Indoor cycling isn't what it used to be, and for traditional health clubs, as well as the hundreds of brand new dedicated cycling studios popping up around the world, this is turning out to be a good thing. Technology and innovation, especially in electronics and fabrication, are revitalizing the venerable indoor cycling workout in dramatic ways while reducing the headaches and costs that club and studio owners dread.
Using Technology to Measure Performance and Motivate
Outdoor cyclists have long had access to tools such as Computrainers that allow them to measure and analyze their efforts. For indoor cyclists, these kinds of tools are a recent addition, and club and studio owners are finding them to be an effective way to build and grow attendance. Dozens of studios are using performance metrics technology in their group exercise cycling programs, and many more are coming online soon.
Performance Metrics for Cycling Classes
In just the past few years, most major bike manufacturers have started offering metrics capabilities or consoles as a built-in feature or as an add-on option in their top bikes. These systems provide the rider with some combination of performance-related metrics: pedal cadence, heart rate, power (watt) output, calories burned and estimated mileage. In some cases, this information also can be automatically transmitted and stored for later viewing. Several third-party suppliers and web developers have built systems to measure, present, store and track performance data. In essence, this information can now be viewed in several important ways:
- On each bike. With this, individual class visitors can view real-time data, and class instructors can coach to that data.
- In front of the class on a monitor. Classmates can see their own performance data as well as data on fellow class participants.
- After the class on the web (data tracking). Performance data can now be stored online so riders can view and compare historic performances.
In some cycling studios, the instructor uses this data as a primary tool for coaching and motivation. In others, the data is there purely for the user to review, and they often can choose the metric of their choice—heart rate, watts, calories burned, etc. In any case, just having this information available is a far cry from the traditional cycling class. Music and cult instructors remain the primary draw for most classes, but performance technology has added an appealing new dimension to the mix.
"Gameification" and Competition
Imagine riding indoors but being able to compete with someone across the room. Because studios can now have data from each bike console connected to large display systems, class members in some studios can see their own performance displayed next to others. For some, this is highly motivational. Also, the effort and performance of the entire group or of group subsets can be measured and displayed, creating further fuel for competitive fires. People who prefer to compete only with themselves can opt out of the studio display and instead track their performances online by logging into the club or studio website. Yes, this is happening now.
Durability, Maintenance and Total Cost of Ownership
For owners of health clubs and studios, the cost of a cycling program goes beyond the purchase cost of the bikes and maintenance. Riders want nice riding bikes that are kept running smoothly. The more durable that bikes are, the less long-term maintenance costs exist for ownership. In addition, for dedicated cycling studio owners, out-of-commission bikes result directly in lost revenue as these studios typically use a pay-per-class pricing model.
Beyond on-bike performance technology to help grow attendance in classes, business owners have more good news about the bikes themselves. In many cases, new technology has decreased the total cost of ownership for bikes and reduced downtime. Improved metals and design prevent rust, magnetic brakes versus friction brakes eliminate wear and tear, carbon-infused belts do not stretch, therefore eliminating chain adjustments, and better seat and handlebar adjustment mechanisms are lasting longer.
No, this isn't your father's indoor cycling class anymore. Technology and innovation are making for a smooth high-tech ride that has reams of data on performance and a new kind of motivation. Advances in steel and silicon are spicing up the indoor cycling experience, and there is more to come.
Content Sponsored by Schwinn Fitness.
Bill Pryor is co-founder of Spynergy Cycling, which is a cycling studio business with locations outside Boston and Chicago. Spynergy studios are 50-bike dedicated cycling studios with a successful nine-year operating history running 40 to 50 classes per week. In addition, Pryor founded a consulting group, Spynergy Consulting, that has provided business plans and consulting services to more than 80 independent indoor cycling studios in North America, Europe, Australia and elsewhere during the past three years.