Leisure Management - Chain reaction
Why does indoor cycling attract so many loyal followers? Abi Harris ask industry
innovators how much is down to the instructor and what part the kit has to play
Delivering a great cycling class requires the interplay of instructor, bike and technology. It’s out of respect for this that we provide products, education and tech that complement each other, enabling talented instructors to create unique experiences.
There’s an interesting dichotomy between consistency and diversity with respect to products and technology. It’s critical that bike and technology products are consistent from bike to bike and club to club, as variations create uncertainty in customer expectations. For example, if power meter technology is integrated, it must be accurate and consistent across all bikes; if not, you’ll hear about it from customers. Critical data informs them on their journey towards goals and inaccuracies or illogical results shatter their experience.
Yet bikes are also tools that must enable diversity for operators when creating their business model. Top-tier clubs and instructors offer unique, evolving experiences and should not be fenced in by the tools. In-studio technology, for example, must be designed for both active and passive use.
"Technology must be consistent from bike to bike, but bikes and technology must also enable diversity"
Active technology, like our Stages Flight product can display individual or group metrics, workout profiles, videos, and music to contribute to the class experience.
In other cases technology may not play any role in the ride experience, and the instructor, the music and cadence take centre stage. Passive tools such as our Flight Recorder product, can be used to collect rider and class information for post-ride results (ie no live class display) helping inform users of their progressing toward fitness goals over time.
Great instructors are the biggest difference-maker but well-designed bikes and the diverse, thoughtful use of technology are the foundations for engagement over time.
Bikes should be designed to allow operators and instructors to be creative in how they use them
We believe Wattbike has forced the fitness industry to embrace new training methods and technologies for indoor cycling.
There’s been a shift to sport-specific training, fitness goals and testing, tracking and measuring performance, which has enticed a new group of consumers, who are interested in this feedback.
The success of the session has to be measured beyond sweating and sore legs. Exercisers want to understand how to improve or be able to see their heart rate compared to a month ago. They want to have fun, but with measurable performance, structure and planning.
"There’s been a shift to sport-specific training, fitness goals and testing"
This year we unveiled the Wattbike AtomX, a commercial product evolved from the huge success of the Wattbike Atom, the first smart bike in the world. We also launched the Wattbike Icon, with high definition performance touchscreen, offering performance feedback for a connected user experience. Both are tools which will enable operators to offer this higher level of experience.
A shift to bikes that enable performance to be tested and tracked has attracted a new group of consumers
Core Health & Fitness
Members want to be a part of something special. Facilities can foster this with the experience they create through their brand, instructors, technology and equipment – in that order.
Tools to make instructors great are what’s next in group cycling. Look for technology that makes it easier to design exciting music and science-based programmes that give everyone, no matter their fitness level, a chance to be a part of the community.
"Tools to make instructors
great are what’s next in
As equipment manufacturers, it’s our role to consult on the full solution, from booking and class reservation to in-class technology, instructor education and recruitment and a bike that enhances the brand concept.
Fitness tracking is hot, because everyone wants to get credit for their work and know if they’re getting better, while in-class leaderboards and gamification incite competitive spirit and enable accomplishments to be broadcast across social media to further engage the community.
We pride ourselves on creating innovative, engaging equipment, we recognise the vital role instructors play in the delivery of the experience.
That’s why, with our new Target Training Cycles, we also designed our Matrix Ride education, which teaches trainers to lead a next-level class.
Instructors can change the format from classic ride-to-the-beat or calorie burn, through to a performance stream based on specific metrics.
Our Target Training Cycles series includes the CXC for the feel of an outdoor ride, the CXM for metric tracking and the CXP for a colourful target training display that injects camaraderie and competition.
"Instructors can seat elite cyclists next to deconditioned participants in the same class"
The colours motivate riders, measure effort and keep everyone on track for their goals. They give members, and trainers visual cueing to perform at their best, while integrated user testing establishes personalised targets, so instructors can seat elite cyclists next to deconditioned participants in the same class.
The console plays a massive part in people’s experience. I’ve seen people leave a class because the screen wasn’t working on the only bike left. People want to know the data; RPM, power, calorie burn, heart rate etc, and more competitive members like seeing results in real-time, so they can compare and compete with other riders in the room.
Music, technology and the instructor’s passion are what draws people into a class, maximising technology and the bike to deliver impactful classes that drive a community of regulars.
The bike’s console plays a huge
part in the rider’s experience,
says Matrix Fitness’ Pengelly
Instructor and bike are the most important factors when delivering an indoor cycling class. Good instructors create an experience that’s enjoyable, engaging and fun, whilst challenging users and encouraging them to return. A good bike will make the job easier and heighten the experience.
Keiser’s M3 series bikes have been successful over the past 15 years due to the comfort, ease of ride, reliability, low maintenance, safety and simplicity of use. The magnetic resistance and power console make the bike easy to understand, giving all levels of instructors a platform to deliver an array of classes.
"When things go wrong with indoor cycling tech, it tends to be when things get overcomplicated"
The new Keiser M3i was the first to introduce Bluetooth connectivity, advancing the way classes can be taught. Clubs can activate virtual or projection systems and display data in real time, to encourage members to ride in a new way. This makes classes intuitive, engaging and in some cases, competitive.
When things go wrong with indoor cycling tech at present it tends to be when things get overcomplicated. The M Series Group App projection system is easy for instructors to learn and for members to understand.
