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It’s always hard to know how to start the day. Tea or coffee? Toast or porridge? Five miles along the Maine coast, or sprint the clifftops of the Cote d’Azur?
This is what happens when, like Rishi Sunak, you buy a Peloton bike – the £1,750 machine (with a £39 monthly subscription of virtual classes and cycle trails) beloved by hedge funders. It gives you the near-magical ability to travel the world – often in considerable pain – without ever leaving the house.
How on earth did I end up with a shiny internet-connected spinning bike – currently subject of a two-month waiting list – in the house? I blame Covid-19, and dodgy knees. The knees mean that running isn’t much of an option, and the virus means that getting out is neither as attractive or easy as it used to be.
So for the price of a monthly gym membership – at least, in overpriced London – a Peloton offers not just exercise but escape, as the big online display screen offers gorgeous landscapes to pedal through whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
In a sense, the Peloton is nothing special – “an exercise bike with an iPad”, in the words of a neighbour who also has one (I live among city folk: over-achievers who do a triathlon before closing a big deal are the core Peloton market). But, like all the best inventions, the appeal here isn’t about radical innovation; it’s about conveniently meeting a need you didn’t quite know you had.
The company’s Christmas advert, in which a woman records a video diary of her Peloton workout sessions after being gifted the bike by her husband, was ridiculed to such an extent that it wiped £1.1 billion off their value. But her proclamation that “a year ago I didn’t realise how much this would change me” does, I have to admit, resonate; just as no one needed a smartphone before they got one, I didn’t need a Peloton until it arrived.
Now, I can’t imagine not being able to nip upstairs for a quick ride around the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. By way of illustration, the bike tells me that I average one ride every three days and have pedalled around 150 miles in a little over a month. That’s more than I ever used the conventional exercise bike it replaced, which had effectively become a clothes rack in its later years.
My addiction is quite common among Pelotoneers, though my preference for landscape rides means I’m not a “proper” rider. The video screen is really meant to display instructors offering an online version of the intensive spin classes that were taking over in city gyms before the coronavirus came along.
Now, pedalling until I cry while a grinning woman in Lycra screams at me to be my best self isn’t generally my thing – but I must confess that I recently tried a heavy metal class and had a surprisingly good time grinding away to Motorhead’s Ace of Spades.
Fully paid-up members of the Peloton cult can join the online “community” and interact with others mid-class, whooping and virtually high-fiving other addicts. The online profiles of my fellow riders confirm that Peloton is still biggest in US cities, especially New York, but every week more UK profiles appear. See you on the road soon, Rishi?