Louise Perry

Alexa, do you love me?

Still from Her, 2013 (Alamy)

My husband and I got a Peloton bike for the usual reasons: because we were time-poor, money-rich and feeling fat. And we kept using it for the usual reason: because we wanted to please the gorgeous ghosts in the machine.

The American fitness brand Peloton employs some of the most beautiful, athletic and charismatic people ever to have lived. Their job is not actually to teach an effective class to the viewers at home on their stationary bikes, or to make their users healthier and slimmer (I have accomplished neither). Rather, it is to give an impression of warmth and intimacy while staring at a silent camera lens in an empty room.

My favourite coaches (since you asked) are Tumi, Ally, Emma and Denis, the last of whom has a particularly passionate following among older ladies. His fan club, ‘Denis’s Menaces’, has more than 16,000 members on Facebook and sells T-shirts emblazoned with the word ‘MENACE’.

There is a perennial Mumsnet debate about whether children ought to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to an Alexa

Sometimes Peloton classes are held with an audience in the room, cycling along with the viewers at home, and diehard fans will show up in the front row with T-shirts honouring their coach. I don’t like it when that happens. It reminds me that Denis and I do not in fact have a precious and unique relationship, and that really I am just a fan, like all these other crazy women.

My relationship with Denis is a parasocial one. That is, it resembles a social relationship, in that I feel a sense of affinity and familiarity when his face pops up on screen. But we are not actually friends, for the simple reason that he has no idea who I am (unless, of course, he is a Spectator reader – in which case, Denis, do get in touch).

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