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The Vicious Cycle of Peloton ‘Flame Wars’

Peloton die-hards will fight you over their favorite instructor — and the online clashes are heating up

In the last year, the Instagram following of Cody Rigsby, among Peloton’s most popular instructors, has grown from 150,000 followers to nearly 600,000. Similarly, in 2017, Robin Arzon, Peloton’s head instructor, had 86,000 followers on Instagram. Today, she has more than 700,000

As with any other fitness instructor, Peloton users choose to follow specific ones because they prefer that instructor’s approach, life philosophy and/or personality. What makes the Peloton community different, however, is that these separate devotees, while growing at exponential rates, are also forced to coexist in communal spaces online. And so, whenever a post about “favorite instructors” pops up on the main Peloton Facebook group, things tend to get ugly. 

“There is a big history of ‘tribal war’ between the different factions in the Facebook group,” says Thomas, a moderator of the subreddit r/pelotoncycle. “The instructors really build their personas, and people truly come to love them. Plus, there’s not only the connection between you and the instructor, but you also bond with the other people that frequently ride with that instructor.” 

For his part, Thomas says he and his fellow moderators go out of their way to prevent such warfare between followers of different instructors. “Generally speaking, everyone gets along,” he says. But there are a few threads that slip through the cracks — for instance, a thread that became so contentious that the moderators eventually turned off the comments completely.  

Kendall’s recent social media activity from pelotoncycle

“Especially in the last year, Peloton instructors have become niche celebrities,” says Cara, a 30-year-old in Massachusetts. “Most, if not all of them, have hashtags for their loyal ‘tribes’ on Facebook: Cody’s is the #BooCrew; Robin’s is the #WolfPack; Ally Love has the #LoveSquad.”  

“Instructors like Kendall Toole, Olivia Amato and Alex Toussaint have followings who want a really intense workout almost every time,” she continues, “while Cody draws people who want a great workout but also want to be entertained and laugh while they ride.” 

Because every instructor attracts a different type of personality, Cara tells me that responses to posts debating the best instructor tend to “get very personal.” “You’ll see hundreds and hundreds of comments from people chiming in with who they think is best,” she says. 

Opinion: Kendall’s class planning doesn’t set riders up for success from pelotoncycle

Jen, a 31-year-old in Chicago, recalls the moment she realized she belonged in Rigsby’s fun-loving #BooCrew. “I did a class with Matt Wilpers where he said something like, ‘I found myself surrounded by people who didn’t have the mindset to improve their lifestyle and their body, so I distanced myself from them because it was only holding me back,’” she explains. “That was just, ooph — working out isn’t my life, don’t encourage me to lose friends because they aren’t workout junkies.” 

Even though Jen says the main Peloton group on Facebook has been “cleaned up a lot” since the company took more of an active role in moderation over the summer, she’s still more than happy to pick a side and stan vociferously for Rigsby and the #BooCrew. “I’m not about to have some Peloton Chad in Florida tell me I don’t have the right mindset to reach my full potential to #GetWilpered,” she says emphatically. “The #BooCrew doesn’t dwell in that kind of negativity anyway.”