Category Archives: Studio Operations

Cycling Studio Trend: Peformance metrics as one way to differentiate and build loyal client base

Summary:  Indoor cycling studios are opening at an increasing pace,  and studio owners are looking for innovative ways to differentiate themselves and to motivate clients.  In that effort, many are choosing to add “performance metrics technology” where clients can view, save and track workout performance data. The industry leader in delivering these kinds of solutions is Chicago-based Performance IQ.  Their technology is starting to turn up in many Indoor Cycling and Spinning® studios in a variety of configurations.

yin yang imageLast year, we posted an article in the Spynergy Consulting blog on the “Yin” and “Yang” of indoor cycling experiences.  “Yin” classes as exemplified by studios like JoyRide, Spynergy and Soul Cycle, stress the immersive, escapist experience that can be created using music, lighting and talented energetic instructors.   “Yang” classes, as exemplified by studios like Full Psycle and FlyWheel  use some of those same elements but also stress performance data as a key element in class construction.   Both kinds of studios have been successful but recent technical developments have led a number of startups to take a hard look at integrating performance data in some way to their business.

In a number of cases, the use of performance metrics is changing the face of the traditional indoor cycling or Spin® class.  Outdoor cyclists have long had access  tools like Computrainers to allow them to measure and analyze their efforts, but for indoor cycling  classes, the introduction of this kinds of technology is a recent phenomenon that is picking up steam.  Many new studio entrepreneurs are building some form of performance metrics into their cycling studio model and many of the early adopters feel it is a differentiator and selling point that helps their business.

What really is “performance metrics” as it pertains to a cycling class?  The major bike manufacturers all offer consoles or metrics capabilities asPIQ image a built in feature or as an add-on option.  Further,  Chicago-based Performance IQ, in partnership with companies like ZingFit, LiveEdit and Mindbody Online, has led development of products that can measure, present and track a few different kinds of data:  Cadence, Heart Rate, Power (watt) output, Calories burned, and mileage.  This information can be viewed in several ways

1)    On-the-bike….so each rider can see real time data and instructors can refer to the data and coach/teach using the info

2)    In front of the class….so class participants can see their own information as well as data on fellow class mates

3)    After the class (data tracking)….performance data can be stored online so riders can view and compare historic performances including some interesting stats like average and maximum power/HR and power per pound of body weight.

Different studio owners are deploying this in different ways depending on their vision and their clientele.  Some use it only in select classes, others make it an integral part of each class.  Paul Harmeling, co-owner of Full Psycle in Costa Mesa, California comments

“……Performance IQ, along with instructor quality, facilities, and customer service, differentiates us from the rest. It’s an excellent tool for both in-class participation  and for post-class customer retention……..”

Karen Casler, owner of CB Cycle Barn in San Clemente also commented:

“…..PIQ absolutely keeps people coming back.  Especially those that are there to work hard!  I definitely feel that it also breeds loyalty and retention…..”

Spynergy Consulting has provided business planning and consulting services to over 80 studio startups in the past 2 years, and we have noticed a dramatic uptick in interest in how technology elements can be used to enhance the cycling studio model.  Performance IQ has 85 clients in 9 countries and is anticipating 100 more installations this year.  Bike suppliers like Schwinn, StarTrac, Freemotion, Keiser and Real Ryder have all acknowledged the importance of performance metrics in one way or another with their products and planning. (We will report more on this after the upcoming IHRSA show in March).

If you would like to learn more about the capabilities and pricing for performance metrics systems —- or would like a free demo from Performance IQ or related suppliers: CLICK HERE

IHRSA Note:  Visit Performance IQ at the IHRSA Trade Show coming March 13th to 15th in San Diego.  PIQ products can be seen at the booths of several major indoor cycling bike suppliers.  Spynergy Consulting (Bill), will also be at IHRSA, drop me a line if you would like to meet and chat!   bill@spynergyconsulting.com

Survey of cycling studio and Spin® studio owners

wheel imageHow are cycling studios doing?   Spynergy Consulting has aided close to 80 cycling studio startups in the past 2 years.  Recently, we conducted a survey of independent cycling (and Spin) studio owners who have actually opened their doors.  43 owners responded to a variety of questions about the startup process and their business issues.

