Why did you buy a Peloton?
Recently, the most common question I get asked is “why did you buy a Peloton?”
The person asking the question is either interested in:
- Buying one themselves.
- Subtly signaling to me how much better they are than me for not succumbing to the newest hottest trend.
In case you find yourself in Group 1, my hope is that this article can help guide your decision-making process.
There are two main reasons that I bought a Peloton:
- The benefits outweigh the costs: The value I earn on the bike over the course of owning it far exceeds the costs of the bike.
- Peloton is an effective method to change your habits: B = MAP. For a Behavior to occur, Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt must converge at the same moment. Peloton helps you tune the ability and prompt.
(Disclosure: I don’t get anything from Peloton for this article. I just love their product.)
Let’s dive deeper into these two points:
1. The benefits outweigh the costs
As the philosopher, Missy Elliott once posited: “Is it worth it?”
To answer this question, I utilized a three-step process:
Step 1: Compare options and choose a winner.
There were three main criteria I wanted:
- Instructor led courses (accountability/convenience)
- Home gym setup that takes up minimal square footage (convenience/space limitation)
- A way to track if I am getting better or worse at something (feedback)
Options available that meet these criteria:
- Get an on-demand fitness app + equipment (weights, bike, erg, whatever) + performance tracking device (ie: Apple Watch, heart rate monitor, etc)
- Purchase a Peloton device and have all of the factors I am solving for fused into one device.
- Purchase a Peloton competitor device for less money, but has less of a network effect (ie: fewer people use FlyWheel than Peloton in my friend group)
I chose the Peloton because:
- Integrated experience: The device has the added benefit of being doubly convenient as it is not only at home but also tracks all of the things I am interested in tracking (output over time, days I ride, how far I rode, how fast I rode, etc).
- Network effect: My friends use Peloton, they don’t use [INSERT COMPETITOR]. This probably sounds like a dumb reason and that’s because it is. But this is fundamentally how we are wired. Humans are mimetic. We want what other people want.
- Longevity projections: In researching the bougie-at-home-fitness market, I was left with high confidence that Peloton as a company would be around and actively producing content for at least the next five years (projected life of the bike to last without issues). I wasn’t so sure about the other companies. So while there may be competitors that are slightly cheaper, Peloton may end up being the better bike in the long term as its useful life will be much longer than a competitor product.
- Utilizing my guilt for the positive: The bike is expensive. But I have chosen to reframe the price tag: Because it is so expensive, it has the added benefit of making me feel guilty if I don’t use it!
Step 2: Costs vs. benefits analysis
Let’s do some back of the napkin math to examine the price tag.
Price of a Peloton:
- One time: Bike + 2 pairs of shoes = $2,610.56 (after tax and a $100 Tim Ferriss podcast discount.)
- Recurring: $40 per month
Assumptions needed for the cost vs. benefit analysis:
- My value generated each class is going to be $20/ class*
- I plan to do 3x rides/week
- Peloton hardware reliability (ie: bike breaking) should not be a problem and if it is, it will be covered under warranty
- Option: Split cost with one other person or pay by myself
*Start sidebar about how I came to this number*
My logic goes like this:
- The price of an in-person cycling workout is roughly $30-40 per class. I cut the cost in half to make up for the lack of an in-person experience.
- Sanity check: Picture yourself traveling and you are at a hotel that charges for everything. Like the Spirit Airlines of hotels. They have a Peloton and they say “each class is worth $20 dollars.” I would be willing to pay $20 for a class. I feel like that is the tipping point where I would start to say “that is an insane price for a virtual class, mister.” [Note: This isn’t an exact science. If you don’t like it, revalue it for your price point.]
*End sidebar for hypothetical value generated calculation*
Breakeven cost is defined as when bike costs = value received from the bike.
- Fixed and variable bike costs = $2,610.56 + $40/month*num_months
- Value generated by bike = $20/class*num_classes
Originally, I planned to do 3x rides/week so I can get all variables in terms of the number of months (ie: there are 4.34524 weeks in a month so I would be planning on doing ~13 rides per month.)
