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Indoor cycling

Speaking on the LIFTS podcast recently, Xponential Fitness CEO Anthony Geisler said participation in studio cycling is down globally. Kath Hudson decided to investigate


"Brands and modalities come in and out of favour,” Geisler told LIFTS podcast host, Matt Januszek. “Cycling right now is down globally about 25 per cent, and there’s a lot of data to support that. Flywheel closed 100 per cent of its locations, SoulCycle closed around 50 per cent of its locations and we’ve closed somewhere around 25 per cent of our [CycleBar] locations.” Geisler also said that HFA (IHRSA)data supported his statement.

There’s some evidence to validate his comments. According to Statista, studio cycling in the US peaked in 2019, at 9.93 million participants per year, and has dipped over the last four years to around six million. Studio cycling was popularised by boutiques, but this section of the market was battered by COVID and then the shift to working from home.

The outdoor cycling industry is experiencing a downturn in some countries. Having boomed during the pandemic, road cycling participation has dropped to pre-pandemic levels in the UK, according to the Department of Transport. The secondhand bike market has also nosedived since the highs of lockdown and many bike shops are struggling to stay afloat.

Studio cycling has been popular for many years, but the industry is constantly evolving and new modalities have recently surged in popularity. Strength training is on an upswing, especially among women, while participation in Reformer Pilates and time spent on recovery activities is also on the up. People have a finite amount of time and like new, shiny things, so have these modalities stolen participants from cycling? HCM hears that some operators are removing cycling studios.

Third Space CEO, Colin Waggett, says that while cycling is still an integral part of Third Space offering and remains popular, the cycling studios being built at the new clubs are slightly smaller, to reflect the fact that people are participating in other activities as well.

But it’s not all bad news. Custom Market Insights says the market is still growing. Its report Global Indoor Cycling Market estimated this modality to be worth US$1.5bn in 2021 and predicted it to grow to US$2.8bn by 2030.

360 Research Reports also forecasts growth. In its report Indoor Cycling Market it said the high adoption of advanced technology and presence of large players are likely to create ample growth opportunities in North America, which will have a knock-on effect in other territories, especially Europe.

Mintel predicts a recovery in the UK outdoor cycling market, partly driven by women: more than 40 per cent of females aged under-45 have indicated an interest in cycling, This suggests further potential for studio cycling participation among this cohort.

New research (page 108) has found that ‘huff and puff’, cardiorespiratory exercise is critical when it comes to reducing premature death and disease, giving the sector more evidence when it comes to championing cardio with members and consumers and avoiding the industry skewing too much towards strength.

We ask the experts what they see when it comes to the future for indoor cycling.

Uffe A Olesen
Body Bike International
Photo: Body Bike International

Is indoor cycling in decline? Not from where we stand. The story from our partner Les Mills shows indoor cycling has been its top-performing category in terms of growth over the last year, for example, and our multi-site customers in Denmark have full classes with wait-lists. One major European customer, who looked at taking cycling studios out, is in the process of putting them back. And in the UK, Leisure DB counted 2,594 gyms with a group cycling studio in 2023 (37.1 per cent of UK gyms), up from 2,409 in 2018 (34.2 per cent).

It’s incorrect to point to challenges in the boutique market – closures and reduced bookings through the likes of Classpass – and deem it evidence of a general decline.

Boutique is only part of the picture and the issues are not unique to indoor cycling – they’re sector-wide, not discipline-specific.

Boutiques boomed in the years leading up to the pandemic, with indoor cycling – and notably SoulCycle – leading the charge. However, as far back as 2019, [the now defunct] Club Industry reported that only 40 per cent of boutiques were making money.

Then came the pandemic and the cracks began to show: in the 2022 Boutique Fitness Solutions State of the Industry Report, only 9.4 per cent of surveyed studios had a profit margin of 20 per cent or more.

This has led to closures and not just in indoor cycling. Brands such as SoulCycle might have occupied the spotlight, but the higher they fly, the harder they fall – certainly in the headlines – and this has skewed the picture.

Meanwhile, there are many boutique success stories; Barry’s, for example, clearly sees the future in this discipline and is rolling out its Ride x Lift concept.

If we take boutique hypergrowth and subsequent rationalisation out of the equation, what we see is a market that’s very stable.

Indoor cycling pre-dates boutiques: it’s been a staple for decades. It might not be as ‘of the moment’ as reformer Pilates, but neither is it a discipline in decline.

One major European customer, who briefly took cycling studios out of its club, is in the process of putting them back

It ticks the boxes for everyone, providing a richness of data in a fun, music-filled and community-focused workout that engages and motivates.

One very positive thing boutiques have done is raise customer expectations, meaning an immersive, engaging experience is now the price of entry for indoor cycling.

