Peloton’s making scenic rides useful and adding a pause button at last

The company is adding a handful of user-requested features to its connected exercise bikes and app.

A woman is seen working out next to a Peloton bike in her apartment.

Peloton’s Scenic mode, where users of its static bikes can take in exotic vistas while pedaling furiously, has always been a bit of a letdown. There’s no guidance as to appropriate resistance and the video speed stays constant. But no more. Today Peloton is adding instructor-led routes and new rides through Hawaii, New Mexico, and Big Sur.

The company is also launching a new feature called Strive that scores users who wear a compatible heart rate monitor for their efforts during non-bike workouts, and in months to come it’s promised to add one of the features most requested by its customers: A pause button for on-demand rides.

The launch is timed to coincide with Peloton’s Homecoming 2021 campaign, its annual 72-hour event which includes panel discussions and themed classes designed to keep users interested and motivated. CEO John Foley announced the new features in a keynote presentation earlier today.

Can Peloton outlast the pandemic? — Fitness brands like OpenFit, PopSugar's workout programs, and Peloton, each saw a boost in user numbers shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

With gyms indefinitely closed and in-person workouts discouraged for the sake of mitigating coronavirus transmissions, people turned to at-home workout solutions. Peloton, which now boasts 4.4 million users, took full advantage of the increase in interest in its products by offering a 90-day trial of its app. And it saw so much demand for its smart exercise bikes it struggled to fulfill orders, eventually resorting to flying in hardware from the Asian factories where it’s manufactured instead of shipping it.

Gyms are reopening — But the question for investors is whether Peloton can maintain that momentum as vaccines roll out across the U.S. and gyms reopen. As Barron's magazine reported, investors aren’t as confident about the company's post-pandemic prospects as it would like them to be. Nonetheless, with most Peloton owners tied in for at least two years to pay off their bikes, while it might see a drop off in usage or new signups, it’s hardly likely to see a precipitous drop in revenue.

More worrying for Peloton are the recent safety concerns raised about its connected treadmill, which regulators have said poses a risk to children and pets. Additionally, Peloton's price point continues to be intimidating for many consumers. The company's top-end, Bike+ costs $2,945. Plus, the $39 monthly fee for All-Access might turn some buyers off. In contrast, you can easily check out free exercise playlists and programs on YouTube and PopSugar respectively. Or buy a cheap bike and go for a ride if outdoor fitness is your thing and you live somewhere with an agreeable climate. But you don’t get the Peloton experience of enthusiastic instructors and live leaderboards that have made the brand such a success.