The Peloton Diaries: Doing the Maths

Reading Time: 4 minutes

September 2020

“That,” I thought, looking at the TV advert, “is a cracking business idea”. Market a swanky bike at the cash rich, time poor urbanites. I bet every subscriber has an Apple watch, suckers!

Peloton? Pah!

Scotch Mist

It will not surprise you to learn, then, that I absolutely have not placed an order for a Peloton bike and I definitely do not have a Peloton subscription. I would also like to point out that the parrot is not dead, it’s resting. Beautiful plumage, the Norwegian Blue.

What on Earth possessed me to get on board this particular train then?

When I was a kid I cycled everywhere. Fitness just happened whilst I was seeing how many of my mates I could jump over. But as I got older my life got bigger and the all beer and pizza diet started to take its toll.

To cut a long story short I joined the gym at the university where I worked – and I loved it. But, it was right on campus and it was incredibly good value.

Then I moved to back the country and the nearest gym was not only a 20 minute drive away, I caught the manager sucking a lemon before he told me the price. It wasn’t very good, either. The economics, both of money and time, switched. It became far more effective to have a home gym.

The problem is that home CV equipment just isn’t made for people like me. I’m a serial killer of exercise bikes, cross trainers and especially treadmills. In order to keep the price down, they have to make economies. I understand that. Actually, if it gets people who would otherwise do nothing up and active, I support that.

Sadly, as you move up the price band, they add features instead of making the machines stronger and more durable – and that really pisses me off.

The only piece of equipment that’s survived is my turbo trainer and I hate it.

Yes, I know, you can get scenic ride apps, you can ride with other people on Zwift and yes, I know, it doesn’t have to be a race. There are even blog articles on how to set up your bike and a turbo trainer to use with the Peloton app.

I was pretty determined to make it work for a while, but cycling magazines explain my problem in a nutshell, “A turbo trainer is a great way,” they say, “to get through the winter”.

That’s not what I’m trying to achieve; you see I was never a cyclist. I didn’t obsess about the Tour de France or the Giro d’Italia when I was a kid, I read about people crossing the Sahara, or riding through Nepal. I wasn’t really interested in racing bikes, I wanted to use a bike to do mad things and have crazy adventures.

You do not have crazy adventures on a turbo trainer. Well, not if it’s mounted on a flat surface, anyway.

The advantage of a spin bike is that it’s a very simple piece of equipment. This means it’s possible to build something of professional gym kind of quality at a price that’s accessible to the home market. Something that I really, really hope I’m not going to break.

When I say “accessible”, the up-front cost of Peloton is still a little eye-watering. It’s the main reason why I had initially discounted the idea. The economics of it only work if you think about it long term.

There used to be a dedicated spin gym only a few miles away. They charged £6 a class. At first that sounds cheap, but if you do 4 classes a week that’s £104 a month. A Peloton subscription is £20 a month, but you have to find somewhere in the region of £2000 in set-up costs (or take a finance option). Working on that 4 class basis, that means you break even in about 2 years.

The cheapest local gym subscription I could find was £63 a month for a limited, “off peak” deal. If we equate the restrictions on that account with those of Peloton, then the break even point is 4 years. I know a lot of people who are paying £100+ a month for gym subscriptions they use at most twice a week.

There’s another thing to consider; will other members of your household use it? If you’re prepared to stump up £40 a month you can load them all up. As I’m married to an even bigger spin-bunny than me, it turns out to be a very attractive option.

Now, I have an admission to make. I’ve been writing this article like it it’s my journey. In many ways it is, or it’s my half of the journey, but it wasn’t me that pushed to sign up to Peloton, it was my partner. In fact, I was pretty heavily against it – until I started looking at the longer term economics. For us it just made sense, we never really used much in the gym that we can’t in some way replace with the Peloton bike and other classes from the Peloton App.

Your economics may be different. If you’re a circuits person, or more heavily oriented towards weight and strength training then the comparison will be more difficult and the numbers might not work for you.

It seems like the numbers work for us and a first glance at the app looks promising. Will it work out? You’ll have to wait ’til the next update!


Be sure to check out the other articles in the series:

Please Just Mute Geoff.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In 2011 I became a remote worker. I was really surprised how easy it was, but I was working for the Department of Computer Science at the University of Hull so if we couldn’t make it work, that would have been a very bad sign.

COVID-19 has changed the game completely though. For us accustomed remote workers the results have been positive; in many ways it’s making our lives a lot easier. Over the past few months, however, we’ve been watching, and trying politely to advise, the rest of the world as they catch up with many of the social aspects.

By and large, with the occasional nudge, it seems that everyone has now learnt the core lessons. I’ll talk about them at another time, for now I want to talk about something that doesn’t seem to have made it into culture yet: the etiquette about muting in a meeting.