Therefore, I am left with functions that describe my cost and value functions:
- Costs if I pay for it on my own = $2,610.56 + $40/month*num_months
- Costs if I split with one other person = $1,305.28 + $20/month*num_months
- Value generated from bike = $20/class*13 classes/month*num_months
Putting all of that together, I am left with the following graphical representation:
Therefore, given all of my assumptions, the costs equal the benefits at:
- Pay on my own: ~12 months of consistent use
- Split with one other person: ~5 months of consistent use
Step 3: Decide if the value outweighs the costs
I was able to split the cost of the bike in half with someone else so the 5-month breakeven point sounded pretty straight forward: I pay now and I make that money back (and then some) in the value I derive from the bike.
6 MONTHS IN PURCHASE UPDATE:
This purchase was a no brainer for me pre-COVID. COVID only made it even more of a great purchase. With the shelter in place, my actual ride frequency was closer to 5 rides per week (not 3) which led to my value function looking different. The real breakeven point for me happened at ~3 months in. Making it even more of a steal.
2. Peloton is an effective method to change your habits
Everything I have found useful about habit change science, I have learned from BJ Fogg.
His thesis boils down to: for a behavior to occur, three elements must converge at the same moment: Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt
- Motivation – you must want to do the behavior (ie: I want to get on the bike)
- Ability – how easy or hard the behavior is to do for you (ie: I can physically do the workout)
- Prompt – reminder to do the behavior (ie: I am reminded to workout)
Below is his thesis presented graphically with several behaviors (purple circles) plotted alongside.
- If it lands in the green zone, your prompts will succeed in making you do the behavior (ie: low motivation → easy ride, high motivation → hard ride)
- If it lands in the red, you will still not do the behavior even if you are prompted to do it (ie: I have very low motivation to participate in the Tour de France and I don’t possess the ability to do it.)
To further distill BJs message: if you want to do a behavior (such as exercising), you should focus on the ability and prompt variables instead of the more finicky motivation variable.
Peloton helped me make the behavior of exercise more automatic by allowing me to specifically tune the prompt and ability variables of the behavior equation.
This is straightforward. I am constantly reminded that I should exercise because there is a 4’ x 6’ bike area in my home office/guest bedroom. I am actually embarrassed you asked this question…you are better than that and you know it. Don’t give me any of that “I didn’t ask a question” business either. You know what you did.
The bike helps me adjust the ability variable in several ways:
- An instructor walks me through a class so all I have to do is show up and complete the class. Psychologically, this is easier than showing up to a stationary bike with no class and telling myself I am going to “bike a couple of miles.”
- There are several different class difficulties so I can ratchet up and down to match my corresponding motivation level. Sometimes I feel like garbage so I just do 30 minutes at a light pace. Other times I am super motivated so I can do a 45-minute intense interval workout.
- It is located in my apartment so I mentally never get lost in thinking about how draining it is to make it to the gym. I have removed so much of the mental discomfort about the pre-gym routine that it becomes essentially nonsensical to not go.
I have a story to share here on my pre-gym nonsense. I live in a soulless millennial compound (s/o NK for the name to describe the cookie-cutter high-end apartment complexes that pop up overnight in the Bay Area) that has a Peloton. But I found myself actively avoiding it because there was always this “ehh I dont know I might get down there and someone may be on it” thought. This small mental conflict was often enough to sway me from working out. Instead, I would find myself sitting down and watching TV or writing a blog plot about what a failure I am. Having it in my apartment solved this problem.
Peloton has driven home one very important lesson to me: I will do what is easy to do.
There is no easier way to make exercise a habit than to have a personal trainer in my guest bedroom 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Should you buy one?
If you can spare a short term loss that you will make up 6-12 months, I would consider buying a Peloton.
Even if you feel guilty about it for some weird reason.