Peloton founder John Foley on building a fitness brand from the ground up

John Foley is enjoying the ride.

Since launching Peloton last year, the West Village resident’s fitness company has sold nearly 7,000 of its indoor exercise bikes, opened eight retail locations across the country, with four more slated to open by the end of the year. He debuted a cycling studio in Chelsea last spring, with a second one coming in Chicago soon. The company also raised nearly $15 million in funding and is set to announce a Series C venture round this spring.

It all started with the Peloton Bike — a $1,995 piece of equipment that resulted from two years of developing hardware, along with a tablet that lets users stream unlimited cycling classes at home for $39 a month.

We talked with Foley, 44 — who before entering the fitness industry was president of Evite.com and president of Barnes & Noble’s e-commerce division — about Peloton and staying fit post 40.


How did you get into spinning?

My wife and I have two young kids. The efficiency of your workout becomes more important. A spin class can be very efficient — you can burn 700 calories in 45 minutes.


Who’s your demographic?

It’s slightly older, 46 years old is the average bike buyer. If you’re in your 20s, you don’t have $2,000 and you don’t generally have a space big enough to have indoor fitness equipment. When you’re 46, you do have $2,000 and you do have the space for a bike. When we were building the bike, the category slightly skewed female — we were thinking our bike buyers will skew female. But it’s been half and half. Women like it because of the content and the category. Men like it because it’s one of the sexiest, tech-driven gadgets. I’ve sold hundreds of bikes myself in different stores I work in on the weekends and it’s been more guys than I would have thought.


Wait, you’re working retail?

It is a young company at the end of the day. This is our life. I’ve poured all my financial and personal capital into this thing. My wife [Jill] does all the boutique apparel buying. We just have big ambitions. We want it to be a global, multi-billion-dollar consumer company.


Why did you want to build your own studio?

We were playing with different options of partnering with people already running classes but ended up going it alone. If it’s Peloton instructors talking to Peloton bike riders, it’s such an immersive, consistent, vertically integrated experience — the exact bike experience and resistance and metrics. The health and wellness movement is going well here in New York. I feel like this is the Mesopotamia Valley of boutique fitness. We figured, why don’t we open our own gorgeous studio, hire some of the best instructors in the world and have an authentic experience?


What are some other applications for your technology?

We’re working on something that will allow the tablet to flip. And if you have a bike in your home, if you wanted to stream a yoga class or boot camp class or personal training class that’s not on the bike, you can take advantage of the screen and streaming infrastructure. That’s not too far away.


Why do you think indoor cycling has taken off?

My instinct is, as we get older, cycling versus running is easier on your body — it’s low-impact and easier on the joints. But it’s hard to go for a bike ride and get a really good workout — you have to deal with stop lights, map out a course and it’s a tough thing for you to really get your heart rate up to 170 beats per minute. I love going up the George Washington Bridge and out east, but it’s not as efficient. You have to give yourself 3-4 hours to have a proper bike ride. Indoor cycling can give you a better workout in 45 minutes.


What’s your regular workout routine like?

By the time you’re 44 like I am, you have to think about how your body isn’t what it used to be. It’s a variety, a spice of life. I take about two Peloton classes a week. For me, Barry’s Bootcamp is a fantastic workout. It works out your upper body, allows you to do sprints on the treadmill and run. I think your body likes a variety of styles and workouts.


How else do you stay healthy?

We’re typical New Yorkers, trying to eat better, work out and live longer. We eat salads, drink juices, try to be conscious of our bodies and how we’re treating them. That said, we live in New York, and will have a martini and steak dinner. It’s the yin and the yang of the New Yorker.


What are some of your favorite healthy spots in NYC?

My life makes a lot of the healthy stuff herself — salads and juices. We do the BluePrintCleanse every quarter. It’s one of those three days — drink juice, get snappy, angry, because you haven’t had coffee. It’s very fun.


What benefit do you see that keeps you coming back?

You feel fantastic. It also breaks up the monotony of the routines and eating habits that you’re in. Doing a juice fast every quarter will really shock your system and shock your habits. That fourth day when you’re off the juice cleanse, you don’t pig out and you don’t eat crappy food. You don’t crave it. It’s fascinating what it does.