Money-spin­ner: the new hi-tech ex­er­cise bike ped­dled to the su­per rich

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Sarah But­ler ▲

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

PHO­TO­GRAPH: MAR­TIN GOD­WIN/GUARDIAN

An ex­er­cise bike with screen (right) to view classes filmed in Man­hat­tan

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