Despite being a virtual fitness company, Peloton has an extremely social following. If you own one of the cycling startup's at-home bikes, chances are, you're familiar with one of the many Facebook groups, Reddit communities, or podcasts devoted to it. Peloton has developed the type of cult following every company dreams of having. (Its $1.25 billion valuation is pretty enviable as well.) And it's not slowing down either: This week, Peloton announced they'll be expanding to Europe and Canada.
That news follows last weekend's Home Rider Invasion 2018, during which 1,000 Peloton riders from 43 different states converged for Peloton's biggest meet-up of the year. The tickets sold out in less than an hour. Moderately priced at $50, ticket goers received access to an in-studio ride (and a bonus "beyond the ride" class), an open-bar happy hour where they could meet all the instructors, and a seat at a panel where co-founder and CEO John Foley unveiled what's next for the brand. (The flight to NYC, where HRI is held, and accommodations are not covered.)
"Building such a passionate community wasn't our goal," Foley tells me. "Our goal was to deliver fantastic workouts that are more convenient and for better value. The community surprised us. We brought social into the home via the software platform, but the community found each other."
So, what exactly is an HRI weekend like and what new features did Foley reveal? Keep reading to find out.
Who attends a Peloton Home Rider Invasion?
I booked a bike at Alex Toussaint's 7 a.m. class on Friday, one of the first rides of the HRI weekend. "The energy is even higher than usual," one of the Peloton studio employees tells me in the locker room as I'm getting ready. "Jenn [Sherman] gave a shoutout to someone in the front row, and she was completely star-stuck."
I spotted a woman rolling a suitcase. "I just got off a red eye from California," she says. "I'm so excited to meet my friends from the leaderboard!"
Inside the studio, the front row was taken over by three girls wearing Peloton DC shirts. Later, they tell me two are sisters, and one is a sister-in-law. All the girls like Toussaint, but they're even bigger fans of Ally Love. One of the sisters even had a #LoveSquad makeup bag. Over the course of the weekend, I saw many, many LoveSquad T-shirts.
The six Peloton bike instructors are legit superstars—riders know their names and everyone seems to have a favorite. Some of the ticket holders were surprised with "experiences" with them, such as matcha making with Jennifer Jacobs—AKA JJ—karaoke with Sherman, donut tasting with Love, and meditation with Denis Morton.
What it's like to party with Peloton
That night was the big cocktail party at Chelsea Piers and the Peloton riders turned up. Gone were the sweaty clothes, and instead, attendees were dressed up and mingling. Some people I talked to came with their partner or friends, but many came alone. Most seemed to be in the late 30s to 50s range, though there were people in their 20s too. (One perk of getting older: Being able to afford a $1,995 indoor exercise bike.)
Everyone wore a name-tag that included their rider handle, and throughout the night, there was a steady stream of happy shrieks as riders discovered their virtual besties.
All of the Peloton instructors were there, including the newly announced Peloton Tread instructors, with long, long lines to meet them. "It's kind of like Disneyland," new Peloton Tread instructor Matty Maggiacomo said the next day, adding that if it was Disneyland, he would totally be Goofy.
But of course the cocktail party wasn't the only excitement that night. Right before the party got started, Foley took the stage and announced the latest features.
What CEO John Foley says is the future of Peloton
For roughly an hour, Foley answered questions from riders, which were submitted in advance, during a Q&A hosted by The Clip Out. He revealed what they tried that didn't work out: "We had the idea of using the energy spent during the workout to power houses, but it turns out that even a professional cyclist can only create one percent of the energy that would be used." He admitted the company's launch wasn't smooth sailing at first: "It was very hard to raise money, but one of the reasons why we kept going is because you saw it. Investors said no at first, but you believed."
And he even revealed their secret to having such rockstar instructors. "In the beginning, we had to recruit big names and convince them to quit their jobs and join us, but now it's different and many of the best instructors of the world are interested," Foley said. One way they attract and keep great talent is by "treating them well" and offering equity in the company. But he says that no one at the company can take credit for their genuine personalities. "Ninety-five percent of it is that these people are wildly fantastic human beings," he says. "The ride is fitness, self-help, and motivation all in one. There's so much they do in 45 minutes." He did say, however, that they do get coached on what works and what doesn't, providing them with some helpful feedback.
During the course of the night, Foley revealed four new features:
Here Now: A new tab on the leaderboard, riders will now be able to see who's riding at the same time as they are in an on-demand class. "This totally changes the game," Foley says. "You'll be able to have a shared experience with people even though the class happened three days ago."
Ride With Friends: Riders will receive a notification on their screen if a member they follow is taking a class at the same time as them. That way, they can ride together on the leaderboard.
High Fives: This was the feature met with the most applause from the audience. Riders will be able to cheer each other with high-fives while they ride by simply tapping their user name.
Power Zones: This, Foley said, was one of the most-requested features from riders, stemming from the classes by the same name. The new power zone features will allow users to contextualize their output by helping them figure out if they're taking their time, pushing themselves, or in a dead sprint.
The features will start rolling out within the next few weeks, starting with the power zones.
Of course there's another massive piece of Peloton news Foley was proudly promoting too: The launch of Peloton Tread, which will be available for purchase in September. (The NYC Peloton Tread studio is open now.) "This was in development for two years," Foley tells me. He emphasized that it's more than a treadmill. "Many of the classes will be half on the floor using weights or body work, so it's actually a portal to a full body workout," he says.
Will Peloton Tread be just as successful as the bike? Time will tell, but if so, get ready for a whole new breed of Peloton enthusiasts to emerge.
Speaking of Peloton Tread, here's how to make your treadmill workouts more effective. And if you want to try spinning, but are a little nervous, here's what you need to know before your first ride.
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