PELOTON INTERACTIVE, THE cultish fitness company that sells internet-connected exercise bikes and treadmills, has recalled more than 125,000 treadmills and paused sales of the equipment after the machines were linked to the death of a child and dozens of other injuries. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission also announced a separate recall of the Peloton Tread and Tread+ treadmills and urged people to stop using the treadmills immediately.
Peloton’s voluntary recall comes nearly three weeks after the CPSC initially warned consumers about the potential risk of injury or death from the treadmills, and more than a month after Peloton first shared that it had become aware that a child had died in an accident involving one of the treadmills. Peloton’s chief executive, John Foley, apologized today for his earlier insistence that the company would not recall the treadmill—a reaction that had befuddled some people who work in or closely follow the connected-fitness industry.
“Peloton made a mistake in our initial response to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s request that we recall the Tread+,” Foley said today in a statement. “We should have engaged more productively with them from the outset. For that, I apologize.”
Before Peloton’s safety hazards were made known to the public in March, the company had been considered one of the home-fitness success stories of the pandemic. The company’s sales surged in 2020, despite the notoriously long wait times for deliveries of newly ordered exercise bikes and treadmills. Peloton claims more than 1.7 million members have either bought into the company’s pricey home equipment, paying a monthly fee of $39 for access to video classes, or pay $12 per month for mobile-only access to fitness classes. But shares of publicly traded Peloton stock sank after the joint recalls were announced this morning.
Ultimately, the design of Peloton treadmills—particularly the Tread+, which uses slat-belt technology and leaves a gap between the moving belt and the floor below it—is central to the CPSC’s technical investigation, leaving questions about how Peloton might address the design concerns in future iterations of products.
Peloton revealed its first treadmill, called Peloton Tread, in January 2018 at CES in Las Vegas. It started shipping that fall. The treadmill was notable for its size; even Foley said at the time the Tread wouldn’t fit in his apartment, so it would have to go in his summer home. It had a large touchscreen (32 inches) and an even larger price tag: $4,295. Eventually, Peloton would release a less expensive treadmill for $2,495 and name that product the Peloton Tread, while the more expensive model was renamed the Peloton Tread+.
The price tags weren’t the only difference between the two models. The less expensive Peloton Tread had a smaller touchscreen, measuring 23.8 inches diagonally. It also had a more traditional conveyor belt design, featuring a continuous 60-inch belt made of woven nylon and lightweight plastic.
The Tread+, on the other hand, used slat-belt technology—a series of rubberized panels or slats that move on a ball-bearing system. These types of treadmills are generally considered more shock absorptive—Peloton marketed its higher-end treadmill as “made for the ultimate low-impact and comfortable running experience”—and therefore are often priced at a premium. Woodway treadmills, which have been around since the 1970’s, are best known for this technology; some of the brand’s slat-belt machines are priced around $10,000 and are mostly sold to gyms, fitness studios, and professional athletes.
Both Peloton Tread and Tread+ ended up being recalled Wednesday for safety issues, but for different reasons. According to the CPSC, the potential hazard with the smaller Tread is that the treadmill’s touchscreen can potentially become detached and fall; the safety commission says it’s aware of 18 incidents of the screen becoming loose or detached.
The concern with the larger Tread+ is much greater: The CPSC notes that a 6-year-old child recently died after being pulled under the rear of the treadmill, and that Peloton has received “72 reports of adult users, children, pets and/or objects being pulled under the rear of the treadmill, including 29 reports of injuries to children such as second- and third-degree abrasions, broken bones, and lacerations.” A disturbing video shared by the CPSC shows a toddler being sucked under the Tread+ as the child approaches it with a ball in hand. (The end of the video clip shows the child managing to get free and walk away from the equipment.)