Charity runs and rides have gone virtual in a new social-distancing era. Here's how Axios' Dan Primack organized a Peloton race that raised $117,000 for a New York City food bank.

Peloton Bike

  • As the country practices social distancing in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak, charity rides and races are going virtual with the help of buzzy fitness companies like Peloton.  
  • Axios business editor Dan Primack rallied over 600 people to race for charity using Peloton bikes (or the app) last Saturday, raising $117,000 for Food Bank For New York City.
  • Racing in a remote world isn’t the same as “running with a 1,000 people,” Primack told Business Insider, but the ride still mimicked some of the camaraderie seen in a physical group race — especially with the help of his daughter, who made sure to high-five various racers on the leaderboard through the ride. 
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In an era of social distancing, charity rides and races are going remote.  

This past Saturday, 660 riders got on their Peloton fitness bikes, selected Alex Toussaint’s 45-minute pop ride from February, and proceeded to race each other. In doing so, they helped Food Bank For New York City raise $117,000.

“It came together very quickly,” Axios business editor Dan Primack, who posted a call for the ride in his newsletter Pro Rata, told Business Insider. He’d been mulling over the idea for more than a week, after Bullish managing partner Mike Duda challenged him and a few others to begin doing group Peloton rides.

And Primack had already tested out a group ride with his readers— about 35 people had showed up to his last ride so he was fairly sure that he could bring in about a 100 people to a Peloton ride fundraiser. 

Primack then fired off some emails to a few venture capital firms off the top of his mind, and included a note about it in his newsletter. He picked the charity — Food Bank For New York City — and Bullish’s Mike Duda picked the ride, which was an older class to ensure that they didn’t pick up any stray fitness junkies who hadn’t signed intentionally signed onto their fundraiser. 

Primack said he was was hoping to recruit around 100 riders and bring in perhaps $5,000 or even $10,000. But the response to the ride was beyond what he’d hoped for. Besides Primack and Duda’s own contributions, a group of venture funds like Founders Fund and GGV Capital — as well as individual investors like Hunter Walk and Bain Capital’s Ian Loring — agreed to contribute $5 for each person who joined the ride. 

Peloton retweeted his initial call, and its CEO John Foley and three directors each pledged $10,000 to the fundraiser. 

And tech-turned-philanthropist couple Chris and Crystal Sacca agreed to donate a whopping $50,000 (in exchange for an embarrassing photo from Primack, of course). 

Although Primack is based in Boston and most of the dollars raised by the Peloton ride came from the West Coast, he said he chose a New York-based food bank, because he felt it was a cause that everybody had some sort of connection to. 

“New York’s kind of the epicenter of the outbreak,” Primack explained. “And the food bank is helping not just those affected by the virus but those hurt by layoffs, and school kids who used to get free meals at school…It was a cause everybody could get behind.” 

Remote racing

Primack acknowledges that a group Peloton ride wasn’t the same as “running with 1,000 people” but as experiences go, it came pretty close.

“You realize that all these people got up to do the ride for the exact same reason, that they put aside not just money but whatever was going on in their life for a period of time to do it,” Primack said.  


Primack’s nine-year-old daughter contributed to the effort to create a sense of camaraderie, tapping on their user profiles during the race to give them “high fives” through the ride.

Some riders, like the Peloton leaderboard “winner” Patrick Cairns leaned on his own personal “superfans” for a secret advantage. 


And although a Peloton leaderboard doesn’t necessarily give the same competitive rush as racing to catch up — or pass — someone in a race, Primack jokes that the pressure to not embarrass himself was definitely there. 

“I changed my username to my name, so most people knew who I was,” Primack said. “So I didn’t want to suck while doing it.”


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