General Highlights

  • Half the studios are less than 2 years old, half are older than 2 years
  • Most important “success factors” noted by owners: Instructors and Location
  • Most effective marketing:  1) Search engine findability, 2) Social media, 3) Groupon, etc.

Question was asked:  Do you have a non-spin secondary offering?

  • 70% are Cycling only, 30% have a secondary offering (barre, core, yoga, etc.).       Note:  5 of the top 6 studios in terms of revenue were cycling-only.

Question was asked:  How’s the studio doing financially? 

Highly profitable / above expectations:       9.5%
Profitable / per expectation                             19%
Breaking even / optimistic                                39%
Unprofitable / optimistic                                  25%
Unprofitable / concerned                                  7%
Note:  This is existing studios.  In a separate analysis, Spynergy Consulting discovered a 17% failure rate amongst studio startups within 2 years.

Question was asked:  What have been your major challenges?

” getting the word out is harder than expected ”
” runaway startup costs ”
” finding great instructors ”
” competition from cheaper alternatives  or the big guys ”

Question was asked:  Are you having fun?
YES:   84%
NO:  16%

More information from this survey will be published in future articles.   There is great information in here from actual studio operators…this is not speculation, this is real data.  Studio owners face a variety of challenges and have a broad range of results.  Monthly revenue for these survey recipients ranged between $2,000 and $90,000.  As we have discussed in previous articles, a well-executed studio in the right location with great instructors can be a home run.  Is it simple?  No.  Is it possible?  Absolutely.  Contact me if you’d like some help getting there.   bill@spynergyconsulting.com

IHRSA 2013 — Spinning® and Indoor Cycling

Las Vegas was………well, Las Vegas.  A bizarre, but somehow mesmerizing piece of America, right?  I walked for miles but never touched fresh air for two and a half days during IHRSA.  What a country.

No question that the “buzz” around cycling studios is accelerating.  I met with no fewer than 6 studio entrepreneurs at various points during the trade show, and the bike-makers confirmed that the steady stream of inquiries continues to grow.    IHRSA is a useful event to visit.  Only a small percent of the exhibit is indoor cycling related — but it’s all the latest stuff.  Here are some quick observations.

Schwinn AC Handlebars

While there were 9 or 10 indoor cycling bikes being shown in some way at IHRSA, there are really only 5 that I have seen cycling studio entrepreneurs show significant interest in:  Schwinn, StarTrac, Keiser, Freemotion and RealRyder.

Might there be others that would be suited to a new studio?  Maybe.   But for studio owners who’s concerns are durability, reliability and broad appeal….these are the bikes that seem to come up again and again.  I believe that for a studio….it’s much more about instructors than it is about bikes — so don’t get TOO obsessed about picking your brand.  That being said, here are some quick hits from IHRSA:

  • Schwinn AC Performance bike has comfiest handlebars ever, magnetic resistance which many are now loving, a cool white look, and as of this summer sometime a new wired console that will eliminate battery and other issues in the earlier console.
  • Freemotion S119

    StarTrac finally introduces power console on the Blade Ion.  It’s  simple and elegant to read (and powered by the bike!)….and is available June-ish.  Looks good in demos, but we need to see it “out there” in the real world for a while.  Console not available on lower priced models.

  • Keiser was the original bike with consoles to show power, and are still the only bike with an objective resistance number.  They’re “bike in the rear” design is unique, but nothing new announced at IHRSA.
  • Freemotion is a stylish bike with some cool touches such as the elegant mechanisms for tightening seat and handlebar adjustments.  Magnetic resistance and power console have been key parts of their offering from the beginning.  They also have that cool new Tour de France bike (more on that later).
  • RealRyder continues to pop up in studios as a unique alternative to stationery bikes.

StarTrac Trio Pedals

Other “stuff” we found interesting.

  • StarTrac has a new “Trio” pedal that can fit on any IC bike.  The Trio accepts Look or SPD clips and also has toe clips.  Best, there is an amazingly easy mechanism for changing out the toe clip by hand.
  • Performance IQ  has systems to project power or heartrate data in your studio and they work with ANT consoles that are (or will be) on Schwinn, StarTrac, Keiser and Freemotion bikes.  Still the best and only solution for those wanting to create the FlyWheel-type experience.
  • Wexer is a company that seems to have a strong lineup of video content to rival the higher priced MyRide offerings.  This kind of on demand video content has yet to break-into the US market as it apparently has in Europe, but at this price point it may be an option to consider.

