The Thing About Numbers

Maya Kosoff
11 min readNov 12, 2020

TW: discussion about disordered eating.

I got a Peloton last month. I’m one of those people now. I sit on my stupid little bike almost every day for as long as I can stand it and I pedal nowhere for 8 or 10 or 12 miles until I feel like I’m going to puke and then I unclip myself and I drink a lot of water and stretch my dumb little legs. It is fun, in the way that anything you spend $2000 on in a series of monthly payments can be considered fun. Spin class is the only kind of communal fitness class I miss, and it feels good to move again (not that my 15,000-step days when I walk from Brooklyn to Chinatown and then walk back again aren’t also movement). Every time I take a class with Cody Rigsby and he plays a deep cut song from Britney Spears’ first album I incredulously find myself enjoying an exercise. It’s fun, like actually, really fun, and I’m still not sick of it. I don’t own a lot of nice things, and the Peloton, you see, is very nice, and it’s nice to have something to take care of that isn’t just my corporeal form.

But here’s the thing with the Peloton, and I absolutely could have seen this coming because the same thing happened when I discovered Flywheel a few years ago (more on this much later). There’s a numbers element to Peloton. The Peloton quantifies everything about your performance: when you look at the app, it shows you how many of each type of class you’ve taken. Tap into a particular class and you can see your total output, your distance, the calories you burned, and your average cadence and resistance and speed throughout the ride. It tells you exactly, numerically, how good you are. There are little charts showing you your output and cadence and resistance and speed throughout the ride, your highs and lows, where you stopped for a minute because your hamstring cramped up or you needed water. And of course, there’s your leaderboard ranking. I’m looking at my results for the 20-minute 90s ride I took last week. I’m ranked 12,421 out of 96,431 riders, which is roughly the 13th percentile, which would maybe feel good to someone else but just feels bad to me because there are 12,420 people doing better than I did.

If my obsession with numbers ended with spin class that would be fine, but that’s not really the deal here. I remember exactly when precise numbers became part of my life: The summer before high school, in 2006, I had complete and total internet access and little parental oversight, and I spent a lot of days on websites like LiveJournal and MySpace and Xanga, where the…

Maya Kosoff

i’m a freelance writer and editor. you can also read me in places like the new york times and vanity fair.