By Tom Cortese
As our collective love for spin classes continues to grow, Peloton Cycle has found a way to revolutionize the spin class as we know it. Now, thanks to Peloton, you don’t actually have to go to spin class to take spin class. Peloton’s signature bikes are available for your home, and their attached wide-screen tv allows riders to both live-stream current rides or choose any ride on-demand. Once logged in, riders compete with other Peloton cyclers around the world, and instructors interact with their riders, cheering them on. The best part? If you’re local to NYC, you can join the ride, live, at Peloton’s luxe flagship location in Chelsea, where all their spin classes are filmed. We talked with co-founder and COO of Peloton, Tom Cortese.
How did you come up with the idea for Peloton? What was the initial spark?
I like to say that we got started because our founders John & Jill Foley couldn't afford both taking Flywheel and SoulCycle classes 3 times a week. (That would be more than $10,000 a year!). Not to mention the fact that they have two kids and they both work, so getting to those classes was starting to become a drag. So, Peloton just made sense. With all of the magic of connected technologies, why couldn't the class come to your home, on your schedule, with the fun of seeing friends and competing? How could we not build it? John usually tells the story with more elegance. I just tell it how it is.
Do you think riders get the same experience at home as in the studio?
Same? No, of course not. But there's no doubt that the Peloton experience — on your own bike, headphones on, leaderboard up, with a live coach streaming to you in bright HD — is an immersive fitness event in its own right. And when you step off your Peloton bike at the end of class, in your own home, and head for your shower, you are full of endorphins and dripping sweat just as you would be in the studio. And that's what counts.
You have a live steaming production studio at the NYC location - what does it take to keep all of that running smoothly?
We spent 2 years designing and prototyping every aspect of the Peloton experience. Our streaming infrastructure that reaches bikes around the globe, and our broadcast facility are a huge piece of what makes Peloton so special. Thankfully, we have a tremendously talented, studio audio-visual team plucked from Broadway, TV, and major event productions. They drive multiple robotically-controlled cameras, program dozens of specialty lighting fixtures, and precision tune an untold number of audio parameters to uniquely produce each live broadcast. It's a ton of fun to watch them at work — and even more fun to take the class!
Did the idea for in home, streaming rides take off right away, or have there been challenges?
The concept resonated with people early on: Peloton brings all the motivational power and energy of a group class to the private convenience of your own home. All we had to do was make the idea a reality! And YES, there were plenty of fun challenges along the way.
Why do you think spin classes in general are so popular?
An indoor cycling class can be the most fun part of your day, the toughest part of your day, the most exhilarating part of your day, or all of the above all at once. You don't get that from other workouts. You blend a great instructor with great music, and the sense of a group all working together.
It's also one of the more accessible workouts. You can train for an Ironman on a spin bike (my wife and I did), or you can get a few cranks of the flywheel in just to burn off a little steam. You can take it easy or turn it up. It's always your ride.
Each bike tracks your output, cadence, resistance, and your rank against others doing the same ride. How difficult was it to set up the capacity for that technology?
We didn't invent the concept of power output, cadence, or resistance. But we do some very neat things with the data to create and broadcast the live competition, and then remake that competition for the on-demand riders. While working on this problem, our engineering team ended up inventing some new paradigms in data processing and streaming that are currently patent pending. That was pretty cool!
What do you see for the future of Peloton?
We love what we do, and we're thrilled to be remaking your home into a real option for taking an amazing class and working up a real sweat. As we continue to grow, we'll continue to expand on the classes, coaches, and ride styles we bring to you. Everyone in your home should be able to find the perfect Peloton ride. Eventually, we hope Peloton shapes into your source for all interactive group fitness.
Any advice for our readers?
Throw away your pedometer bracelet. Those are just silly.
Any last words?
A tip: If you need to measure the right space near your bed to put your Peloton bike, its base is about 2 feet by 4 feet!
Tom Cortese is co-founder and COO for Peloton, where he is responsible for managing Peloton’s global supply chain and driving the overall product and customer experience.
Tom came to Peloton from IAC/InterActiveCorp where he most recently served as co-founder and CEO of Proust.com, a suite of tools for recording and sharing family history. Tom successfully managed the sale of the business before teaming up with John Foley to help build Peloton. Tom has spent his career building and managing effective, hard-working teams. He has deep roots in product development and user interface design, and spends his off time pushing his son in his running stroller, training for triathlons with his wife, and racing up the leaderboard on his Peloton bike.