We also made sure we got a chance to speak with the suppliers who can help studios get the best sound systems, flooring, insurance, supplies, lighting, online booking and other services.  These may not be the sexiest parts of your studio, but they are important to your overall business and financial success.

For help with your studio development, contact Bill at bill@spynergyconsulting.com

New Tools to Consider for Studio Owners (and startups!)

Summary: Although the traditional cycling class model continues to work well, some new studios are taking advantage of new “metrics” technologies from companies like Performance IQ  to motivate classes in different ways.

Since Johnny G invented Spinning® in the early 90′s, the quintessential indoor cycling experience has been characterized by a high-energy, charismatic instructor using motivational language and music to inspire riders.  Data and “metrics” have not been part of the equation.  Hard core cyclists, often alone in their basements, have been the ones to take advantage of technologies that measure performance and results…..not spinners and indoor cyclists.

Spacing Out or Zero-ing in?
These days, the tools are available to measure, and some studios are adding them to their offering.  Interestingly the New York “Uber-Studios” (Soul-Cycle and FlyWheel) seem at opposite ends of the spectrum.  ‘Soul’ keeps primary focus on music and instructor, ‘Fly’ adds their proprietary Torque system so students can see data on their power output.

Guess what?  Both approaches have adherents, and both studios are successful.  There is no right or wrong approach — it’s all about execution and your own vision for your studio.  (see blog post on this topic).

The important idea for independent cycling studios is that you are now able to deploy metrics of various kinds at a fairly reasonable cost.  Bikes themselves are often available with consoles that measure some combination of cadence, heartrate, power output and calories burned — and companies like Chicago-based Perfomance IQ, are helping studio owners deploy systems that present that data in unique new ways.

Performance IQ’s system displays group performance onto one or more screens enabling indoor cycling studios to dramatically innovate in the way classes are taught.  Class members can see their own data at any moment, but if they opt to, they can see their data projected next to the data of others in the class as well.  Instructors can organize “sprints” or various competitions using this data, but according to Mark Davids at Performance IQ, “….even if the data is simply visible to the class, studios using our system report that class members become more highly motivated”.

Performance IQ has 15 installations of their power-measuring and projection system at  various studios around the country, and has recently announced the development of a new group heart rate display.  According to Davids, this system works just like other group heart rate monitoring systems out in the market, but is much less expensive and easier to set up. Like the Performance IQ power system, data from individuals is projected to a screen that the entire class can see.  Heart rate data allows class participants to get the clearest possible reading of their effort at any given point.piq

So what happens with all this data after the class?  Performance IQ has partnered with Zingfit, an online scheduling and studio management software developer, to provide an online performance tracking dashboard where studio customers can see data from  previous workouts.  The software sends an email to the customer with their results after each class and also maintains a leaderboard showing where they rank relative to others in the class.

Tools like these from Performance IQ provide studio owners with new ways to instruct, to motivate and to develop loyal committed customers…..they may not be right for every class or for every studio, but as the technology continues to advance, smart entrepreneurs are going to figure out the best ways to create compelling classes.

Great example of a cycling studio / spin® studio amenity that separates you from the big “gyms”

Studio owners now have the luxury adding a customized “App” for their customers.  This is one more example of why clients are supporting boutique, dedicated fitness studios — the focus on convenience and easy booking is critical. 

At a cycling studio, not only can you reserve online (not typical at a gym or health club), but now you can book and purchase via an App on your smartphone…..take a look at the website for TempoXSports  This company customizes and develops an app for your studio that your customers can easily download.  It works with the Mindbody booking and reservation system.

One week after our studio posted it’s booking app on the iPhone and Android stores over 220 of our clients have downloaded it……and last week, 20% of our reservations were made via the App!!

