“AAlmost every industry will be ‘coiled up’ in the post-pandemic world,” trend forecaster and buzzword lover Ion Valis wrote in a blog post early last year. “Just as the buzzword VC phrase of the last decade was ‘Uber for X’, I predict that post-pandemic it will be ‘The Peloton of Y’.”
You can see why Valis wanted to go all-in on starting the exercise. In September 2020, Peloton announced a 172% increase in sales over the previous year and over one million new signups for its streaming courses. The company, which sold its first bike on Kickstarter in 2013, has become one of the pandemic’s small group of “winners” and, along with Netflix and Amazon, its stock price has skyrocketed. At the end of 2020, it was valued at $45 billion.
Over the past year, however, enthusiasm for cycling anywhere in your living room has waned. The company posted losses of $1.2 billion in the second quarter of 2022, and more than 750 layoffs were announced just before, in addition to the 2,800 employees who were laid off in February. The stock price has fallen 88% over the past year.
The reason for Peloton’s era of flop is obvious: once people were able to start exercising in gyms and outdoors, the need for an expensive and bulky exercise bike disappeared. .
Peloton wasn’t the only pandemic pastime that turned out to be a fad: In kitchen cupboards across the country, sacks of flour are going rancid and kombucha scobies are shrivelling. But the financial outlay for these hobbies was minimal, with most Peloton bike models costing upwards of $2,500. Thousands of bikes are now appearing on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, but are people able to recoup some of their initial investment? Or are they stuck with what has become the most expensive clothes rack in history?
“I don’t like having things we don’t use,” Heather and Aron, Scottsdale, AZ
Heather has completed about 50 rides during the pandemic, while their son, a homeschooled teenager, has completed about 350 rides as part of his physical education requirements.
But now that the gyms in Arizona feel a little safer and their son is going to school in person, the Peloton hasn’t been used for about seven months.
Heather’s husband, Aron, is a firm believer in the Toyota Production System, a management philosophy that prioritizes waste disposal. “Part of that training is that if you haven’t used something in six months, get rid of it, because it just weighs on your mind,” he says. “I don’t really like having things that we don’t use.”
With that in mind, he posted a listing for the bike, which originally cost them $2,250, down to $900 about a month ago. They have received a few low offers but have yet to get rid of them. “I thought someone else could use it and save some money because it’s practically new. But if they’re not cool with their offerings, it’s not worth selling them and dealing with the hassle,” says Aron.
He has not yet removed the list. With Peloton recently announcing that they would raise prices by $500, he hopes selling it might make more sense. “Maybe it’s an unconscious thing that I didn’t remove the ad,” he says. “Now that I know the prices are going up, maybe I’ll continue there.”
“If I don’t get rid of it, maybe I’ll start using it again,” Andy Mount Kisco, NY
Before the pandemic, Andy had tried everything: he had a treadmill, went to the gym, took Hiit and Orangetheory classes. Just before its 50th birthday, the Peloton craze reached its peak. “People kept saying how great Peloton is,” he says. So, for his birthday, he decided to treat himself to one as his “big present”, for $2,200. He started riding it a lot, trying almost every type of training offered by the Peloton program. Eventually, however, he realized that his hip was starting to give him trouble.
He discovered he had arthritis in both hips, a problem the Peloton did not cause. But with the hip pain, he found he was no longer able to push himself as hard in his workouts as he would like. . “I promised myself that if it ever got to the point where clothes were hanging on it, I would just cut my losses and let someone else enjoy it,” he says.
Unfortunately, things weren’t that simple. His Craigslist ad ran for 20 days, and while there were some stings, he didn’t sell it. He’s asking $1,650, a price he knows is high for a used Peloton. Its ad acknowledges that it’s a bit pricey, but says, “If you want a Peloton assembled and ready to roll and don’t want to wait or orchestrate a deal on the Peloton schedule, this is a bargain for a brand new bike.”
However, he has yet to stop paying the Peloton’s monthly membership fee. “Maybe I don’t like having $60 in my bank every month. I guess there was a part of me that thought if I didn’t get rid of it, maybe I could start using it again. As of this writing, he still hasn’t sold it.
“It’s a place where we can throw the laundry”, Jason, New York
Jason and his wife, Megan, bought their Peloton when Megan became pregnant in October 2021. “Even though the gyms were reopening, given that she was pregnant and Covid was starting to ramp up again, we basically decided we needed ‘a great way for my wife to exercise during her pregnancy,’ he says.
They bought the base model Peloton bike for around $1,900, including extended warranty and accessories. Now, just under a year later, Jason is trying to get rid of it.
Part of the problem, he says, was the cleated cycling shoes you need for cycling — Peloton sells its own pairs for around $125. “I think almost immediately I was stressed about the shoes and about hooking and unhooking the bike.”
More importantly, however, his wife’s pregnancy – the main reason they got the bike in the first place – ended up presenting more of a challenge to using the Peloton than they had anticipated. She didn’t feel safe getting on and off the bike, and soon they both stopped using it altogether.
“It’s a very efficient place to throw laundry,” he says.
In mid-August, he and his wife finally decided to try to get rid of the thing. Just over two weeks after listing, he was able to find a buyer at the asking price, less than half the price at which he originally bought it.
“Used it four times,” Erika, Palo Alto, CA
Before the pandemic, Erika was an avid SoulCycler. When a Peloton storefront set up shop right next door to her regular SoulCycle studio, she didn’t see the appeal of riding home. But then the pandemic hit and her usual routine was put on hold. For about a year, she considered buying the bike, but was discouraged by the cost. “Then, as the pandemic dragged on, I started to think about it more and I felt like I was really missing that spin and getting spin class.”
In the summer of 2021, a neighbor moves and offers to sell her his bike for cheap, around $850. She accepted their offer, but it was never worth it.
“I used it four times,” she says. ” I do not like it. It was a total pain in the ass going up to our townhouse. We have a three-story townhouse and we walked it up two flights of stairs, which was the biggest workout I got out of it all this time.
She discovered that what she really loved about Soulcycling was the environment. “It was like the nightclub experience of my 20s,” she says. With the Peloton, she could never replicate the experience of being in a dark, crowded room with loud music.
Luckily, after about three days of mixed offers and back and forth on Craigslist, she was able to sell hers for $950, $100 more than she originally bought it for. He was sold to a young lawyer who just moved to the Bay Area from the east coast. He had previously had a Platoon which he had sold rather than lugging around the country.
Even with the success of the sale, Erika remains skeptical of Peloton’s future. “I just think people are doing their best to live a pre-pandemic life, and that didn’t include Peloton to begin with,” she says. She hasn’t returned to SoulCycle yet either. She prefers to ride her bike to work instead.
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