Operators that are cutting back and quoting reduced member interest are in this position because they haven’t innovated or invested. That’s understandable given the last few years, but as investment budgets return, it’s time to upgrade spaces, equipment, tech and most of all instructors.

My simple advice? Hire people who will fill the room.

I’m confident indoor cycling will continue to stand the test of time, provided it evolves in line with consumer expectations.

Operators cutting back and quoting reduced member interest are in this position because they haven’t innovated or invested
Cycling is a fun, community-focused, music-filled workout / photo: Ørbike / Gabay Fotografi
Martin Franklin
Les Mills
photo: Les Mills

Studio cycling had a tough time during the pandemic, with social distancing rules preventing operators from optimising space in what is usually the most profitable area of the club, per square foot.

Post-pandemic shifts in consumer behaviour have also made it difficult for certain sections of the market, notably connected fitness brands and city-centre boutiques, but this is true across all training modalities and not limited to cycle.

We’re seeing that members are loving working out in clubs and that community forms a big part of what keeps them coming back. Operators who are doubling down on the cycle studio are still seeing strong results: Places Leisure has been reaping the rewards of investing in immersive studios, for example, while at Les Mills’ Auckland City club, the cycle programmes made up three of the top five attended classes this February.

The indoor cycle studio is often the most stylish and dynamic section of the health and fitness club. Whether it’s nightclub-inspired lighting and design, pumping sound systems, or sexy screens, creating a show-stopping cycle studio is a great way to pull in prospects and retain members.

Operators who consistently win in the cycling space understand the importance of appealing to different target audiences. An addictive cycle studio should deliver four types of workouts: fitness, performance, HIIT and exertainment, as well as channelling great coaches and instructors to lead the genre of class, delivering inspiring experiences on the bike.

Experiential workouts, strong communities and programmes that cater for different member needs are the keys to ensuring your club has a strong cycle offering to keep members cranking up the gears and filling studios.

Fitness is very trend-driven and there’s no getting away from the fact that strength training is red hot right now, particularly among Gen Z, but cycle certainly isn’t going anywhere and its versatility makes it essential to the future growth of the fitness market.

We have a whole new generation of fitness fans taking their first steps into exercise – 27 per cent of current exercisers describe themselves as absolute beginners, presenting a huge opportunity. Our research shows that helping beginners find intrinsic motivation to exercise is the key to ensuring long-term adherence.

Cycle’s versatility makes it essential to the future growth of the fitness market
The cycle studio is often the most stylish and dynamic area of the club / photo: Les Mills / Kristian Frires
Kevin Yates
Snap Fitness/Lift Brands
Yates: We’re focused on reviving interest in cycling / photo: Lift Brands

Current data indicates a downward trend across the sector, particularly within boutique cycling establishments. This decline can be attributed to both a decrease in participation and challenges related to the quality of programming. We’re actively addressing these issues by enhancing our programming quality and engaging more effectively with our members to revive interest and participation in studio cycling.

There is a noticeable shift in preferences within the fitness industry. We’re observing a transition from traditional static workouts, such as studio cycling, to more dynamic, community-oriented, and sport-based programming, such as Hyrox. This trend emphasises the growing demand for engaging and competitive fitness experiences that incorporate leaderboards and community participation. As a result, cycling is facing challenges in maintaining its popularity, prompting us to innovate and adapt our offerings to meet the evolving needs of our clients.

Snap is actively working to revitalise its cycling sessions to keep members engaged and enthusiastic. We’ve undertaken significant enhancements in the design of our cycling spaces, focusing on creating a vibrant and inviting atmosphere. This includes new lighting systems and an updated ambiance that enhances the overall experience. Additionally, we are refining our content management strategies, including music selection and session structure, to ensure each cycling class is energising and enjoyable. These improvements, combined with our ongoing updates to programming, are aimed at delivering an unparalleled cycling experience to our members.

People are drawn to cycling for its simplicity: classes are easy to follow which makes it accessible to participants of all fitness levels. The role of coaches and music is pivotal in enhancing the experience, as they both energise the sessions and motivate participants. Additionally, consumers appreciate how cycling sessions provide a temporary escape from the stresses of daily life, offering a mental and physical release that’s rejuvenating and fulfilling.