This is an app designed by studio owners FOR studio owners.   Here is what studi0 customers can easily do from their phones using this app with YOUR branding:

  • Sign-in to their MINDBODY existing account
  • Set up an account if they are new
  • View your schedule
  • Sign-up / reserve spots (reservations auto-posted to ical)
  • Read teacher and class descriptions
  • Check their account (visits, schedule, attendance, purchases)
  • Purchase any packages you are selling through MINDBODY
  • View special promotions (posted by you)
  • Share their booking details on Facebook
  • Contact you directly

For more information, or to get started on your studio’s App:
Take a look at TempoXSports  for pricing and complete details, or

  • Email info@mygymapp.com, or
  • Call 781-254-3677

p.s.  feel free to download the Spynergy App from iphone or Android app store and play with it.  If you’d like, I can add classes to your account so you can have the “booking experience”

2012 IHRSA report for Cycling Studio Owners

City of Lights

Hey downtown Los Angeles can seem a bit “dodgy”, especially after dark, but the inside of the LA Convention center was chock full of highly sculpted fitness professionals and the trendiest new gear.   As promised, here are a few of the things I saw.

StarTrac was of course showing the NXT and the Blade which have been recently re-designed (styling is quite cool!).  I also got a demo of a new console (measuring power) that will be built into the Blade within the next year.  You’ll be able to get the Blade with or without power console.

Schwinn.  I also rode the magnetic resistance Schwinn AC and got a close look at their console.  Power is measured as well as heartrate, cadence and more.  Data from the console can be downloaded to a USB pen drive, or wirelessly transmitted via ANT transmission to a garmin or other device.

New Keiser Handlebars

Keiser.  A new handlebar design for the Keiser M3 should silence complaints from some smaller riders who had troubles with bike fit.  They have an established power console and also numbered resistance which lots of people really like.

RealRyder.  This uniquely designed bike with the swaying motion is becoming a favorite with some studio-starter who want to have something to clearly differentiate them from the big box gyms.  Optimizing the experience does require some special training for instructors and students, but there is a compelling case about the differences and benefits once you get going

Freemotion.  These new players have created good buzz as they have made the power console and related programming an integral part of what they provide.  The design of their console really nicely organized and readable.  At IHRSA, they introduced a new “carbon drive” belt drive to make the bike quieter, smoother and easy to maintain.

Livestrong.  I had not ridden their bike before and found it really comfortable.  Outside riders will love the fact that there are a wide range of hand position options including actual “drops”.  The bike was cool, but to be honest it was hard to focus on the bike because they were showing it in conjunction with the MyRide virtual ride video system with was absolutely astounding….more on that below.

MyRide video system at IHRSA

Non-Bike Highlight:  No matter what bike you have or choose….the good news is that if you want to use a video system, there’s an amazing one out there.  I have seen a lot of video for indoor cycling classes, but the MyRide systems from Matrix/Livestrong was absolutely stunning. The video itself (multiple terrains and imagery), but also the control system interface.   There are systems deployed in Europe, but this is brand, brand new in the U.S.  A pilot studio is up in San Francisco.  Performance IQ was co-exhibiting with Keiser…they have a system for projecting on-bike data to a screen so instructors and students can view their data.  This kind of system (allowing competitions and other coaching opps) may become more pervasive when they can figure a way to make it work with other bikes as well.

Adding a complementary workout to your Cycling or Spin® Studio

1) Should your studio have only cycling classes?   Or should you also offer “complementary” training such as yoga, Pilates, barre , TRX, or something else? This question comes up a lot.  People seem to feel that indoor cycling or SPINNING alone may not “be enough”.   In my opinion….in the majority of cases,  the answer is no, do not start with other offerings.  Stick to a defined niche, do one thing and do it well and you will have the best chance of success.   I am well aware there are some successful exceptions to this rule, but I believe there are very specific conditions that make these exceptions viable.

I “get” that cycling is cardio and that for great fitness it should be complemented with other training……here’s the issue:  my customers don’t all get that.  They love indoor cycling or Spinning® and want a place that has tons of classes and is truly dedicated.  If they sense you are not focussed, you lose them.  Here are the practical issues / challenges for having a multi-offering studio:

  1. It doubles your instructor challenge….now you need to find awesome cycling instructors AND awesome other instructors
  2. Unless you have space for 2 studios, you now have to decide which “offering” gets the prime time slots.
  3. Cycling classes are so loud, it is difficult to run other things simultaneously.

Can you make it work…yes.  It’s just more difficult.  The places that have made it work have a) access to great instructors for both offerings and b) have a physical location that makes it possible to satisfy the needs of passionate indoor cyclists as well as others.

 

9 lessons learned by official Spin® and Cycling Studio start-up owners

Over the past year, we have built business plans and websites for dozens of energetic entrepreneurs around the country, people passionate about indoor cycling and launching their own studios. These people have taken a risk and “taken a shot” at a dream business…..I think they are really cool. Several of them have graciously agreed to share some advice “from the gut”. When asked “what piece of advice would you give a studio-starter” here are some of the frank answers we received from current studio owners.

