Money-spinner: the new hi-tech exercise bike peddled to the super rich
Peloton, the virtual spin class that wants to be the Netflix of fitness, has already saddled up celebrity fans including David Beckham and Hugh Jackman. Now it is spending £50m in the UK in an attempt to sign up 1m members in Europe within five years.
The New York-based company is trying to transform the exercise bike from a short-lived fitness drive purchase into a hi-tech experience, by adding a screen on which subscribers can stream or download classes filmed at the company’s Manhattan studio.
Users can then interact with other Peloton members via social media, while instructors join in with hundreds of fitness fans riding along at home.
It isn’t cheap though: while spinning classes usually cost £10-£20 or come free with gym membership, Peloton’s 1 million members, most of whom are currently in the US, pay nearly £2,000 for a purpose-built exercise bike, and for a £39 a month subscription they can live stream one of 14 exercise classes a day from the firm’s New York studio or choose from 10,000 on demand rides.
Now the company hopes to pedal its way into the growing UK fitness market. Peloton has hired two British instructors who will begin live streaming classes from London next week, and it wants to take on up to eight more in the next couple of years as it uses London as its base for European expansion. It has also signed up six pop up shops in London and is already looking for premises in northern cities such as Manchester.
Valued at $4bn (£3.08bn) after raising ($550m this summer from investors led by private equity firm TCV, which has previously backed Netflix, Spotify and Facebook, the company will launch a multimillion-pound national TV and digital billboard advertising campaign later this month and is building its first fitness studio outside the US in Covent Garden, London.
David Minton, director of fitness market analysts DBLeisure, said: “They have got so much money, this is like McDonald’s doing a national TV ad when it just has one shop. It’s a bit of a land grab.”
But Peloton faces competition from New Zealand’s Les Mills, a company which made its name in the 1990s by creating the Bodypump fitness class. It has been streaming virtual fitness classes to gyms in the UK for several years and offers on demand classes which can be done at home without equipment.
Both firms are trying to catch a ride on a growing niche within the buoyant fitness market in the UK, as ageing baby boomers invest in staying healthy while younger generations put time and money into ensuring they are selfie-fit.
This year the number of gyms in the UK topped 7,000 for the first time, with total membership approaching 10m, up 2.2% on last year, according to DBLeisure. In the year to March alone, 275 new fitness facilities opened in the UK helping lift the value of the fitness market to just under £5bn, up nearly 3% on last year at a time when many other consumer businesses are suffering.
‘They have got so much money, this is like McDonald’s doing a national TV ad when it has one shop’ David Minton Director of DBLeisure
An exercise bike with screen (right) to view classes filmed in Manhattan