It was 1987. I was 15 years old. I loved John Hughes films. I was the Ally Sheedy character: I worshipped the Doors and the Sex Pistols and hadn’t yet had my life changed by Kurt Cobain.
He was 16 years old. His name was Jeremy. He wore a leather jacket. He was an amazing artist. Jeremy was “anti-establishment” and, depending on the day, he was an existentialist.
I was in love.
Unlike the rest of us, Jeremy didn’t sit around pondering his existence. He was more proactive than that. He rode his bike around. He rode his bike everywhere. He rode his bike as if he was on a mission to figure it all out. Sure, I had ridden a bike before, but never the way Jeremy rode.
One day, while trying to devise a plan to make the world to start recycling or something of that nature, Jeremy told me to “ride out my frustrations.” I had no idea what he was taking about. He prompted me to jump on his bike, saying: “Don’t worry about where you are going— just go.”
And so I did. I hopped on his broken in, beat-up road bike, strapped the toe clips over my non-leather Birkenstocks and rode as far and as fast as I could.
I will never forget that ride, or Jeremy for that matter. Our high school romance didn’t amount to much, but it certainly did change my life. After all, he introduced me to the idea of funneling my angst, frustrations, happy moments, sad moments and physical unrest into this one simple activity.
Cycling became my pastime, my escape and my passion. I rode my bike everywhere. It became my constant. I cycled through Europe, went to school in Ohio for two years and then moved to Colorado. My bike was with me through it all.
Life Gets In The Way
Reality eventually caught up with me. When I was 20 years old, I found myself living in Boulder, Colorado and in desperate need of a job. I had aspirations to be a documentarian filmmaker, but there wasn’t much money in that, so I grabbed a job making falafel at the local mall. Best part of the job? I got off early enough to ride. I would jump on my bike and ride my favorite trails.
In between rides, I started to discover that I actually loved cooking and serving food. My New Yorker instincts kicked in and, before I knew it, I was working as a sous chef at one of the best restaurants in town.
Suddenly, I had less time to ride my bike. The average bike ride was at least ninety minutes. That is a big chunk of the day! I was now working late at night and going out with the crew after our stressful shifts.
My bike became my transportation and less my savior, my passion.
I began to make more money and, eventually, leased my first car. It was a proud moment, sure, but the bike rack I purchased never really went into use. My bike began collecting dust.
Though my reasons for loving cycling never had anything to do with staying in shape, the kitchen life was starting to show its wear and tear on my body. I was putting on pounds and getting lethargic.
Better Than A Compromise
So, I walked into a gym. I believe this was my first time inside one. I purchased some training package. I worked with a trainer a couple of times; I felt like a caged animal. This type of working out did not translate for me. Where was the joy? Where was the huge smile on my face, the bugs in my teeth, the feeling like I am going somewhere, though I always ended up coming right back to where I started?
Then, one uninspired day at the gym, I was sitting on some wretched piece of equipment, trying to make some muscle groups respond, when a woman came walking out of what once had been the gym’s utility closet.
She was panting, drenched in sweat and laughing.
I wanted that. What was she doing? I quickly ran over and peered into the closet: The room was dark. There were six stationary bikes lined up and one facing them with a boom box on a table next to it.
It was indoor cycling (or spinning). I jumped on a bike for the next class.
You know when you are in love? Those fabulous early stages, when you need to say goodbye to your lover for a few days, and then you are blissful when reunited? Close your eyes, imagine that feeling: that’s how I felt.
My legs started pedaling to the music, I closed my eyes and I was gone. Suddenly, I was transported to the rode, my headphones were on and I was at the head of the pack. I was racing, beating my own time, climbing mountains, riding on and off the road, flying high.
It was euphoric and it was over in forty-five minutes.
That was the problem for me: To jump on my bike outside and get the full experience required time I just didn’t have. I had found myself forced to decide between physical and emotional freedom or succeeding at work. My future and my drive to go far in life made that decision for me. Indoor cycling offered an amazing compromise. I could suddenly have it all.
I had found my destiny.
At the time, it was my new obsession. Suddenly, I was taking indoor cycling classes on my lunch break, at 5am before work, 4pm before the dinner shift. I slept, went to class, went to work, class, work and repeat. I discovered a terrific boutique “indoor cycling only” studio called, “RPM.” Let’s say they knew me well.
The pounds I had put on disappeared and the lethargic attitude I had started to adopt was quickly lifting. Life felt lighter again. My adrenaline was back.
Build It Out Of Necessity
Eventually, I moved back to New York. I was surprised to find that indoor cycling only existed within the confines of big gyms. My friends and I did not open the first New York boutique spinning studio to break into the industry; we opened it out of necessity. We wanted somewhere kick-ass to ride. We found a space in East Hampton, NY (where rent was less than in New York City and a pretty cool crowd lived) and opened New York’s first indoor cycling boutique.
Two years in, my friends sold the business to me and I found myself taking what started out as a hobby very seriously. Suddenly, I was running a real business and soon opening other locations.
Eventually, many other indoor cycling boutiques entered the market. Four locations and several years later, I sold my business to one of these well-funded and bigger boutiques. The market had changed. There was not any room left for a small, independently-owned indoor cycling studios.
I still felt my message needed to be delivered to the masses. My life was changed by indoor cycling, why shouldn’t everyone else’s be? New York City has become saturated with indoor cycling studios, but, throughout the rest of the world, there are millions of people who have not experienced the life-altering workout, the spiritually uplifting exercise, the body-changing training. Other than selling an indoor cycling bike with a set of DVDs, how was I going to get this message into people’s homes?
And then I met John Foley, Tom Cortese, Graham Stanton and Yony Feng. John Foley and his team had the inspired idea for Peloton: to build the perfect home exercise bike with a 21” high resolution tablet. The tablet would display an interactive array of indoor cycling classes being live-streamed from a real New York City indoor cycling studio. They built the bike and designed the tablet, but they did not have the classes.
And We Are On Our Way
I immediately jumped on board. Within a few months, we opened our flagship sixty-bike studio in New York City and eight retail locations throughout the US. And, now, one year later, we have 5,000 bikes in people’s homes.
Imagine taking class in Idaho, when suddenly the coach looks into your screen and says, “C’mon, Kathy in Idaho! Let’s go honey!” It is jaw-dropping, revolutionary and life-changing.
To this day, every single time I jump on that bike to coach a class, I think of the feeling I experienced the first ride on Jeremy’s bike. I want everyone from kids to seniors to experience that same sense of freedom. No matter how young or old, we have the world in front of us. Through the power of physical movement, the rhythm of the music and our imaginations, we can let go and build strength in a way so many people have yet to experience.
--Marion Berrian Roaman. Marion Berrian Roaman has been totally and completely devoted to indoor cycling since she first discovered it at her local gym in Boulder, Colorado. As a chef with her own catering company, she no longer had time to go for her six-hour rides in the mountains. Discovering indoor cycling completely changed her life. As a bold 27-year-old, Berrian Roaman sold her half of the catering company, moved back east and opened the first indoor cycling boutique in New York. As much as she loved running the business and all that entailed, at the end of the day, it all came back to the teaching. Berrian Roaman taught at the major New York fitness clubs, as well as at her own studio, ZoneHampton. In 2011, she sold her business to Flywheel Sports, where she taught for three years as a master instructor. Marion is beyond excited to be joining the team at Peloton as co-founder and general manager, where she will be coaching rides, directing global content and building the Peloton community.