I am trapped on a machine, alone, in the bedroom of an unknown mansion. Outside, yachts float on the glittering harbor. It’s dark inside, the lights are dimmed to appreciate the view from floor to ceiling. In the corner to my left, a fiddle leaf fig tree sits with glossy emerald polished leaves. To my right – just out of range – my phone is resting on the bed, denting the pristine white doona. My feet are locked with robotic precision. I jerk the right one up and down, side to side, trying to free myself. It won’t come off. The last time I saw my heart rate it read 171 BMP.
I try instead for the left foot. With a twist and a sharp snap, it comes off. Arching my leg over the machine, I contort my body through a modified banana pose and grab the phone. I need to document the moment my virtual trainer turned into a spiral of gray dots, how it left me stuck and panting.
I’m at the Peloton launch event in Australia.
In early December 2019, Peloton entered Australian consciousness through a Christmas campaign gone awry. Viral advertising, deemed “dystopian” and “sexist,” saw the company’s valuation of $ 9.39 billion fall nearly 16%.
The ad features a wide-eyed, expressive woman spinning frantically on a stationary bike, never seeming to leave her house. It looks like a hostage-taking, with Stockholm syndrome taking hold.
Then a pandemic struck. We have all had a hectic year spinning our wheels at home. We had entered the Peloton timeline.
Peloton’s main promise is a home recreation of an in-store fitness class. The brand is best known for its exercise bikes, but the machines wouldn’t be remarkable without an accompanying media empire – a catalog of over 15,000 workouts, with more live broadcasts added daily, led by 40 trainers. in a pair of $ 50 million production studios located in London and New York.
The company now has 5.4 million subscribers and its market capitalization, while volatile, currently stands at around $ 32.72 billion, more than triple the days leading up to that fateful Christmas commercial.
Every American podcast I listen to talks about Peloton now. The brand’s sneakers have turned into celebrities. Critic Wesley Morris used a Peloton class as a starting point for a complex discussion of racing. Amanda Hess calls the platform “total curation of the mind”. Joe Biden has a Platoon. It may be a risk to the national security of the United States.
It’s on a wave of hype, teardowns, counter-arguments, a product recall and even more hype that the high-tech company is going to hit Australia’s shores. The website will go live on July 15, followed by physical stores in top-notch venues.
Karen Lawson, Country Manager of Peloton Australia, explains that the fundamental pillars of the brand are the three Cs: content, community and convenience. The fourth C, cult, is apparently silent.
To demonstrate the offer, they rented a four-story mansion in Sydney’s most expensive suburb of Darling Point. It’s the perfect place to showcase a device that starts at $ 2,895, with an ongoing subscription cost of $ 59 per month.
After a presentation of the history of the company, its tangible products (bikes, clothes, abs) and the interest of being applauded by a flood of strangers on the Internet (C number two), it is time to meet the machine.
If a Bond villain ordered a stationary bike for the lower deck of his super yacht, he would likely end up with a Platoon. They’re compact and matte black, with an orange resistance button flared from the crossbar. Perched just beyond the handlebars is a giant touchscreen with dazzling resolution.
You have to wear menacing spiked shoes to ride a Peloton, which clip your feet into the pedals with a magnet and three bolts attached to an orange rafter. This will prevent you from tipping to the side when the trainers ask you to get up from the saddle and ride straight.
I am vocally opposed to cardio. One day, I know, it’ll kill me. I realize that exercise is the most important thing I can do for myself and that this disgust with fitness probably exacerbates my frequent bouts of anhedonia.
So I can’t wait to hate every second of this experience. Despite the fact that his class is well above my level (laziness), I chose to train with Alex Toussaint, because I heard the most about him on podcasts. It also has the best playlist.
Much to my dismay, I find that I don’t hate him. Trying to sync up with the suggested pedal frequency (“cadence” in Peloton parlance) is too hard to be boring. Meanwhile, Alex’s flow of affirmations, words, and awareness is surprisingly to affirm.
Then the wifi is cut, the flow freezes and I find myself without a monitor. The clock is still counting down, my crampons are firmly locked. I could pass, but it’s immediately unbearable.
I am in awe of the power of C one – content. The instructional video, with its high-end production, well-timed soundtrack, and charismatic trainer, acts as a powerful anesthetic. Peloton’s base offering – a subscription app that offers workout videos without the hardware for $ 12.90 per month – suddenly makes sense. Without Alex to cheer me on, exercising on a Peloton is just a simple exercise: awful.
When I manage to retrieve the video, I finish the training. Usually, after exercise, I swell with rage. Two days earlier, a 10 minute HIIT session left me irritable for several hours. This does not happen with Alex.
I check my Apple Watch and it tells me I’ve burned more calories, faster than ever. Lawson says Peloton users train an average of 26 times per month.
I’m starting to imagine that this could be my life. That a large financial commitment is all it takes to change a seemingly inevitable trajectory of decline.
I think what it might be like, in a world of alarming statistics, to log into a live classroom and see a different number: 15,000 fellow travelers, hawking out of a premature grave. Alone but together.
I imagine going back in time to December 7, 2019 and buying Peloton shares.
In an expensive house, on an expensive bike, watching an expensive trainer groove to expensive licensed music, it’s hard not to fall for the suction no matter how tightly your cleats are locked.