One of the breakout hits from the pandemic, besides Taylor Swift's "Folklore," has been Peloton. With upwards of 5.4 million members as of March and nearly $1.3 billion in revenue that quarter, a lot of people are turning in their gym memberships for a bike or a treadmill and a slick-looking app.
But here at Protocol, it's that slick-looking app, plus all the tech that goes into it, that matters. And that's where things got really heated during our chat this week. Is Peloton tech? Or is it just a bike with a giant tablet on it? Can all bikes be tech with a little elbow grease?
Even our executive editor weighed in.
Karyne Levy: is PELOTON tech?
Megan Rose Dickey: are we doing these every week or what's the deal?
Karyne: yes! it is a weekly series
Megan: yes, i knew that lol
Kate Cox: Anything you can control remotely with DRM and a subscription fee has to qualify, yes?
Karyne: i will go first: peloton is for sure tech. without the technology that runs peloton (leader boards, streaming, the big tablet on the bike, the app) it is just a bike.
Tom Krazit: never saw this one coming
Kate Cox: Yeah, its whole thing is the connected software, that's what they're selling. With an expensive bike.
Karyne: right. i mean really they're selling a LIFESTYLE but it's a tech lifestyle 😎
Karyne: obviously i'm obsessed with peloton, i'm an evangelist
Tomio Geron: Yes it is a lifestyle because you can hook your bike up to zwift or other software for much less
Kate: I am the opposite of obsessed with Peloton, and I am deeply antisocial in my working out, but I agree that its whole deal is aspirational and techy
Karyne: oh i don't talk to anyone
Amber Burton: I would like to venture that it is just a bike with tech attached
Karyne: amber no
Meg Morrone: Is my treadmill that is not connected to the internet tech?
Amber: im sorry lol
Karyne: please explain further
Amber: it's a bike with bad tech attached
Karyne: no @Meg, your treadmill is just a treadmill, i'm so sorry
Karyne: BAD TECH????
Meg: But it has a chip in it.
Megan: you tell em, amber!!!
Karyne: a chip does not a tech product make
Karyne: or something
Kate: What pushes me over to Peloton being tech is the way they retroactively turned off features for treadmill users when they added a subscription fee
Kate: That's Internet of Things behavior right there, which is tech
Karyne: lol killed by google vibe
Sarah Roach: If I fasten my phone to my bike, did I make my bike tech? Or did I just decide to use tech while riding my bike
Amber: I have a schwinn and it's basically the same. But I guess my point is that Peloton is bad tech. Is that fair?
Amber: Sarah, that's exactly it!
Kate: does your bike still work if you disable the software or stop using your phone? (yes)
Tim Grieve: I feel that I am the elephant in the room.
Sarah: Or is the bike tech too? Are bikes tech?
Amber: I'm waiting to hear Tim's take
Kate: tim's hot bike take
Tim: I say it's tech. I mean, the pedals go around if you turn off all the tech, but Peloton isn't selling a pedaling product. It's selling the whole package – bikes and classes, and readouts on the bike that tell you whether you're doing the things you're supposed to be doing.
Karyne: you can connect an ipad to any bike and attend the classes, but then you're using peloton's app, in which case that, too, is tech
Tim: My kid spent weeks hacking a bricked Flywheel bike so it would work with Peloton classes. That feels like tech!
Kate: Peloton is the software product, right? That's what really matters. Where something like Tesla is both software (updating your car) and hardware (the literal four wheeled car), Peloton is, as you say, something you can make work on any bike if you're determined but the experience is all the software bits
Amber: Ugh ok maybeeeee
Tim: A meeting isn't tech, but Zoom is. A spin class isn't tech, but Peloton is.
Karyne: right. and when you do a peloton ride on a peloton, you can see your cadence and resistance on the screen
Karyne: that's tech, it's using a sensor!
Biz Carson: Can we now talk about how Cody Rigsby is our favorite Peloton instructor and I will accept no substitutes?
Is Cody Rigsby tech?Image: Peloton and Protocol
Kate: Peloton is as much tech as my Fitbit is, I think
Tim: I hope we're tagging all the instructors so we get the traffic.
Karyne: you know i will. SEO 4 eva
Tim: What time is Emma Lovewell's Peloton class?
Karyne: that's our headline
Biz: for the internet records, i do believe peloton is tech and will go a step further and say it is also a media company
Amber: oh man that hurts my soul
Karyne: Peloton is tech and media and hurts Amber's soul
Tom: well, soul-destroying = tech
Amber: The takeaway for the day
Tim: Also, who's up for Soul Cycle in Marin tonight at 5:15?
Megan: big yikes
Megan: i mean, no thanks lol
Megan: those classes seem so intense
Karyne: perfect. if something is soul-destroying, kills features without warning, has a sensor and an app and DRM and cody rigsby, then it is tech.
Karyne: i'm going to make t-shirts