Peloton made a free feature subscription-only to address safety concerns

The sudden obsession over indoor fitness, especially during the pandemic, has catapulted Peloton's name into mainstream media. Unfortunately, it stayed under the spotlight not because of its success but because of the accidents and even death related to the super-expensive exercise equipment. Initially refusing to recall its products, Peloton eventually announced a voluntary recall of its Tread+ and Tread treadmills. Now it is taking one step further by locking what used to be a free feature of the treadmills behind a monthly subscription in a move that some have characterized as effectively bricking the equipment.

Peloton's popularity isn't actually based on its mass appeal and ubiquity. On the contrary, Peloton is notorious for selling exercise treadmills and bikes that amount to around $4,000, more or less. But that's actually just the upfront price of the equipment, as Peloton also sells exercise programs, services, and addons through a subscription that costs at least $39 a month.

Not everyone wants to pay that monthly fee and have eventually opted to use the Tread+ and Tread as just treadmills and took advantage of Peloton's "Just Run" feature. It was a simple virtual button on the treadmill's screen that allowed the use of the equipment as a regular treadmill. Now Peloton requires a four-digit passcode to unlock that functionality. The problem is that this Tread Lock feature is available only as part of the Peloton Membership subscription.

What this effectively means is that owners will have to pay that $39 a month fee to be able to use the Tread+ at all, whether they get in with Peloton's exercise regimen or not. Peloton says this is to prevent unauthorized access and activation of the treadmills that have resulted in those accidents. In other words, it is locking users out of their $4,000 purchase in order to address what may have been the products' faulty design.

Reactions to this news are surprisingly split, with some chiding Peloton owners for being cheap for not willing to pay $39 a month after buying a $3,000 piece of equipment. There are, of course, also legal ramifications to Peloton's decision and the company claims it is working to restore free access to Just Run so that owners can just use their treadmills to just run.