Comfort, ease of ride, reliability, safety and simplicity of use are important factors for indoor bikes
Members return because they feel a strong connection to the instructor, not just because of fancy equipment. Our partnership with 29 Village Clubs demonstrated this. When we put its instructors through our upskilling modules, occupancy in the most under-performing clubs rose from 45 per cent to 62 per cent, while the highest performing clubs went from 78 per cent to 96 per cent.
When members attend a class with a top-quality instructor they’re more likely to come back and encourage their friends to come along too.
We help instructors deliver memorable experiences; for instance, our immersive cycling class, Les Mills The Trip, was inspired by cinema, live concert experiences and interactive gaming. It helps to increase motivation and energy output.
"When members can attend a class any time of day, it can be the difference between them buying a membership and not"
Our research shows that using technology to create an immersive fitness experience increases satisfaction and decreases rates of perceived exertion for new exercisers.
Exercisers want this same experience, whether in a class or on the gym floor, so we partnered with Stages Cycling to offer the Les Mills Virtual Bike, with built-in HD screens featuring our cycle programmes, so users can train as if they’re in a group class, but in their own time in the gym. When members can attend a class any time of day, it can be the difference between them buying a membership and not.
Members will return if you provide a memorable experience, says Les Mills’ Coulson
Operators are looking to stand out and real success comes from education and training.
Power-based training programmes such as ICG’s Coach by Color require a level of knowledge and application that generic indoor cycling certifications don’t cover.
Since the introduction of ICG’s virtual MyRide programme we’ve developed a data-driven interactive platform for competition – called ICG Connect – and also an ICG Training App.
We’ve also stepped into the live events arena with the Club Ride programme, which involves a series of events, open to everyone, at ICG-accredited Centres of Excellence across the country.
"We’ve developed a data-driven interactive platform for competition"
Riders take four classes in a studio setting delivered by master trainers and our aim is to create the ultimate indoor cycling experience.
For us, all aspects of indoor cycling are important. However, it’s how they interact that’s paramount to success. With so much variety, it’s tough for every instructor to deliver every type of session. Delivering thoughtful, music-driven programmes is a very different skill to creating edge-of-the-seat competition.
With so much choice, having the right coach, combined with the right programme and technology to deliver the indoor cycling experience is becoming more challenging. But, with the current approach to indoor cycling and operators willing to explore it, the level of experience is better than it’s ever been.
Matching the right instructor with the type of class can make a big difference
Like-minded individuals gravitate towards the bike as a weapon of choice to get themselves fit and healthy, whatever their personal goal may be.
It is an activity that is easy to show up and do. No matter how you’re feeling, when you sit on the saddle, the shift is instantaneous. The combination of music, energy and guidance from a knowledgeable, enthusiastic instructor makes it easy to fall into the zone.
The group dynamic creates a motivational environment where people push themselves and in turn are rewarded with an effective workout, which ultimately gets results.
The instructor’s role is huge. Timing, music, tempo, language and sensibility to transport, motivate and navigate a group of all ages and fitness levels on a ride or training session takes skill, experience and training.
"The combination of music, energy and guidance makes it easy to fall into the zone"
The bikes have a part to play. Some, like the Johnny G Spirit Bike, have a range of options and training opportunities. Features such as electronic gear shifting through calibrated levels, or gears, combined with the ability to see and track workout metrics, provide the ability to replicate training and monitor progress.
Other features such as FTP tests and the ability to do personalised, colour-coded heart-rate-based and power-zone-based workouts, allow for a variety of formats.
The key here is not to complicate, but to provide opportunities for the instructor, as well as the participant, to have a fully immersive, exciting, interactive and guided training experience.
We often see instructors incorporating movements, like pushups and backward pedalling or introducing hand weights to a class, which can restrict riders from cycling.
That’s why we offer Spinning instructor courses – certification programmes with 250k instructors globally. Spinning encourages functional cycling as you’d do on- or off-road.
In the background, riding techniques are functional, safe and doable, no matter the rider’s fitness level. All this is accompanied by music, so if the instructor can’t speak, the music will still tell the story.
"Spinning encourages functional cycling as you’d do on- or off-road"
Instructors are experts in their field, having undergone a Spin Power Program Certification to understand the physics and the physical behind the watts; what power is, how it’s measured and why it’s important, the relationship between power, RPE, heart rate and cadence, how to determine baseline fitness markers and training zones, and how to lead fun and effective rides that encourage members to come back.
Using the Spin Power programme, training data can be tracked by smart phone or transferred to leaderboards.
The bike is vital to a good class. That means a fast, smooth set-up with adjustments made to fit everyone.
The Precor Spinner Chrono adapts from children to adults two metres tall and imitates the frame of a road bike, based on human biomechanics. It uses magnetic resistance and a Kevlar belt system to ensure a smooth, responsive riding experience.
Riding techniques during a class
should be functional, safe and doable, no matter the rider’s fitness level
Historically, riders had no feedback on how hard they were working, so we’re excited to see the growth of consoles with built-in measurements, so people can see the power they’re producing, understand the relationship between resistance and RPM, and improve their skills as cyclists.
Combined with leaderboards, this data is an eye-opener and motivational tool for cyclists and a retention driver for operators.
"Bikes can be as engaging on the gym floor as in a studio setting"
The instructor is the driver; creating the atmosphere, guiding the content and motivating and inspiring the group. Backed by a great bike, amazing sound quality and lighting systems, instructors can deliver complete experiences.
Bikes can now be as engaging on the gym floor as in a studio setting, with on-screen interactivity and online content enabling an immersive experience anywhere, anytime.
The industry’s obsession with connectivity and interactivity gives the user a far more intuitive and personalised fitness experience, and has enabled indoor cycling to spread to the home market in a big way too.
|Originally published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 9