People are hacking their Peloton bikes so they can watch Netflix and cheat the leaderboard ranking system

peloton netflix jailbreak 4x3Peloton; Netflix; Samantha Lee/Business Insider

  • Some people are jailbreaking their Peloton stationary bikes to use the attached tablets for purposes other than what the company intended, like watching Netflix.
  • Others are seemingly hacking the exercise bikes to artificially log impressive race times and shoot to the top of the service's leaderboard rankings.
  • The practice illustrates how people are finding ways to use products outside the traditional business model of Peloton, which relies on subscription fees for its software.
  • Peloton starts trading publicly on the Nasdaq Thursday.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Peloton gives you no choice but to work out.

For the 500,000 paying subscribers of the exercise-bike startup listing its shares on the Nasdaq Thursday, this rigidity is a major draw. Peloton's bikes come with a touchscreen tablet that's meant to show just one type of video: Peloton's rotation of personal trainers shouting words of encouragement.

These workout videos are packaged with preselected music and software that tracks cyclists' speed, and sold for a $39 per month subscription on top of the cost of a stationary bike. This is the only software that Peloton intends its users to access while spinning.

But some users are jailbreaking their Pelotons to get around those parameters.

For some, this means "rooting" the Android-based tablet attached to the Peloton to access apps like Netflix and Spotify instead of Pelotons' own software.

Others are seemingly hacking the exercise bikes to artificially log impressive race times and shoot to the top of the service's leaderboard rankings, much to the annoyance of the broader Peloton community.

The practice of jailbreaking cycles is relatively niche, but it illustrates how people are finding ways to use products outside the traditional business model of Peloton, which relies on subscribers paying to use the services that the cycles' tablets are intended for.

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Peloton’s business model doesn’t just rely on selling $2,245 stationary bikes.

Peloton’s business model doesn’t just rely on selling $2,245 stationary bikes.

The company also needs to convince users to buy into a $39/month subscription that gives them access to Peloton's instructor-led workout videos and exercise-tracking software.

As such, the bikes ship with a tablet that comes preloaded with Peloton's own software. Users aren't supposed to be able to use other apps that could stream competitors' workout videos or other entertainment on their Peloton tablets. But by "rooting" their devices, users can get around that and stream third-party content while working out.

Here's how people are “rooting” Peloton tablets to install third-party apps.

Here's how people are “rooting” Peloton tablets to install third-party apps.

The tablets that come with Peloton bikes run on an Android software. While there's not an intuitive way to exit Peloton's app and access other Android apps, users on the Peloton subreddit have discovered a way to do so.

While Peloton warns that making "modifications that are unauthorized or not recommended by Peloton" aren't covered in the touchscreen's 12-month warranty, there's a full walkthrough of how to install Netflix and other apps on the Peloton tablet on the subreddit. Following these steps will apparently refigure the app's home screen, making it resemble a more traditional Android interface with an easily-accessible browser and other apps.

Meanwhile, some people appear to be fleecing Peloton’s rankings system to climb its internal leaderboards.

Meanwhile, some people appear to be fleecing Peloton’s rankings system to climb its internal leaderboards.

When Peloton users take a "class" led by a virtual instructor, they can see statistics on other users' performance who took the same class, including a leaderboard of users with the highest energy output. However, for years, Peloton users have publicly pointed out that the people at the top of leaderboards consistently have outputs that seem impossibly high.

Peloton bikes calculate energy output as a function of users' pedaling speed and the bike's resistance setting. While Peloton doesn't disclose exactly how this calculation is made, users can use their energy output to gauge how much they're improving from session to session.

Some people on the rankings appear to be twice as fast as Tour de France racers.

Some people on the rankings appear to be twice as fast as Tour de France racers.

One Reddit user noted that the top seven riders in a class on Dec. 23, 2018 posted energy outputs that the user estimated were two to three times the amount of energy expended by competitive cyclists in the Tour de France.

Another user, writing under the handle Okraball, posted in March 2018 that they were disheartened by unrealistic figures at the top of their class' leaderboard.

"Frustrating and demotivating. Not even worth looking at anymore. Until Peloton figures this out, I am done with the leader(fake)board," they wrote.

No one is exactly sure where these seemingly fake leaderboard-topping outputs come from.

No one is exactly sure where these seemingly fake leaderboard-topping outputs come from.

Some users have speculated that some peoples' cycles are simply miscalibrated, while others guessed that cheaters are using mechanical tools like cranks to artificially climb the rankings.

Users say they reported these problems to Peloton in posts dating back to 2017. A Peloton spokesperson declined to comment, citing the company's quiet period leading up to its IPO.

However, Peloton’s website suggests that outputs shouldn’t be taken as purely scientific readings, but rather a way to track one’s own progress.

However, Peloton’s website suggests that outputs shouldn’t be taken as purely scientific readings, but rather a way to track one’s own progress.

"These readings are taken at the time of manufacture and due to manufacturing variability, we expect ~10% bike-to-bike variability in Output readings. The Peloton leaderboard and Output readings are intended to be fun and useful tools offering directional performance measurement that helps riders motivate and achieve their individual fitness goals," the website says.

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