So, what changed?
After moving to New York City for a new job as the editor of Bloomberg Businessweek, I started taking SoulCycle classes on a regular basis, like so many other New Yorkers. I, too, used to make fun of people who did SoulCycle. I thought it was a cult. I didn’t like the the inspirational mantras and its touchy feely mumbo jumbo. I was terrible at what they call “the choreography” and fell off the bike face-first onto the floor during my second class.
But I had a stressful job, a malevolent boss, and a personal life that had me shuttling between New York and London every other week in the midst of a divorce. SoulCycle and its rituals became a refuge, something I came to rely on to feel better about myself both physically and mentally. I got better, and I was surprised by how good I felt about that.
I quit my job in New York in January 2018 so I could move back to London to be a more full-time parent. My daughter was only three, and I wasn’t being the kind of mom I wanted to be.
Leaving a gig you love with people you love sucks. It’s especially hard if you’re the kind of person, like me, who has defined yourself largely by your professional success. But you know what sucks more? The number of people who say things like, “I can’t believe you gave it all up.” Or, “What are you doing with yourself all day now?” Or, “When are you coming back to real life?”
It’s strange the things we come to depend on when we no longer quite depend on ourselves, isn’t it? For six months, my apartment in London was essentially a couch, a TV, and that damn Peloton bike, carted across the ocean but still sitting there, unused.
And one day, I looked over and thought, “F**k it, I might as well give this another try.”
And that’s when I “met” Robin Arzon.
If you talk to people who are devotees of Peloton, they almost always have a favorite instructor or two they ride with regularly. For me, that’s Robin. She’s a total badass. And I love a badass. Who doesn’t?
You see, Robin is ripped. She doesn’t give a shit if you’re tired or stressed out or if you’re just riding the bike so you can have a hamburger or a couple glasses of wine later and not feel too guilty about it. She’s dropping F-bombs on your excuses. She’s running ultramarathons in her spare time. She’s at the gym lifting whatever really heavy weights people who lift weights lift. I am simultaneously in awe and terrified of Robin.
But above all, I don’t want to waste her time, and she’s there to stop me from wasting my own. Because if I can’t push myself hard on a stationary bike for 45 minutes when I don’t even have a job, I mean, honestly, what am I doing?
And that’s what makes Peloton different for me and I think for a lot of other riders: It embraces the existential crisis of all home fitness equipment.
Look, I get it. It feels bizarre to me too that I’ve become an evangelist for a piece of home exercise equipment while democracy as we know it implodes.
No one can make you get on the bike. You can choose to let it just sit there in your house, as I did at first, or you can ride it in a half-assed way because it’s something you need to check off your list. Or you can approach it like a real athlete would and use it to get stronger and tougher. We all have our own battles and our own stuff. Robin has helped me reclaim my own inner badass, and I needed that this year.
Yes, most people buy home exercise equipment because they want to lose weight. Get in better shape, sure, but also generally to shed a few pounds. I’m no different. I’ve been mildly to seriously overweight since my late teens. I’ve worked hard to lose weight this year, and Peloton has been a big part of that. But what’s better, and healthier, is that I’m thinking more about getting fitter than getting thinner. I’m getting older, and vanity is nothing if not boring.
Of course, it has to be emphasized that Peloton is really, really expensive. Just the “basics” package costs $2,245 plus the monthly subscription fee, and that doesn’t include the other crap you need, like shoes, weights, a mat, earphones, etc. Over the first two years of ownership, you’re going to be spending more than $3500 — around $300 per month. When compared to other studio cycling classes, that can make sense if you’re going to ride more than 10 times a month.
It absolutely doesn’t make sense if you’re not going to use it or if you’re already disciplined about going to a cheaper gym where you can take part in a similar kind of class.
But for me, it has delivered. It makes me work hard. It keeps me disciplined. It makes me want to be better. Yes, it’s still just a stationary bike. But Peloton is a good thing, and we don’t talk enough about good things these days. And Robin — thanks, Queen. Crown firmly on.
Update: An earlier version of this piece misstated Peloton’s bike sales numbers. Peloton, which does not release specific sales numbers, has sold hundreds of thousands of bikes since launching in 2014.