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Indoor-training behemoth Peloton has been the subject of a few controversies of late. Their clanger of an advertising campaign late last year became the subject of memes, a solid SNL roasting and the source of a stock-price plummet for the exercise start-up, who lost US$1.5b in value as a result of the ad.
Now, the company’s run-in with rival brand Flywheel has again seen Peloton cast as the villain.
Flywheel, the second-largest chain of cycling studios in America behind SoulCycle, had been losing market-share to Peloton – a start-up founded in 2014 with a booming consumer base as a result of their on-demand spin classes, facilitated through the purchase of an expensive home trainer and monthly subscription. Along with other companies in the space, including SoulCycle, Echelon and NordicTrack, Flywheel had rushed to produce hardware and software that would allow them to compete with the upstart Peloton.
In September 2018, however, Peloton opened a case against Flywheel alleging that Flywheel had copied its patented technology. Flywheel conceded to Peloton, agreeing to settle in February 2020, and soon after announced that it would be discontinuing its at-home bike and virtual classes entirely.
This week, it emerged that Flywheel users had been caught in the crossfire, with Peloton unceremoniously contacting the owners of the US$1,999 Flywheel home set-ups to let them know that their bikes would shortly be bricked.
Despite the obsolete spin bikes that are now the casualties of the legal wrangling, there’s a silver-lining for Flywheel owners – they have been offered a trade-in for refurbished Peloton bikes.
Some of the users interviewed by tech website The Verge commented that they would miss their favourite virtual spin-class instructors but would nonetheless take up Peloton on the offer – although it wasn’t like there was much of a choice. “It wasn’t like Flywheel gave us any option if you decide not to take the Peloton. Basically it was like: take it or lose your money,” one said. “They didn’t even attempt to fix it with their loyal riders. It felt like a sting.”
These kinds of machinations aren’t necessarily uncommon when backing developing platforms, and some users are reportedly viewing it as a cost of the convenience of on-demand online training.
As a counterpoint, perhaps it’s worth us gently noting here that riding outside doesn’t require a subscription, can be done whenever you like, and can’t get taken away from you as a result of legal wranglings beyond your control.