News & Reviews News Review: Peloton Bike

You might think that this is a travel blog, so how dare I discuss a Peloton bike.  Well, technically it’s a bike, thus a form of transport. It’s also the most I’ve traveled in the last 4 months. Add all this together and it definitely counts.  

Let me tell you of one of the most life changing products I’ve ever bought.  And just how rubbish it is.

Most reviews take a bike, use it for 2 weeks and talk like they’re a freaking expert.  Well I’m not like those hacks.  I’ve dedicated 100 days to it, because as my Dad used to say when it came to drinking, if you’re gonna do it, don’t stop until you do it right.  He never stopped.  What a professional.  The real reason may lay in my lack of motivation to write this review, but perversely being happy to invest 3 hours a week into riding a bike that goes nowhere.  

Note: If you’re reading this looking for some athletic god to advise you on why it’s better than some other torturous physical activity, you are out of luck.  My credentials on fitness are the same as Priti’s Patel’s on, well, anything.  It’s a very low bar.  I may speak in a perfectly tuned British accent and give the impression of someone that knows what I’m on about, but it’s just a facade.  There’s a reason a lot of Brits are the bad guys in movies – we’re always destined to fail.  Ask me anything about healthy living and I’m not sure that Public Health England are going to endorse my “what’s on Deliveroo” mandate.

What is it?

I first read about Peloton on the Financial Times, where everyone took it upon themselves to laugh at it.  Obviously being a man of high intellect, I nodded and went full blown mob mentality and declared it stupid too.  A product that makes you healthy!  Pah, rubbish.  Then their infamous advert came out and everyone lost their mind.  Turns out, I’m as sexist as that malignant turd of a husband, as my wife wanted one too, so I bought it for her.  Then stole it and didn’t let her near it.  

The Peloton bike is basically spinning, but for people that think they’re better than you.  It’s like a cult, but for people that plan on living forever through healthy living.  Definitely a cult.  It’s a bike that goes nowhere, but takes you on a journey of self discovery – as I’m sure one of the instructors would say.  

Why did you buy it?

I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention, but there’s some disease that’s sole purpose is to destroy the last 10 years of growth-at-all-cost businesses.  WeWork, Uber, Tinder – all fucked.  Not literally, as Tinder would benefit from that.

It’s also caused us to be locked up inside our homes, left with only our Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, NowTV, BBC iPlayer, iTunes accounts to survive.  Plus unlimited food.  Basically, we’ve sacrificed the same as those storming Normandy.  Except those guys got to actually go to France – so they had it easy.  

For all my fear of gyms, I do love playing football (soccer) and missed the opportunity to do so twice a week.  I also wasn’t looking forward to adding “Fat Bastard” to my acclaimed list of accolades.  I was looking to become a better, stronger, healthier version of myself.  Ok, you caught me in a lie: my wife wanted one.

The experience of buying it

Pretty simple, actually.  Go to website, add to basket, buy it, sit at home and wait a week for it to arrive.  Due to covid, the team assembled it outside our house, then we were left with the job of pushing this machine up the stairs.  By the time we managed that, I didn’t need to exercise for a week.  

How do you use it?

Sit.  Turn on screen.  Pedal.  It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s like riding a bike.  

Why is it so good?

The reason for Peloton’s success is down to their community, built from the large selection of instructors and thousands of classes, which increase daily.  You can either join a live class or replay one that’s already taken place, depending on your schedule and preference for the types of rides available: climbs, high intensity, music themed or, my least favourite of all, tabata.  Tabata is like being waterboarded for 20 seconds, then given the glimpse hope of 10 seconds of rest, before it begins all over again.  The fact is – and I once again remind you of what an expert I am, having previously been to three spin classes in my life – I cannot see the need to ever visit a spinning class again, as the immersion into the Peloton world is so great that I get all the benefit, whilst benefitting from being sat semi-naked in an unused bedroom at home, before heading downstairs to raid the fridge afterwards.  It’s all the pros, none of the cons.  After lockdown, I don’t actually see the point behind most things, except PJs – those I hope to see replace suits.  

For me, Peloton excels in one area I care the most about: metrics.  Sure, having a business monitor my heart-rate and analyse my performance might sound creepy, but it’s nothing that Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t already know and read every night as bedtime stories for his children.  I also use those metrics to monitor my performance and ensure that I’m always (trying) to compete against my Personal Records.