1. Keep it simple and define something that sets you apart.

2. Be careful about zoning and licenses….be careful about the noise issue….have a lawyer read your lease carefully!

3. Treat every customer like gold…..word of mouth is so critical that getting one new customer is hugely important because they bring friends

4. Don’t worry about the bikes….worry about the instructors.

5. Spend time (or money) on marketing before you need it……By the time you realize you need to spend it, its often too late.

6. Don’t hire your friends as instructors. Ugggggh

7. The start-up is fun, but crazy time-consuming . Be ready for multiple days, nights, weekends, holidays dealing with hundreds of details.

8. Finding the right space, rent, neighbors!!! Hardest part, most important part.

9. Get someone good with numbers to do your Quickbooks and give you good reports from time to time.

10. Opening a new studio is like starting out on a bike, take off slow and steady and before you know it you’ll find yourself gaining momentum. (Keep expectations realistic, getting your name out there takes time and persistance)

Spin®, Spinner®, and Spinning® are registered trademarks of Maddog Athletics

The crucial importance of attracting multiple groups to your cycling studio

One of the beauties of a cycling studio is that Lance Armstrong and your grandmother could both sit through the same class (assuming each could tolerate the music), and if properly coached, each could receive awesome fitness benefit given their own fitness levels.  Isn’t that amazing?

For a startup cycling studio (or any cycling studio) to be a successful business, the available seats need to be filled.  Our experience over 7 years, is that no single constituency is enough…..we need them all.   Your marketing, AND your class offerings need to appeal to serious “suffer-loving”  cyclists — AND overweight weekend warriors, and everything in-between.  Don’t assume everyone has the same motivation.  Sure, the number one reason people attend spin and indoor cycling classes is to control weight, but here are other reasons we hear:

  • My cholesterol is high, I want to help control it
  • I am a runner, but want to cross-train to protect my knees
  • I just love the darkness and the mind/body elements
  • Indoor Cycling complements my other workouts
  • I meet interesting people at your studio
  • It’s the only workout I can enjoy with my spouse

Many of your potential customers are outdoor cyclists ….Many aren’t.
Many of your prospects are after weight loss….Many aren’t.
Many are young…..Many aren’t

It’s not easy targeting multiple communities of exercisers.  But is is possible.  Be sure you think about this aspect of your marketing and of the classes and environment you create.

There are a number of other posts on this blog addressing various aspects of opening a cycling or SPIN® studio.  For a free consultation/brainstorm, contact  Bill at 781-254-3677   billpryor@comcast.net

Opening a cycling or official Spin® studio

7 Questions to ask yourself

  1. How much money will I need to cover the cost of launching….and to support myself until the business can? This is a core question that should come well before you get into the specifics of how you want your studio to operate.  The answer will only come from the development of an exhaustive business plan (see #7 below).
  2. Who is your primary target audience? Stay at home moms?  Outdoor cyclists?  Singles?  Baby boomers?  Probably some combination, but the mix will have a major impact on your scheduling, marketing and other factors.
  3. Are you opening a Spin® studio or an indoor cycling studio. There is a difference, and you need to know the specifics to avoid legal hassles.
  4. What is your strategy for connecting with the community?  Especially early on.  There are number of tactics, you need to implement them early on so you don’t see empty classes.
  5. When you open a Spin® or indoor cycling studio you will need to think carefully about your location. What are the factors with noise?  parking?  access?  How many square feet are needed to accommodate the number of bikes you will have to have to make your financial model work?
  6. Marketing? Ads, eNewsletters, Direct mail, Web 2.0, what’s the right mix?  How can you build a great website?  How do you build the all important word-of-mouth once you open a Spin® studio or indoor cycling studio.
  7. Do you have a business plan that takes into account the rate at which your business will grow AND the rate at which it will churn out profit?  This is a critical question.   Having opened a number of studios, we have seen that the business gradually builds…….but how fast?   We have a track record so we can help you figure that out.

There are a number of other posts on this blog addressing various aspects of opening a cycling or official SPIN® studio.  For a free consultation/brainstorm, contact  Bill at 781-254-3677   billpryor@comcast.net