Loved by Alicia Keys & Megan Rapinoe: Will Australian women take to Peloton?

Loved by Alicia Keys & Megan Rapinoe: Will Australian women take to Peloton?

Alicia Key uses it. Beyonce uses it. Megan Rapinoe uses it. Even US President Joe Biden uses it.

But so far in Australia, the opportunity to jump on board the Peloton cult-like fitness craze has been extremely limited: unless you’ve got the serious money, tenacity and determination to ship your own equipment in (as Atlassian founder Scott Farquhar recently told Nine papers he did).

That’s about to change, with Peloton set to officially launch in Australia mid July, under the leadership of local boss Karen Lawson.

Well, all of it’s about to change other than the serious money needed to bring this into your home. The bike starts at $2,895, while the Bike+ version (bigger screen etc) is $3,695. But the all-access app is still an additional $59 a month – although a $16.99 a month version is available offering workouts off the bike.

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Peloton is a fitness option that appears to have been created for a pandemic but was actually launched much earlier. It’s taken off in the US with major celebrities, entrepreneurs and high profile people talking up the craze and proudly sharing their performance stats. It essentially brings high-end fitness classes into your living room, with the bike (and later treadmill and other equipment) fitted out with a widescreen TV, enabling you to either participate in on-demand or live classes with instructors who may even just yell at you to “work harder” during a session, or at least call out your name.

Leaving the high price tag aside, for a moment, Peloton is a craze that appears particularly appealing to anyone who is time-poor, potentially tied to their home (say if you have caring responsibilities or quarantine orders to comply with) and who gets a fix from fast, music-led and charismatic-instructor driven workouts.  

Indeed, it seems particularly appealing for women.

Last week Peloton set out to make its local launch known, hiring a four-story harbourside mansion and renaming it the “Peloton Beach House”, including via a blow-up logo in the infinity pool. They then gave journalists the option to trial a class, taking a private room for a 30 minutes or so to get a taste of the full experience — and pretend, for moment, to live a very different life.

I went in to this pristine hotel-like room with its incredible view, wide-eyed and full of anticipation. Finally, after hearing so much about this damn bike and following some of its most prominent instructors on social media, I had the opportunity to ride one.

The screen was larger than expected. It swivels, so you can turn it around and do a non-bike related class somewhere else in the room, such as yoga or strength training. But other than that, the bike is close to what you’d get in a high end spin studio. Only you can see a direct reading of your cadence and resistance, things you’re often left guessing about in class.

On the app, I saw the thousands of classes available, filtered by everything from music genre, to time and ability, to instructor, style and more. There’s only one Australian instructor included as yet, running yoga classes from Byron Bay. It’s not yet clear how many Australian-dedicated (set for our time zone especially) will be launched – although you can enter a class late, and take one of the thousands of classes available on demand.

I ventured into the “indy” section on my bike’s screen and chose a 20 minute pre-recorded class (the classes go all the way up to 90 minutes), selected mostly at random and with a female instructor, who had filmed this workout in New York.

She took me through a warmup (that could be skipped) and then into a series of speed and endurance intervals and climbs. She (and granted, I could have written down her name, but I was stuck to the bike by cleats) made a point of discussing the band or artist behind the track which I found welcome, but I suspect occurs due to the “indy” genre I chose. The music choices were excellent and fitted perfectly with the cadence requested. They lived up to Peloton’s claim that music is at its core, which is hugely appealing to me. On track two, it was a bonus to hear the Australian band Gang of Youths, almost as if it’d been planned that way. Around track three and despite the fact this class had been recorded 18 months earlier, it was nice to see a fellow rider participating at the same time that I was. Hello again Irene in Boston!

The class flew. It was great, basically everything I expected. And I expected a lot. I would have happily done another.  

It’s here that I need to share a quick admission. I really like spin, as long as the instructor is excellent – and on Peloton you’re mostly going to get the best of the best, given what they’re paid and how key to the experience they are. Not everyone likes spin – and maybe that’s where the other classes Peloton has available on its app could be used, such as yoga and strength.

As a mother of young kids who works full time, my regular spin class visits came to an end between my second and third babies. A lack of time – and inability to leave the house or have much independence away from caring responsibilities – is so often a common reason that women can’t get in regular exercise. There are now plenty of online options, even live streamed classes and YouTube videos to make it fitness happen at home. But few come anywhere close to using a Peloton.

If you don’t like spin, I’m not entirely convinced this bike will convert you. But then plenty of people online say that it has. Some even say they now regularly exercise for the first time ever, thanks to this bike.

Peloton now boasts more than 4.4 million users worldwide. Its instructors have become the closest thing you can get to being a Rockstar without singing or playing an instrument, with their own massive social media followings.

Its share price has surged over the past year, although the business has also had some major issues, including a serious product recall following a tragic event involving one of its treadmills, privacy concerns, accusations of once having a gender problem due to a sexist ad it released, as well as plenty of outspoken haters on the company – as happens with any well-funded cult trend that’s far from equally accessible.

But the Peloton cult continues, and seemingly it’s set to grow here in Australia.

I remember when I first started reading about Peloton and its stay-at-home opportunities. I dreamt of early mornings in a pristine room – much like what was in that harbourside mansion – climbing on my bike with the kids still sleeping and sweating through a solid class each morning. I imagined myself 100% absorbed in whatever Cody Rigsby (a star instructor) asked of me. A short moment of time where the decisions would belong to someone else, there on the other side of the world where he couldn’t see or judge me, and I’d disappear into the ultimate playlist.

Now the Peloton opportunity is here in Australia.

Alas, I don’t have the pristine room, or the harbour view. Or the money. For now, I’ll stick with running outdoors.

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