We’ve undertaken significant enhancements in the design of our cycling spaces, focusing on creating a vibrant, inviting atmosphere
Cycling classes are easy to follow and members enjoy the simplicity / photo: Lift Brands
Anthony Geisler kicked off the debate on the LIFTS podcast with Mo Iqbal (L) and Matt Januszek (R) Credit: photo: ESCAPE FITNESS/LIFTS
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2024 issue 4

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Indoor cycling

Everyone's talking about

Indoor cycling


Speaking on the LIFTS podcast recently, Xponential Fitness CEO Anthony Geisler said participation in studio cycling is down globally. Kath Hudson decided to investigate

Mintel predicts a UK recovery in studio cycling, partly led by women photo: Xponential Fitness / Andre Niesing
Anthony Geisler kicked off the debate on the LIFTS podcast with Mo Iqbal (L) and Matt Januszek (R) photo: ESCAPE FITNESS/LIFTS

"Brands and modalities come in and out of favour,” Geisler told LIFTS podcast host, Matt Januszek. “Cycling right now is down globally about 25 per cent, and there’s a lot of data to support that. Flywheel closed 100 per cent of its locations, SoulCycle closed around 50 per cent of its locations and we’ve closed somewhere around 25 per cent of our [CycleBar] locations.” Geisler also said that HFA (IHRSA)data supported his statement.

There’s some evidence to validate his comments. According to Statista, studio cycling in the US peaked in 2019, at 9.93 million participants per year, and has dipped over the last four years to around six million. Studio cycling was popularised by boutiques, but this section of the market was battered by COVID and then the shift to working from home.

The outdoor cycling industry is experiencing a downturn in some countries. Having boomed during the pandemic, road cycling participation has dropped to pre-pandemic levels in the UK, according to the Department of Transport. The secondhand bike market has also nosedived since the highs of lockdown and many bike shops are struggling to stay afloat.

Studio cycling has been popular for many years, but the industry is constantly evolving and new modalities have recently surged in popularity. Strength training is on an upswing, especially among women, while participation in Reformer Pilates and time spent on recovery activities is also on the up. People have a finite amount of time and like new, shiny things, so have these modalities stolen participants from cycling? HCM hears that some operators are removing cycling studios.

Third Space CEO, Colin Waggett, says that while cycling is still an integral part of Third Space offering and remains popular, the cycling studios being built at the new clubs are slightly smaller, to reflect the fact that people are participating in other activities as well.

But it’s not all bad news. Custom Market Insights says the market is still growing. Its report Global Indoor Cycling Market estimated this modality to be worth US$1.5bn in 2021 and predicted it to grow to US$2.8bn by 2030.

360 Research Reports also forecasts growth. In its report Indoor Cycling Market it said the high adoption of advanced technology and presence of large players are likely to create ample growth opportunities in North America, which will have a knock-on effect in other territories, especially Europe.

Mintel predicts a recovery in the UK outdoor cycling market, partly driven by women: more than 40 per cent of females aged under-45 have indicated an interest in cycling, This suggests further potential for studio cycling participation among this cohort.

New research (page 108) has found that ‘huff and puff’, cardiorespiratory exercise is critical when it comes to reducing premature death and disease, giving the sector more evidence when it comes to championing cardio with members and consumers and avoiding the industry skewing too much towards strength.

We ask the experts what they see when it comes to the future for indoor cycling.

Uffe A Olesen
Body Bike International
Photo: Body Bike International

Is indoor cycling in decline? Not from where we stand. The story from our partner Les Mills shows indoor cycling has been its top-performing category in terms of growth over the last year, for example, and our multi-site customers in Denmark have full classes with wait-lists. One major European customer, who looked at taking cycling studios out, is in the process of putting them back. And in the UK, Leisure DB counted 2,594 gyms with a group cycling studio in 2023 (37.1 per cent of UK gyms), up from 2,409 in 2018 (34.2 per cent).

It’s incorrect to point to challenges in the boutique market – closures and reduced bookings through the likes of Classpass – and deem it evidence of a general decline.

Boutique is only part of the picture and the issues are not unique to indoor cycling – they’re sector-wide, not discipline-specific.

Boutiques boomed in the years leading up to the pandemic, with indoor cycling – and notably SoulCycle – leading the charge. However, as far back as 2019, [the now defunct] Club Industry reported that only 40 per cent of boutiques were making money.

Then came the pandemic and the cracks began to show: in the 2022 Boutique Fitness Solutions State of the Industry Report, only 9.4 per cent of surveyed studios had a profit margin of 20 per cent or more.

This has led to closures and not just in indoor cycling. Brands such as SoulCycle might have occupied the spotlight, but the higher they fly, the harder they fall – certainly in the headlines – and this has skewed the picture.

Meanwhile, there are many boutique success stories; Barry’s, for example, clearly sees the future in this discipline and is rolling out its Ride x Lift concept.

If we take boutique hypergrowth and subsequent rationalisation out of the equation, what we see is a market that’s very stable.

Indoor cycling pre-dates boutiques: it’s been a staple for decades. It might not be as ‘of the moment’ as reformer Pilates, but neither is it a discipline in decline.

