One of the selling points for Peloton’s new Bike+ was GymKit integration with the Apple Watch for easier and more accurate workout recording. Now, it appears that Peloton recently removed GymKit support for its bike bootcamps, limiting Apple Watch integration to just cycling classes.
The news was first spotted by ConnectTheWatts. The report contains a screenshot of an Instagram comment, in which a user complains about Peloton suddenly disabling GymKit for Bike Bootcamp classes, which combine strength training with cycling in a single workout. (And is a clever use of the Bike+’s swiveling display.) Peloton then officially replied to the comment stating, “Apple GymKit will only be supported in our Cycling classes. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and hope to support Apple GymKit for additional class types in the future.”
A Peloton spokesperson also confirmed to Gizmodo that “GymKit functionality will only be available in cycling classes for now.”
GymKit is an Apple platform that allows the Apple Watch to automatically sync with fitness equipment. Introduced with watchOS 4 in 2017, you might’ve come across it if your gym has newer cardio machines equipped with NFC. The way it works is you tap your Apple Watch to the machine and it’ll automatically share your heart rate data. Another plus is that the cardio machine (e.g., treadmills, bikes, etc.) will sync more accurate pace and distance data with your watch. The thing is GymKit only works with a single cardio machine for a single workout at a given time. To make use of the Apple Watch’s ability to do mixed workout tracking, you’d have to forgo using GymKit.
Peloton quietly scaling back support for a marquee feature is... interesting to say the least. You could interpret this as beef, considering Apple has emerged as a serious competitor since launching its own on-demand workout service, Fitness+. Then there’s also the fact that Peloton has made some intriguing acquisitions lately. At the end of 2020, Peloton acquired three AI and connected fitness equipment startups, including Atlas Wearables. Atlas Wearables is notable, as it was in the process of launching its own fitness tracker and had built up a giant database of exercise algorithms. When this news broke, it spurred speculation that perhaps Peloton was mulling developing its own smartwatch or fitness tracker. There’s no hard proof, but these acquisitions, plus reducing support for the Apple Watch just before Peloton’s annual Homecoming event, is some suspiciously convenient timing—especially since Peloton’s event page teases “big news.”
As delicious as the idea of Peloton and Apple duking it out would be, that might not be what’s at play here. Peloton users have kvetched in subreddits and other social media about GymKit’s spotty connectivity in recent months. You also have to consider that the Apple Watch isn’t good at tracking mixed workouts—which is exactly what Peloton’s Bike Bootcamp classes are. (There’s also a subreddit of users mulling which Apple Watch workout to even use for these classes.) Removing GymKit support for anything but rides could be a matter of technical practicality. After all, Peloton’s gotten some heat for massive shipment delays during the pandemic. The last thing it wants is to deliver a subpar experience after customers have waited a long time to get the Bike+.
Even so, the fact Peloton did this quietly is disappointing. Plenty of people have cited GymKit and Apple Watch compatibility as a reason why they bought or upgraded to the Bike+. This kind of surprise update is annoying, especially because buying an Apple Watch and Peloton is no small purchase. Even if removing support for Bootcamp workouts is an effort to improve the overall experience, it’s incumbent on companies to disclose that to consumers before they decide to plunk down hundreds or thousands of dollars for expensive gear.
Update, 04/15/2021, 1:05 pm: Added more context about GymKit being limited to single cardio machines and workouts.