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What is the Peloton bike and why does Joe Biden want it in the White House?

The Peloton bike is such a home fitness success story that even US President Joe Biden uses one. But the secret service is worried

Peloton Interactive Inc. stationary bikes for sale at the company's showroom in Dedham, Massachusetts, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. Peloton Interactive Inc. is scheduled to release earnings figures on February 4. Photographer: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg (Bloomberg)

Peloton is, perhaps, the hottest fitness brand, equipment, streaming and social network all rolled into one as far as health and wellbeing is concerned right now. After all, US president Joe Biden is among one of its most famous clients. Other celebrity users include actor Hugh Jackman, Virgin founder Richard Branson and the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt. Even former First Lady Michelle Obama reportedly uses a Peloton bike.

Recently, Peloton made the news because the company’s connected stationary exercise bike, with an integrated high-resolution screen, cameras and speakers, is being considered a potential security risk inside the White House. Cyber security experts have expressed concern that since the bike has cameras and speakers that allow Peloton users, if they choose so, to see and talk with each other, the communication channel can be misused to gather sensitive info from within the White House. Moreover, since word got out about President Biden’s love for his Peloton bike, several Peloton users have been trying to crack what his user name. Most just want to say hi, send congratulations on his victory, high-five him virtually or take the same class as him.

Peloton is a fitness/media start-up head-quartered in New York City that began life back in 2012. The company uses a combination of technology, fitness content and best-in-class instructors to reach its millions-strong community. Peloton’s on-demand library of classes with curated music is designed to keep users coming back and also gives them the flexibility to access any guided workout on their phone tablet, smart TV or web browser at a time and place convenient to them.

Given the Peloton’s relatively high price point, it was particularly popular among the swish set — particularly those who preferred to workout at home rather than at a gym. But then the pandemic hit, and as lockdowns, quarantine, masks and social distancing became the new normal, its popularity surged. Now, it’s a bit of a cult, much like CrossFit. In fact, it was recently reported that Peloton has become so popular that the company is finding it difficult to meet surging demand.

The company offers Peloton bikes (from $1,895), a subscription service to its curated fitness content ($39 plus taxes per month for all access), apparel and accessories. It plans to launch the Peloton Tread treadmill ($2,495 onwards) towards the end of May.

San Francisco-based Reshma Iyer turned to the Peloton bike last August in the middle of a quarantine and work from home routine. “All gyms in the neighbourhood were shut and I had to take up a post-partum fitness routine after my second baby,” she says. It wasn’t her first choice though. “I asked around and all my friends who used one gave rave reviews about it. Yet I was on the fence for a while as exercising to me meant going to a gym or outdoors to workout,” she recalls. “Due to the shut gyms and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, my hand was forced and I subscribed to Peloton in July. I stuck to strength training initially and then got the bike a month later. I haven’t stopped since then. I absolutely love it.”

It isn’t cheap, confesses Iyer but the Peloton subscription comes with access to all kinds of workouts ranging from strength, HIIT, running, yoga and stretching. She really enjoys mixing it up because “no two days look the same” and she is able to workout six days a week with and without the Peloton bike.

Peloton hardware is currently retailed exclusively in the US, UK, Canada and Germany. But one can get a digital membership ($12.99 per month) through the Peloton app and access its library of workouts ranging.

There are a couple of Indian start-ups such as Tread One and Synq.Fit attempting to offer Peloton-like options. Synq-Fit's website lists its exercise bike, with a high resolution screen, for 1,20,000 while the Tread One is accepting pre-orders for 9,900 for its Android-powered offering. However, their websites say little about rollout timelines or give details of their trainers.

As for President Biden’s Peloton bike in the White House, it's likely that he will get his wish to get his bike into the White House. After all, there is precedent. The White House security team had a problem when President Obama insisted on using his iPad when he moved into the White House. However, they did manage to make it happen. Most likely Biden will have his favourite exercise bike in the White House soon enough.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

    09.02.2021 | 10:00 AM IST

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