at lunch.” That’s so annoying, I have makeup on for chrissake.
- I’m not naturally an athletic person, people laugh at me when I attempt feats of strength like opening jars or elegantly extricating myself from the back-middle-seat of a cab.
- I have never ever ever in my whole life been able to develop or stick to any exercise routine despite many repeated attempts and various gym memberships and flirtations with personal training.
- I threw my back out with home exercise DVDs. DAMN YOU SHAUN T.
Perhaps most importantly, all the sudden I'm 37-years-old. And I realized, no matter how gross and bougie and infuriating it is, I just can’t ignore my “health and fitness” anymore. It’s all a downhill slope from here, kids.
So here I am, an old out of shape woman who wants to do better but can't figure out how. I always thought it was my fault that the gym didn't work for me, rather than a reflection of my current life circumstances (single parenting, work, etc). And for an out of shape gal, I’ve always liked spinning. I think it’s because it’s hard enough that you can’t think about much else while doing it and you can go at your own pace if you think you’re going to die. No one really knows how much you turned that resistance knob up, y’all. Also, the music is good. At some point I ran into a Peloton commercial where the people looked so beautiful spinning at home in their mansions and then Facebook knew I saw that commercial and so I started seeing ads everywhere until I was looking at their website and reading reviews until a couple of sweaty delivery men were hauling this motherfucker into my apartment.
Why the Peloton is Awesome
I FUCKING LOVE MY PELOTON.
FYI they’re not paying me to say any of this, I get zero perks, I’m not a celebrity. I’m still a raggedy single mother in Chicago, no one cares.
STILL I FUCKING LOOOOOOOOOVE MY PELOTON. Here’s why:
- I can roll out of bed at 5:15 and workout and then go straight to the shower. No driving. No locker rooms. No snow and parking. I can do it with my kid in the other room.
- I don't have to motivate myself like if I were running on a treadmill. I don’t have to tell myself what to do. Or create challenges. The screen and the coaches make it feel like you're really there and all you have to do is try and keep up.
- When I get hot I can take my shirt off and just wear a sports bra! Something I would never do IRL because I’m not a gym floozy.
- It’s so damn expensive you have to use it. Like this isn’t a $50 gym membership you can rationalize and put off and forget about. This is a relationship.
- But really, let’s talk about the coaches.
The Peloton people have carefully curated their group of instructors. Basically they’re fitness celebrities (Cody has almost 18,000 Instagram followers and his own catch-phrase "one-two" gear.) They all have the X factor. They’re charismatic. They’re beautiful to look at. They shout inspirational things at you. (One of Cody’s favorites is “Do whatever you need to do to get your life together!” and "When we're uncomfortable, we change!") They wear only tight Peloton clothes. And there’s an instructor for everyone: Alex is our hip hop guy (I also love him, especially on 90's day!). Jessica tosses her hair around like a porn star and is very popular with people who are not me. There’s a guy who does country music and has a Christian vibe. And then there’s Cody.
Cody is handsome, sweet, plays the BEST MUSIC because he used to back up dance for Britney (or someone) and has both a Mickey Mouse tattoo AND a lotus tattoo. He is perfect (and obviously gay because straight men are garbage fires). Cody is a product that Peloton sells me and I AM BUYING.
The 1000th Ride
My friend Dan takes Peloton LIVE IN NYC because he's hip and cool like that. One day he posted a pic of him and Cody TOGETHER celebrating Dan’s 100th ride and I just about died. And it got me thinking about the different experience that Dan and I are having, even when we’re taking the exact same class (which we have done, just at different times).
Dan was IN THE STUDIO FOR THE 1000th RIDE. This is what he said about it:
"So this was apparently my 209th ride (all in the studio) and it had the best vibes of any class I've taken yet. It really felt like a party; the lounge was decorated, the studio used various lighting schemes throughout the ride, people clapped and cheered after every song...there was just a great energy. It was also really cool to see a front row made up almost entirely of other instructors there to cheer on a colleague. Cody's changed a lot of lives (his classes were the first time I've ever enjoyed working out) and I know 3 years at Peloton has changed his, too, so it felt really special to be a room celebrating him."
I've been riding with Cody 3-4 days a week at home in Chicago since September, and he's sort of become a part of my life now. But girl, don't worry, I got ahold of myself--no one needs to leave work early and rush home to stream this shit. That's the entire point of home-riding, y'all!
But, to be fair, I was looking forward to this ride and it was really easy to bounce out of bed at 5:30 am and join the party of 1,491 people who were already riding Cody's 1000th ride. And Dan was not wrong, Cody was clearly very touched and people were so jazzed and he gave little motivational speeches and I loved everyone so much and felt like a part of a real community. And I spotted Dan in the back!
And I thought a lot about how Peloton is made up of expert marketers selling me a fully packaged product. The bike, the in-home experience, the celebrity instructors, the outfits, the 1000th ride. I know someone who knows Cody, he is a real person. But the screen on my bike turns him into this untouchable celebrity to me. Peloton is very aware of this and capitalizes by offering me contests that if I win, my favorite coach will send me a personal video message, like it's Big Bopper or Entertainment Tonight. It's not real. But it is real? I'm sweating my ass off.
There's always a lot of buzz about the Peloton community. It is the "peloton" of Peloton if you will. It comes directly from the Peloton marketers in a variety of ways, but specifically through the language the energetic coaches use. "No rider left behind," "don't forget to check out the beyond the ride content," and a strategic, consistent message that this ride made your day better, you are better because of this ride, the Peloton community loves you and you should spread that love around wherever you go today.
But the community excitement isn't just carefully cultivated marketing. It also comes from the cult of peloton--the in-home and live users. It's not uncommon for in-home users to get on planes and fly to NYC just to meet their favorite coaches in person and take a class in the studio. There are Facebook groups and message boards and every coach has a social media presence you can connect to.
It's a weird place to be--to see and understand all this marketing and the machine of it all, but to still sort of love it. I genuinely am grateful to Cody and Alex and the other instructors for keeping it fun and encouraging me even though they don't know who I am. Cody's 1000th ride was my 63rd and pretty much every day I ride I'm really proud that I did and amazed as my stats go up and up. When I started I could barely get through a 30-minute ride. 6 months later I'm achieving new personal records every week and burning 500 calories and traveling 12 miles at a time. I'm astounded by that. I'm old and not athletic. Except maybe I'm getting there?
Look, there is no question that being a part of the Peloton community is a privilege, and by privilege I mean, this shit is so damn expensive that it's prohibitive for most people and I can't wait until I have this giant bill off my back. But putting that aside, I'm in the best shape I've been in for years and have found the harder I work on the Peloton, the healthier choices I make elsewhere (see ya, Diet Coke!). And so I think i'm finally ready for my very own $42 Peloton sports bra, don't you? Might as well just keep pouring the money in because I don't think I'm leaving any time soon.