Background noise happens. It’s a fact of life. Whether it’s the builders next door or your partner on another call or a small Yorkshire terrier inexplicably named Fenrir, it happens. What’s more, for a variety of reasons, sometimes background noise can get amplified to unpleasant levels and broadcast to the entire meeting.

Two things we need to establish:

  • Being on mute is not a sign that you’re not contributing, or not intending to contribute. It’s a sign that you’ve learnt the shortcut key that your system uses and that you respect the other people in the meeting. It’s very rare that you need to speak instantly and without warning. Get used to CRTL+D – talk – CTRL+D (if you use Google). It just basic politeness.
  • It’s not rude to mute other people if you’re getting background noise from them. Most systems allow this. If you’re using one where only the meeting organiser can mute other people, then it’s part of the organiser’s job. Obviously, if it’s convenient, point it out and ask the person to mute themselves, but if Tracy is talking and Geoff’s geese suddenly get spooked, then mute Geoff.
    Believe me, you do not need unsolicited contributions from geese in any meeting.

There are a couple of ancillary points. In the above case Geoff might have no idea how loud the geese are, because he may be using really good noise cancelling headphones. That algorithm might be entirely different to the one used for the meeting, which might think that geese are really important contributors who need to be put front and centre. Background noise doesn’t mean that anyone’s doing anything wrong or that they’re being inconsiderate. It’s not a conflict situation, don’t treat it like one.

Finally, please invest in (at least) basic equipment. Laptop mics are awful, not in the least because of how far they are away from your mouth. What’s more, if you so much as look at your keyboard whilst using a laptop mic, the whole world will know about it. A good, basic headset is a huge improvement over a laptop mic.

The headset I use is one of these. There are a lot of similar headsets on the market at a similar price. If I worked in a noisier environment I might have paid for the advantage of active noise cancellation, but for me it’s not necessary.

If we bake these things into business culture now, if we make them protocol, it will make our lives just that little bit easier and our workplaces just that little bit more productive.

What Have We Brits Learnt Through #blacklivesmatter?

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I’m working on some longer stuff, because one thing that #blacklivesmatter has made me realise is that there are a lot of assumptions being made about racism and there’s a lot of bollocks being talked.

In the meantime, a few bullet points:

  • We still have institutions here in the UK that treat people differently according to their race.
  • We still have tropes and stereotypes in our society that disadvantage people of colour.
  • We still have an embarrassing number of actual, conscious racists (and weird conspiracy theorists).
  • A majority group can easily overlook the problems it causes a minority.

For you, personally, not being racist is a good start. If we are to end racism however that is not enough.

You can do more simply by looking within yourself to see if you have unconscious biases. I’ve been an active campaigner against racism for about 25 years and I still find the odd little quirk in me.

You can do more by listening to minority groups when they try to explain ways in which our society discriminates against them.

You can do more by reading, watching documentaries, etc. “Natives” by Akala is a good start. In recent years many good resources have been produced when it comes to the experience of black people in the UK.

Accessible resources about other forms of racism are more difficult. For instance, I learnt about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre when I was stood in Jallianwala Bagh (Amritsar). A lot of what I’ve learnt about other forms of racism comes either from visiting other countries or from talking directly to people in the UK. I’m currently trying to collate some resources on this.

You can do more against racism by taking action. These days taking action against racism is not so much facing down neo-Nazis in the street. You can still do that if you want, you can also attend protests, #blacklivesmatter shows us how effective that can be. Fighting against racism is so much more than that, though.

The simplest action you can take is to be overtly against racism. Talk about it, make being against racism normal. The key point to understand and the most difficult to communicate is that conscious racism is really only the tip of the iceberg. A lot of the values, systems, traditions, institutions of our society were formed between 1555 and 1833, when England (latterly Britain) was involved in the slave trade and inherently a white supremacist society. Serious attempts to end racism only started in the 1970s. We’ve made good progress in eliminating active, conscious racism but we still have a very long way to go before we can say that we’ve ended racism.

The ship of state does not turn quickly and one person can only push so hard on the rudder. Some people can push harder than others, of course, but the more hands we have pushing the faster the ship will turn.

It’s a long journey, we know that, but we will get there.

How to Spot a Racist, Method #473

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When angry people are protesting on the streets things do sometimes boil over. Opponents of the protests will seize on this immediately, firstly as an attempt to discredit and devalue the protest but also to distract attention from the cause. Opponents of protests have even infiltrated them and deliberately tried to start riots for those very purposes.

Of course the media machine – be it social media or traditional media – of those opponents will go into overdrive, trying to draw maximum attention to any riots and looting (and even fabricating stories about it).

Right now a lot of people around the world are very angry at the institutional racism of the Police in the USA and the continuing abuse and murder of innocent black people. There is no argument that the police in the USA is institutionally racist. The evidence is overwhelming. The question is who thinks it a problem and who does not.

The people that do think it’s a problem are amplifying that message.
The people who think the police should be racist are amplifying the messages about riots and looting.