Indoor biking hasn't been the same for a few years ever since boutique fitness brands like SoulCycle and Flywheel transformed pedaling in place into a high-energy, calorie-blasting, mirror-steaming 45-minute party. The new kid on the biking block, Peloton Cycle, however, is now offering stationary riders something no other spin studio can match: The opportunity to star in a workout video!
The concept behind Peloton Cycle, which launched in Manhattan this summer, is to offer live spin sessions online that any subscriber in the world can join and stream on their own custom-designed Peloton bike (you can buy one that comes with a mounted screen for $1,995 here) almost anywhere, any time. While you ride at home in, say, Sacramento, the spin instructor, which Peloton refers to as a “coach,” may give you a shout-out or tell you to push harder. The coach and participating riders can see the group's combined total watts, or energy output, on their personal bike screens. The screen also shows your personal stats (just to you), including time, calories burned, mileage, resistance, and cadence, whether you're at home or in the NYC studio.
“This was John Foley's, the former president of Barnes & Noble's, insane idea. He used to travel a lot for work and often wondered, 'Why can't I take a great cycling class whenever I want?' In 2011, he started working on the concept of live-streaming classes for a tablet—and that's when he tapped me to help him develop this idea further and build this unique community,” says Marion Berrian Roaman (pictured), who has 18 years' experience opening and running boutique spin studios as well as teaching.
The front row in the studio, as I recently learned, gets lots of love from the cameras, making these riders the supporting characters to the coach. The studio has four mounted, mobile cameras that are remotely controlled by the production team in the basement. I'm not camera shy, so I really hammed it up and worked my butt off too! Knowing that people can see if I'm slacking, I dug deep to keep up and maybe give a little extra, which was tough considering that I had taken the previous class 15 minutes earlier with Coach Lisa Niren on the at-home bike located across the hall from the studio.
Though I was holding back during Niren's 7:00 a.m. class (trying to save gusto for my live session at 8:15), I still managed to knock out a total of 316 watts and burn 348 calories. The strongest rider (user name: “Moredonuts”) that morning topped out at 692 watts (!), which seemed inhuman to me. Trying to keep up with him (we met later at the coffee bar) was impossible, so I focused on going up against another rider named “Dizzy,” who kept trading ranking places with me throughout the class. Dizzy followed me to the next class (she's the PR maven for Peloton so she's always around!), and there we continued our unspoken battle to see who would come out on top. The challenge pushed me to bang out 337 watts (the free coffee between sessions must have helped) and burn 371 calories. In the end, she beat me by maybe one kilojoule and I was okay with that. Gives me a reason to come back and go head-to-head with her again soon.
The workout and my pride aren't my only excuses for returning. The studio itself is one of the most inviting fitness facilities I've ever visited. Walking into the airy space in Chelsea, you immediately get this warm, relaxing, homey feel. The setup is a large kitchen-like area (a.k.a., coffee bar-slash-smoothie counter) that opens into a lounge-y living room with a large L-shaped couch that faces a long communal table. An alcove cut out just behind the mock-dining room features four Peloton bikes, where members can hop on to take a live or on-demand class if they don't feel like participating in the filmed session across the hall.
The money other studios might have used to launch five other locations, Peloton poured it all into this one stunning, super-luxe flagship studio and it shows. “A lot of spin studios start small, which allows you to build a tight-knit community. But as business grows and more studios open, it becomes a check-in, check-out community. Since we only have one studio, it's always going to remain this one-community with this beautiful space to hang out. We're not going to have five locations in the city—this is it,” says Berrian Roaman. If there were ever going to be a country club just for spin fanatics, this is it. Though it only opened two months ago, it is already attracted subscribers from across the country to come check it out.
“This guy from Indiana, who has a Peloton bike, was in town for some reason and ended up taking five classes at the studio. He even took a class with his favorite coach, Jessica,” says Berrian Roaman, who hopes that Peloton will one day become an iconic stop, like The Tonight Show, for visiting tourists. With already more than 2,000 Peloton bike owners and subscribers in 47 states and nine countries, her dream may become a reality sooner rather than later.
Between paying the rent for the enormous space situated on prime real estate and offering lots of amenities (all riders get a free coffee, water, a banana or apple, bike shoes, and countless towels as well as locker room necessities like shower items and blow dryers), you'd think the price per class would make the experience exclusive to the elite. Amazingly, Peloton has managed to keep the price per class to $30, which is $4 less than Flywheel and SoulCycle. If you own a Peloton bike, all you have to pay for a subscription is $39 per month, which promises unlimited classes and unlimited users per household.
Right now, Peloton is only live-streaming nine classes a day, but starting this fall, there will be a live-stream class available every hour from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. with 14 coaches, including Berrian Roaman, teaching. And in a few weeks, anyone will be able to join in on a session via an app that let's you take a virtual ride on your own stationary bike at home. Watch out for "Dizzy" and "Moredonuts"!