It’s been a rough ride for the exercise equipment company Peloton. The media may have a real impact in shaping opinions about a product or service. Dr. Jonathan Su, the Get-Fit Guy, cuts through the drama to look at the benefits versus the costs of owning a Peloton.
It’s been a rough ride for the exercise equipment company Peloton. You’ve probably heard about the safety recall on its treadmill last spring after one child died and dozens of others were injured after being pulled under the treadmill.
Then, in December, an episode of Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That… shocked viewers when the longtime character Mr. Big died after riding a Peloton bike. I’m not exactly the target demographic for the show, but my partner Farah and her 3 sisters are and Mr. Big's unexpected passing was such a big deal that an emergency meeting of the sisters from 3 different time zones had to be convened to collectively grieve.
I was surprised to see that Mr. Big’s death was all over the news and caused Peloton stock to fall 11% the next day, which shows you that my partner is right about how out of touch I can be with these things. The drama for Peloton didn’t end there as demand for its exercise equipment has dropped substantially since the peak of the pandemic, resulting in its CEO stepping down and 2,800 employees being laid off last month.
As a physical therapist and a fitness professional, I tend to be more attuned to what a piece of exercise equipment can actually deliver than the drama surrounding it. So Mr. Big kicking the bucket while cycling on a Peloton doesn’t really impact my opinion of cycling as a form of exercise or Peloton as a brand.
Understandably, the media may have a real impact in shaping opinions about a product or service for those of us who don’t have an in-depth background or experience in fitness. After all, the wisdom of the crowds is a safe bet. But what if we could cut through the flack to look at the core of what Peloton has to offer?
In this episode, I’m going to attempt to bypass the noise and look at the benefits versus the costs of owning a Peloton, with the goal of helping you decide whether a Peloton is worth it for you.
What Peloton offers
Peloton’s main products are internet-connected stationary bikes and treadmills that allow you to stream fitness classes to the 21- to 24-inch screen that’s integrated with the equipment. Founded in 2012, the concept of Peloton was to make it possible for people with little time to get the full experience of exercising in a high-end studio class in their homes.
In addition to the price of the stationary bike or treadmill, Peloton charges a $39 monthly membership fee to stream classes on the exercise equipment. After spending some time on Peloton’s website, it was clear that live and on-demand classes are its key selling point.
Their tagline is “tap into motivation whenever you want it” and the idea put forth is that you can do this by finding one of Peloton’s thousands of workouts to fit your mood, goals, music taste, experience level, and schedule.
In theory, this idea sounds pretty solid, so I decided to check out their showroom at Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara. After having dinner at King’s Fish House at the mall on a Friday night, we corralled the kids to the Peloton showroom across from the Apple store.
I was surprised to see that the Peloton showroom was completely dead and the person working at the store didn’t even look up from her phone to greet us when we walked in. Maybe I wasn’t the target demographic or maybe having my toddlers with me didn’t make me look like a potential customer. Either way, it was a red flag for me and a clear sign that morale was likely at a low point for Peloton.
Since I had the Peloton showroom all to myself, I took the opportunity to take my time to check out what they have to offer, and here are the pros and cons I identified.
Pros of owning a Peloton
I’ll be honest, I like the design of Peloton’s exercise equipment. It’s not the highest quality equipment like you’d find in gyms, but it doesn’t have to be for in-home use because it’s not taking the type of beating required of commercial equipment. Peloton’s exercise equipment is of above-average quality and its sleek design makes it something that I would feel pretty hip owning.
As I’ve mentioned, Peloton’s key selling point is its thousands of expertly led live and on-demand classes that you can stream to the screen that’s integrated with the exercise equipment. The instructors are some of the best in the field, or at least they better be, with many of them making over $500,000 a year. These instructors do a pretty good job of delivering a high-end studio class directly to your home and many Peloton users have favorite instructors. Some instructors have even become somewhat famous, so clearly there is some connection between compensation and the ability to keep riders coming back.
If you’re a busy professional working from home or a parent taking care of young children full time, the convenience of exercising at home is a priority. I know, because my partner Farah is a full-time software engineer and a mother of two toddlers with no time to travel to a gym or studio. If we didn’t have a fully decked out home gym and me as a babysitter who doubles as a fitness professional helping her develop workout routines, live and on-demand classes would be the next best option for her.
Cons of owning a Peloton
One of the biggest drawbacks of Peloton is its price point. Nearly $1,500 for their entry-level stationary bike and $2,500 for their flagship model stationary bike or treadmill that’s slightly above average quality with an additional $39 monthly membership fee to stream classes is out of reach for most people. I can purchase a stationary bike or treadmill for less than $500 and stream classes free or nearly free on my iPad for less than $10 a month.
No matter the quality of Peloton instructors, nothing beats specific feedback from live in-person classes. The feedback provided by streaming group classes is limited to general recommendations because no one is watching your form and providing tailored feedback.
With all the turmoil going on with Peloton, it’s uncertain what the future holds. There are rumors in the air that Peloton could be bought out. I would hate to invest $2,500 in a piece of fitness equipment that’s suddenly worth $0 because the streaming classes are canceled.
After looking at the pros and cons of getting a Peloton, the bottom line is that a Peloton is only worth it if you have extra money to spend, you need an instructor to motivate you to exercise, and you’re a busy person with no time to go to the gym. In my opinion, you’ve really got to have all three of these things going for you to make getting a Peloton worth it. Otherwise, there are less expensive alternatives such as buying similar quality equipment for less and streaming exercise content onto your device for free or a small monthly fee. If you're a Peloton user who loves your equipment, or you've built your own Peloton-alternative at home, let me know what you think of my assessment by emailing me at email@example.com or leaving me a voicemail at 510-353-3104.