Players 2020: Rory McIlroy is an extremely good Peloton cyclist, a 'monster on the bike'
PONTE VEDRA BEACH — The tweet began circulating in late February, and as a Peloton junkie, I was fascinated:
The idea of 955 kilojoules of total output for a 45-minute ride astounded me. A little less than a year ago, at peak fitness just prior to knee surgery, I had the ride of my life on my own Peloton. In 30 minutes, I churned out 455 kilojoules, my heart rate rising into “zone four” for a full 13 minutes and peaking at 168 beats per minute. I am not a world-class athlete by any means, but I’m strong enough, and it was absolutely the peak of my ability—in the end, it was good enough for 184th place out of 11,000-plus riders, inside the top 1.7 percent for that particular class. When the clock hit zero, I could only moan pathetically for a period of approximately six days.
Yet even if you assumed I could hold that same pace for another 15 minutes (note: no way in hell), I would have ended with 682 KJ for 45 minutes. And likely died. When I considered the kind of person who could reach almost 1,000 KJ in the same time frame, I imagined a literal monster. I’m talking about someone whose pants regularly ripped under the pressure of bulging quads. Someone with a massive heart that could propel him over the Mount Ventoux moonscape at the Tour de France.
I did not imagine Rory McIlroy. Nevertheless, rumor online had it that the numbers did indeed belong to the world’s no. 1 golfer.
How could he do it? I knew he was a physical specimen, especially by golf standards, and it didn’t surprise me one bit that he’d be an exceptional cyclist. But 995 seemed beyond the realm of possibility … for him, and for anyone who wasn’t a borderline professional rider.
I had to solve the mystery. Lucky for me, I had my first big break at the press conference of PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on Tuesday morning. I had seen a reference to Monahan and Rory talking about their Peloton rides on a recent podcast, and though I was too embarrassed to ask the question in front of the main group of reporters—breaking up a discussion of Coronavirus and the PGL with an exercise-bike question seemed too lightweight, somehow—I managed to catch Monahan when he left the podium and asked him about his experience with the Peloton.
“First of all, when did you hear about this?” he asked (smiling, I should note). “It’s funny, because all the sudden I looked at my phone before I came in here, and had a lot of follower requests.”
Apparently the commish’s Peloton identity had leaked, most likely as a result of the podcast that came out today, in which his handle was discussed.
“I am a Peloton guy,” he confirmed. “I ride five or six days a week.”
That’s impressive discipline for anyone, but especially someone with Monahan’s responsibilities. “If it’s not too embarrassing, do you want to tell me your personal record?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “but I may get carried out of my house one day trying to catch Rory.”
Eureka, I thought. This was confirmation, at least, that Rory was a very good rider … even if we didn’t have specific confirmation about the staggering metrics of that one ride. The moment for that encounter came soon enough, with Rory hitting the press room at Sawgrass shortly after Monahan. When my turn at the mic came, I steadied my voice and asked the all-important question: Was he really the man behind the 955 ride?
“Yeah, so that was me,” he confirmed.
I gave silent thanks that he hadn’t ruined my story by denying it, but what he said next rocked me to the core:
“But I think the bike was a little juiced.”
The room laughed, but inside I gasped. How juiced?
“So I did that the Monday after Riviera in the hotel I was staying at in Santa Monica,” he continued. “My bike at home, I can sort of get on the Peloton, and I can sit in the saddle at like a 50 resistance at like 90—like a 90 cadence and just sort of bang that out for 45 minutes or an hour. But 50 resistance on this bike felt really easy, so I sort of cranked it up. So I’d say that was a little juiced."
Fascinating. From my sources, I learned Rory’s Peloton name, but because his account is private, I couldn’t confirm first-hand how his typical 45-minute rides went … i.e., how juiced the Santa Monica bike had really been.
McIlroy went on to say that he rode his Peloton two to three times per week, and that, like many of us, the metrics, the competition and the built-in motivation to beat your own previous times help him enjoy cardio workouts in a way he never has before.
“It makes me earn my dinners,” he said.
But lest this start to sound too much like a Peloton advertisement, I’ll conclude by noting that I leaned hard on my source to give me a sense of what Rory’s metrics were for a normal 45-minute ride, and the source confirmed that even though that ride represented a high, Rory is indeed a “monster on the bike” who routinely puts up huge numbers. In fact, screenshots indicate that he’s regularly in the mid-700s on a 45-minute ride, which is massive. So while there may be a few question marks around the infamous 955 ride, there’s no doubt that he’s a bona fide Peloton stud.