There is no better opponent than yourself.  Sure, the Leaderboard Board is good to look at, even if Peloton admit it’s not actually accurate, but seeing my metrics continue to increase and battling against myself on every single ride is the most motivating thing I’ve ever contended with in sports.  I’ve never been a good loser in my chosen sport of football, but now I’m a terrible loser if I lose against myself.  I’ve had several rides where I just wanted to rage quit at my own lack of capacity.  I will never stop trying to beat a Personal Record, which the Peloton shows and is updated in real-time.  So during a 30 minute ride, every second I can see how I was doing during my best ever 30 minute ride.  It can offer the downside of being truly humiliating when I just have an off day, but there is little more satisfying than being able to smash a personal record, then ignore everything I ever read about the Leaderboard not being accurate and finding myself in the top 1% of riders.  When stats work in your favour, you pay close attention to them.

There’s also lots of other classes beyond cycling, such as yoga, meditation, running, strength and vandalising anti-Peloton dissenters property.  Definitely a cult.  

After 100 rides, how do you feel?

Like a juiced up Lance Armstrong that could beat up you and your Dad.  This is where Peloton is worth it for me, as it’s not just about how I feel, it’s about looking at the stats and feeling a sense of pride.

Such is my obsession with metrics and improving, that I have used the bike every day since it arrived in April, with just one small break – when I pulled a muscle in my back, naturally whilst on the bike.  I still carried on for another 10 minutes, as beating my score was more important than being able to walk again.  Sure, I couldn’t then get out of bed for 3 days, but I did it.  Well, actually, I didn’t, as I failed to beat my Personal Record, but c’est le vie.  Damnit, I’ve drunk the Kool-aid – I knew it was a cult.  

When they talk about hardcore drugs, there’s always a gateway – no one just instantly becomes an addict.  It takes time.  Peloton realise this, so ease you into your first few rides. Don’t make it too hard, or you’ll quit; don’t make it too easy, or you’ll never see the value.  Then after a few rides, you get a sniff of metrics: Personal Records and targets.  Before I knew it, I was setting myself unrealistic goals, all in the name of this victory against an unknown enemy; outputs of 400kj in 30 mins, 300kj in 20 and 200kj in 10.  Little did I know how much pain that would cause me, or my wife as she had to hear about it every day.  Yet as I broke each record, I would just adjust and increase it further and further.  I’ll be in rehab before the end of the Summer, begging for just another hit of that sweet, sweet bike.  

Here’s a breakdown of my output across the 3 main rides I do; the ranking is where I finished from all those that took the same race.  

10 minutes

DateOutput (kj)RankingRanking %
10th April10017,496/73,28823.87
30th April1241,270/15,2618.32
24th May155473/14,7143.21
8th July200166/26,2060.63

20 minutes

DateOutput (kj)RankingRanking %
12th April18030,939/234,25913.2
29th April2194,280/45,2259.4
28th June292585/11,4755.1
7th July33794/4,0272.3

30 minutes

DateOutput (kj)RankingRanking %
11th April27013,728/38,19835.93
28th April3277,513/64,86511.58
12th May3805,015/27,57318.1
24th June4521,676/20,3228.24

If you think this post is just to use as a way of boasting about myself, then you’re probably right.  So I await the Comments of people smashing my dreams with their better scores. But what does it all mean?  I have no idea.  It’s just great to battle for 10-30 minutes and come away categorically knowing if you’ve improved.  Does it mean I’m able to run to the top floor of our house, without being out of breath?  Just about.  So from that perspective, definite progress.  

Knowing that I’ve managed to increase my output so much that I can output more in 20 minutes than I could in 30, by 24%.  Or that I’ve literally doubled my output in 10 minutes.  The satisfaction is almost worth the immense pain I went through during the first month.   I have never done something that only takes 10 minutes and I look forward to so little, other than writing this blog.

How much?

It costs about £2,000, plus a further £39/m if you want to use it for anything other than hanging your laundry on it.  Don’t pay the subscription and you cannot do any of the classes, so you’re left with a very expensive, industrial level paperweight.  

Is it really worth £39/m?

I have no point of comparison to any other service, so I’ll just say yes.  £39/m works for me, so you’ll just have to accept this as a fact.

How much weight have I lost?

None.  I ride, I feast.  I now live on ice cream and never worry about putting on weight.  If that’s not worth £39/m and crying for 30 minutes a day, I don’t know what is.  

Who are the best instructors?

I cannot handle the ever ending optimism of the Americans.  Sorry guys, but your number one strength is positivity, whilst I like to believe the end is imminent – and there are segments during a ride where it feels that way.  I stick to the Brits as much as possible, as they won’t shout out inspirational quotes and even when they break character and try it, as they must working for an American firm, I recognise that deadness in their eyes.  These Brits shine through – they’ll give it straight and tell me how worthless I am if I don’t try harder.  It’s my childhood all over again and it fills me with joy.

Anything you’re shamed by?

During a ride, the Leaderboard shows you the usernames, ages and locations of other riders.  The age is simply limited to your decade, so for me it says 30s.  During my one and only live ride, I was racing alongside a man in his 60s.  Knowing my luck, that meant his 70th was just days away.  I could not lose to him, so threw everything I had and beat the son of a bitch.  I did then have to lay on the floor and try not to throw up, but that man will always remember this as the day he almost beat that annoying guy with a blog no one has heard of.  He’ll be damn proud.  

So what’s the problem?

I’m fitter.  I care more about my diet.  I care about constantly improving.  Dream, you say?  Except that Peloton is a company which should easily be defeated by another fitness brand that knows how to make products out of things like metal, not papermache.  With labels stuck on like it’s a children’s toy, and frequent clicking noises from the pedals that make me think the Babadook is coming for me, it’s not exactly what you’d call well built.  Throw in software that feels it’s running on Windows 95, as it’s so buggy, and you’re getting an idea of what’s in store.  

The offering by Peloton is, in theory, superb.  Good looking bike, thousands of classes, a huge amount of variety, easy to use, engaging and some great instructors.  Yet it could be so much better.  I’d say I’m amazed that no one has done a better job, but they actually have – they might just have been a bit too late. Sometimes the best doesn’t succeed, simply those first to market or those with the best marketing, and I half suspect that will happen here.  But it has allowed Peloton to make some pretty crappy products, with some useless customer service to come along for the ride.  Damn, that was a lousy pun.  Even worse, they’ve got me now.  I cannot leave.  Am I really going to lose all my scores and move to a competitor, knowing I’ll have to start all over and get new scores and/or try new instructors?  There’s more chance of an outbreak of intelligence in Parliament.  

The issues began from the moment it arrived.  We purchased the Family Pack, but it came with 2 of their heart rate monitors and neither lasted a week before they broke; I’ve had repeated issues of the software just freezing mid-ride, or not even loading at all.  Having to turn it off at the plug has become a familiar tale.  The most frustrating moments have been recording a Personal Record and it not saving the ride, so all the data is lost.  

We had to deal with their customer service repeatedly during the first few weeks, due to the sheer number of issues, but it became exasperating at times. Every interaction with their customer service was painful and every offer of follow-up never took place.  We ordered 1.4kg weights with the bike, yet they sent us the lowest weights available (0.5kg) instead, simply because they didn’t have the 1.4kg in stock.  When was the last time you ordered some bread, but Waitrose sent you some fertiliser, just because that was available?  Probably quite often, if my substitutes are anything to go by.  We returned the weights and called them twice to make sure they would send what we’d asked for.  After weeks of waiting the same 0.5kg weights arrived again.  After the fourth call, we just decided to request a refund – they did, but said the correct weights would come anyway, but it’s been 3 months and we’re still waiting.  

It is deeply annoying, but I’m now addicted and can only be cured by fleeing the country and living in luxury hotels again.  

The Good

  • The instructors
  • Metrics, metrics, metrics

The Bad

  • Terrible customer service
  • Buggy software
  • Useless peripherals – do not buy anything other than their bike and shoes

The Luxurious

  • I’m now going to live until I’m 250, giving me ample opportunity to write about hotels forever

Conclusion

So would I give up my Peloton?  Hell no, if Superman came and robbed me, I would protect my wife, Peloton, dog and framed picture of Dame Judy Dench in that order.  I’m taking this thing to my grave.  Or, as is most likely the case, it will be my grave, when I see some 70 year old beat me.  But it’s clear it could be so much better.  Sometimes being first is all it takes – the superior product does not always win the race.  

Follow me, as I set about doing everything possible to prove my bike is definitely calibrated properly and I am in fact as good as the Leaderboard Board shows: TomHotmar

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 15th Jul '20

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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