Head Games with Peloton Bike Statistics: the challenge of calibrating my nervous system

Mina Samuels
4 min readOct 5, 2022
Tunde leads a peloton class (I’m not pedaling, hence the statistics at 0)

I have a love-hate relationship with my Peloton bike.

Love: Easy access, anytime, any length, intense workouts with great music-not just on the bike. I also do their Pilates and light weights strength classes.

Hate: I am always so discouraged on the Peloton. It’s the statistics. The Peloton bike offers metrics up the wazoo and I can’t get them out of my head or my body. The bike tracks cadence (leg speed) and resistance (how hard it is to push against the pedal). Resistance can be dialed up or down by the rider. And, as the instructors always say in the intro to their rides, those two numbers (cadence and resistance) come together in a moment-to-moment output number (measured in watts) and at the end of the ride I have a single total output number, against which to gauge my previous efforts. Instructors cue a range for each of those numbers during the ride-for example, cadence 90–100 and resistance 35–45. I can barely ever maintain even the minimum resistance and cadence. So, that’s disheartening.

Then there are the comparative stats-the leaderboard, on which I can choose to track two different rankings-where I measure up against others who are “here now” riding simultaneously, or I can track my performance up against all others who have ever done the ride. More disheartenment. I am always in the bottom 5–10% of all riders who have ever done the ride. Every time.

This “reality” does not match my self-identity as an athlete. Yes, I recognize that I’m 56 years old and not as strong as I used to be. And, I am still quite strong. When I’m outside running or biking, I observe that I am not in the bottom 5–10% of others engaged in the same activity. Yet the Peloton metrics feed my personal narrative of insufficiency and I doubt my own strength. This doesn’t make me want to work harder, to push through, to climb the leaderboard, it makes me wonder why I bother.

I had heard from friends with Peloton bikes that calibration was a thing. As in, some bikes are calibrated hard and some are calibrated easy. Information I…

--

--

Mina Samuels

Writer. Performer. Citizen. Traveler. Enthusiast. Author of Run Like a Girl 365 Days A Year and other books. www.minasamuels.com