One major European customer, who briefly took cycling studios out of its club, is in the process of putting them back

It ticks the boxes for everyone, providing a richness of data in a fun, music-filled and community-focused workout that engages and motivates.

One very positive thing boutiques have done is raise customer expectations, meaning an immersive, engaging experience is now the price of entry for indoor cycling.

Operators that are cutting back and quoting reduced member interest are in this position because they haven’t innovated or invested. That’s understandable given the last few years, but as investment budgets return, it’s time to upgrade spaces, equipment, tech and most of all instructors.

My simple advice? Hire people who will fill the room.

I’m confident indoor cycling will continue to stand the test of time, provided it evolves in line with consumer expectations.

Operators cutting back and quoting reduced member interest are in this position because they haven’t innovated or invested
Cycling is a fun, community-focused, music-filled workout / photo: Ørbike / Gabay Fotografi
Martin Franklin
Les Mills
photo: Les Mills

Studio cycling had a tough time during the pandemic, with social distancing rules preventing operators from optimising space in what is usually the most profitable area of the club, per square foot.

Post-pandemic shifts in consumer behaviour have also made it difficult for certain sections of the market, notably connected fitness brands and city-centre boutiques, but this is true across all training modalities and not limited to cycle.

We’re seeing that members are loving working out in clubs and that community forms a big part of what keeps them coming back. Operators who are doubling down on the cycle studio are still seeing strong results: Places Leisure has been reaping the rewards of investing in immersive studios, for example, while at Les Mills’ Auckland City club, the cycle programmes made up three of the top five attended classes this February.

The indoor cycle studio is often the most stylish and dynamic section of the health and fitness club. Whether it’s nightclub-inspired lighting and design, pumping sound systems, or sexy screens, creating a show-stopping cycle studio is a great way to pull in prospects and retain members.

Operators who consistently win in the cycling space understand the importance of appealing to different target audiences. An addictive cycle studio should deliver four types of workouts: fitness, performance, HIIT and exertainment, as well as channelling great coaches and instructors to lead the genre of class, delivering inspiring experiences on the bike.

Experiential workouts, strong communities and programmes that cater for different member needs are the keys to ensuring your club has a strong cycle offering to keep members cranking up the gears and filling studios.

Fitness is very trend-driven and there’s no getting away from the fact that strength training is red hot right now, particularly among Gen Z, but cycle certainly isn’t going anywhere and its versatility makes it essential to the future growth of the fitness market.

We have a whole new generation of fitness fans taking their first steps into exercise – 27 per cent of current exercisers describe themselves as absolute beginners, presenting a huge opportunity. Our research shows that helping beginners find intrinsic motivation to exercise is the key to ensuring long-term adherence.

Cycle’s versatility makes it essential to the future growth of the fitness market
The cycle studio is often the most stylish and dynamic area of the club / photo: Les Mills / Kristian Frires
Kevin Yates
Snap Fitness/Lift Brands
Yates: We’re focused on reviving interest in cycling / photo: Lift Brands

Current data indicates a downward trend across the sector, particularly within boutique cycling establishments. This decline can be attributed to both a decrease in participation and challenges related to the quality of programming. We’re actively addressing these issues by enhancing our programming quality and engaging more effectively with our members to revive interest and participation in studio cycling.

There is a noticeable shift in preferences within the fitness industry. We’re observing a transition from traditional static workouts, such as studio cycling, to more dynamic, community-oriented, and sport-based programming, such as Hyrox. This trend emphasises the growing demand for engaging and competitive fitness experiences that incorporate leaderboards and community participation. As a result, cycling is facing challenges in maintaining its popularity, prompting us to innovate and adapt our offerings to meet the evolving needs of our clients.

Snap is actively working to revitalise its cycling sessions to keep members engaged and enthusiastic. We’ve undertaken significant enhancements in the design of our cycling spaces, focusing on creating a vibrant and inviting atmosphere. This includes new lighting systems and an updated ambiance that enhances the overall experience. Additionally, we are refining our content management strategies, including music selection and session structure, to ensure each cycling class is energising and enjoyable. These improvements, combined with our ongoing updates to programming, are aimed at delivering an unparalleled cycling experience to our members.

People are drawn to cycling for its simplicity: classes are easy to follow which makes it accessible to participants of all fitness levels. The role of coaches and music is pivotal in enhancing the experience, as they both energise the sessions and motivate participants. Additionally, consumers appreciate how cycling sessions provide a temporary escape from the stresses of daily life, offering a mental and physical release that’s rejuvenating and fulfilling.

We’ve undertaken significant enhancements in the design of our cycling spaces, focusing on creating a vibrant, inviting atmosphere
Cycling classes are easy to follow and members enjoy the simplicity / photo: Lift Brands

Originally published in Health Club Management 2024 issue 4

Published by Leisure Media Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd