by Angela Reed-Fox
How to build your indoor cycling customer base like a ninja
Considering how much was initially invested in your indoor cycling studio, do you think it's provided a good return on your investment? In most gyms it doesn't. The cycling studio tends to be there because customers expect it; but aside from the one-off investment in bikes, the studio is just expected to carry on and look after itself.
There will be companies claiming that what you really need is a set of new bikes. But if you're not in the market for this - and you want a more holistic and effective return on your initial investment, rather than writing it off and just buying more bikes, what do you do?
The good news is, there are ways that you can update and improve your studio cycling - some of them are free, but all of them cost (considerably) less than a new set of bikes.
Learn who your customers are – not as a homogenous group (which they certainly aren’t) but by name. You will be blessed by regulars - just using their name will make them feel valued, whether that's when they reach reception or during a class. Personal interaction and encouragement is very motivating - and a lack of motivation is likely to be the reason you don't see them again.
Up to date training
Times change and although you might not guess by seeing some cycling classes out there – we’re not in the 1990s any more. Make sure instructors are up to date. This is not just important for a safety perspective, but also you need to ensure that instructors are inspired to give excellent customer service, as well as delivering modern, engaging, and effective classes.
Maybe it’s the Olympics, maybe it’s the Tour de France, maybe it’s something entirely unconnected with cycling. Whatever the reason, or the excuse, publicise an event. Get people joining in, pedalling, and winning. Charity events are always popular - and what better way to kick one off than to ask your customers to nominate a charity to benefit from it? Many people have a charity that is dear to their heart, and asking for your customers' opinions will help them feel valued and involved. You might have a local cause which is popular, and this might mean that the organisation of it can largely be done by customers rather than staff! You don't know until you ask!
Use social media - it's free! Don't use it in a shouty way, but make friends with your customers and offer them extra value. Social networks are great for letting your customers know if there are special events going on, promoting a new class, asking opinions (guaranteed to initiate a nice friendly feeling towards you as people then feel valued!) and also posting content. The most popular content tends to be funny, thought-provoking or informative. You can also use special offers to encourage customers to connect with you - for example a Facebook-only deal will help to get more likes, shares, and follows. Check that your social presence is up to date, information is correct, and remember to stay current.
Variations on a theme of ‘two turns up’ should never be heard in a cycling class. Pure RPM is just as bad. You can’t measure how fit you’re getting with either of these. Bikes should have power/watts as a minimum. The better bikes have got numbered gears as well. Those riders who aren’t comfortable with watts can see their gears increasing as they get fitter – so perhaps they started out on a flat road in gear 5, but a few weeks later, they may increase that to a 6 or even a 7. That’s a measurable sign the rider is getting fitter – particularly when you take RPM into account as well (that’s where rpm is useful). Bikes which enable the rider to take an average power output for the duration of the class are great – riders can take this number and divide by their weight in kg which gives them their power:weight ratio. Sounds a bit geeky, but this is a way of recording real results that’s likely to get them motivated and coming back for more.
If more metrics aren't available, your instructors will need to be trained and confident in delivering classes using rate of perceived exertion (RPE). This is important because a cycling session should provide an effective body workout. Riders should know how different intensities should feel, and as every rider will be different physiologically, they will need to be told also what the resistance should feel like, so that they are able to have a workout that gets results - and also stay safe. Some courses your instructors may have done may have briefly mentioned RPE, but instructors need to be confident in delivering classes in this way, because all riders have different fitness levels and abilities, and without metrics, they'll need the extra insight to ensure their workout time is well-spent.
All instructors should be familiar with heartrate zones, but there is more to it than that. Cardiotraining is growing hugely in popularity as it provides not only an engaging in-session experience, but it also provides the rider with good quality data on how their workout went and how their fitness is improving - not only that but systems such as MyZone and iQniter will also provide you with a) a reason for customers to stay loyal to you and b) a secondary income stream for you as you sell heartrate straps and watches and c) a safer workout.
Naturally to get the best out of it, you need to ensure instructors are comfortable with the physiology behind cardiotraining as well as confident with using the software itself. It's not hard, but getting instructors on board can make all the difference. Cardiotraining is only as good as the instructor using it. Don't waste the investment - ensure that instructors know what they're doing and why they're doing what they're doing.
Every town has a glut of places to get fit – but there is a shortage of expertise. Rise above by becoming an expert in your field, and you'll give customers a reason to try you out - and then they'll stay with you when they realise that you are their best chance for meeting their fitness and health goals.
Educate your instructors so they in turn can educate customers. Well-informed customers who know what they're doing are more likely to get results - and those who get results are more likely to stay with you in the long-run.
Don't forget to share your expertise wider by posting on social media. This helps potential customers trust you if they can see that you know what you're talking about. The know/like/trust factor is not to be underestimated!
Choose instructors wisely
Not all great people make great instructors, but all great instructors started out as great people. It's not just about the piece of paper they need in order to be insured to instruct classes, you need instructors who are engaging, motivating, caring, and who get a kick out of helping riders get results. You need instructors who are going to stay up to date with their techniques, instructors who will be supportive of the changes you'll want to introduce from time to time; if they just want to plug their iPod in, deliver a class and get out as quickly as possible to collect their dough, they’re not going to be an asset. Keep your eye out for people who understand the significance of value and will be a great ambassador for your brand.
Service, repair and maintain the bikes you already have. It will prolong their life, and maximise the use you can get from them. Each 'out of order' bike not only fails to provide a return on your initial investment, but also sends a message that your riders' cycling experience is not your top priority. Find a reputable company to service the bikes - but set up a service schedule so that they will be regularly checked over as well as repaired when needed. Don't rely on your customers telling you there's a problem - you need to fix it before they even notice!
Your customers are not a homogenous bunch. You might be surprised at the different reasons riders choose to attend your classes. Make sure you have something to offer each of them. This might mean making classes available dedicated to different levels of fitness or ability, or perhaps you could provide a creche for classes held at a time that is tempting for mums who want to get back in shape. Or perhaps hold a special summer holiday class where youngsters can ride along with their parents.
Run a series over a few weeks - you'll need an aim or a feature such as a music theme, or perhaps improving power:weight ratio, this not only gives you an excuse to promote something on social media as well as elsewhere, but also as it takes place over several weeks, it will encourage riders to keep coming back.
And there we have it - some of these are free, but all of them cost less than replacing your bikes. It's all about maximising the value of the resources you already have - maintain your equipment, invest in and motivate your instructors, and don't forget to promote your efforts wider in your area, and you'll be attracting new customers and retaining them as your place will be the place to be.
Need help with instructor training? Whether you're looking for value-packed training that's more comprehensive than any other course (without the price tag you'd expect) or you're looking to improve customer experience, instructor knowledge or you're investing in CPD for your staff, we have a selection of courses to offer. And what's more? We provide extra value and discounts for those companies who choose to use us. The more you use us, the more you get. Because our course quality speaks for itself, word of mouth is important to us, and so we also give bonuses to past students who refer us.
Want to know more? Sign up in the box up to the right for updates, tips, tricks and offers - and also, feel free to email me at email@example.com to discuss your personal requirements.
10 tips to make your classes better than anyone else's. ;-)
by Angela Reed-Fox
How to deliver a badass indoor cycling class
We're creating the next generation of indoor cycling instructors. Put your class on the map by including these top ten features:
Riders look to their instructor for inspiration and for energy. If you're not a morning person - don't do morning classes. Riders want encouragement, entertainment and excitement - and you need to give them what they want. We heard a horror story from a class at a local gym where the instructor introduced the session by announcing ‘I feel sick’. Hardly inspiring, and certainly not likely to tempt customers to come back. How do you do it? Well, as an instructor it is exciting to see your merry bunch of riders arriving having chosen (and paid) to join your class. Take the compliment, and return the blessing. Give them the ride of their lives - they're on your side after all!
Change the record! Music helps to add power, drive and ambience to your session. The right music can have a profound effect on riders - getting in a really rocking groove can enable your riders to do far more than they thought possible. Keep it fresh though and change your music often; we are familiar with an instructor (elsewhere, naturally!) who used the same playlist every week for three months! That should never happen. Aim at building up a wide selection of different sessions so that you're able to rotate them - if you know what track's coming next, it's definitely time for a change. If they know what track's coming next, that's really not good! Research new music- YouTube and iTunes are brilliant places where you can look for new stuff and get inspiration (and it's fun as well!)
Have a purpose or a theme - a focused class feels more cohesive. Perhaps it's a HIIT class, maybe it's hill climbs today, or how about multi-terrain but with a theme? Themes are fun - you could use music with perhaps a 'one hit wonders' theme, or use film music, or even more fun have a secret theme where as they pedal, your riders are trying to work it out (and you can always throw a few red herrings in there!) For example a 'Christmas' theme might have no actual Christmas tracks, but might have songs with festive motifs such as stars or angels, or cold weather... At the end of last year, we ran a session where each track reflected one of the big news stories of the year. Explaining what the theme was at the beginning made the session fun as riders tried to work out what each tune related to - it also took their minds off a rather juicy hill climb right at the end!
Make your classes the most positive place to be. It is highly likely there are riders in your class with low confidence or negative body image. Never single out those with poor form – highlight the stars that are nailing it. Inspire others to emulate good technique, and keep up flagging spirits and tired legs with a well-timed and personalised encouragement – use names. Everybody will be doing at least something well. Be careful though that your encouragement is encouragement. If a rider feels like the most unfit person in the room, they’d probably get more of a kick out of the instructor asking the class ‘Can you keep up with Wendy?’ rather than saying ‘Nice try, Wendy!’ which could make Wendy feel that others think she can’t keep up.
Wall-to-wall service – be the first to arrive and the last to leave. Trotting in with a cuppa and a couple of minutes to spare just isn’t cricket. Get there early to set up and ensure that everything is working; then when riders start to appear, there is plenty of time to greet and ensure everyone is correctly and safely set up on their bikes. This is the perfect time to get to know new riders' names and make sure they are safe to ride and that you know of any issues. It's not just about injuries - of course you should know which riders have these, but also if any rider is going to struggle to keep up for any reason (recent illness, sportive, etc) and then you can provide options.
Be prepared to make last-minute changes - or change things on the hoof. Most classes (even those that are pitched at a particular level) will have a variety of riders, so you can prepare alternative options beforehand - but you won't be able to prepare for everything, so be flexible enough to make changes as you go; perhaps shortening some intervals, or maybe changing some team activities around. From greeting your riders you'll know if any rider needs something special from the session. Being prepared is important, but equally so is the ability to give your riders what they need when they need it - and it might not be what you think!
Don't forget what it's like to be new. Be as clear as you can with instructions, and be aware of what might need explaining! Also bear in mind that you'll need to be ultra clear when riders are working hard; it's a lot harder to concentrate when you're breathing through your ears! As well as what riders are supposed to be doing they should also know how they're supposed to be feeling (besides epic!) Use whatever you can to give riders measurable achievements; a combination of cardiotraining (heartrate) and power (watts) is ideal, but if your studio is not equipped with these, riders will need to know where abouts they should be on the rate of perceived exertion (RPE). It's not enough just to give an rpm guide - they could keep to the required cadence and still have a useless workout! Don't forget to tell them how their legs should be feeling, and how their breathing should be feeling. That way, as long as they follow your directions, they'll be getting a good workout.
Regardless of whether or not you run dedicated sessions for newcomer, advanced, etc riders - you're going to get a mixture. And an important part of the job is to make sure everyone gets a good workout. Going for the 'two turns up' approach isn't going to work. That will be too little resistance for some and too much for others. As instructors, the last thing we want our class to be described as is 'too easy' - likewise, wouldn't it be awful if a rider was put off coming back because the resistance was just too much for them? More modern bikes with power/watts or numeric gears are ideal - but if you don't have that? You'll need to make good use of RPE. It's not just a 'seven out of ten' for effort - that's too subjective. RPE details at what points your heartrate is increasing and what it feels like - whether it's like a brisk walk, whether you can talk in complete sentences etc. Click here for the whole scale (it will open in a new window so you don't lose your place).
It's everyone's job to add value. If you're the sort of person who recognises value, you're more likely to be the sort of person who is keen on going the extra mile for others. Studio cycling is an amazing thing because it is so efficient and effective as a form of exercise - and instructing it is even more amazing because you get to not only see lives changed, but you get to be part of making that change. There are two types of instructors - those who get excited by riders' successes, and those that don't. Those who are there to help, and those who are just there to show off. If nothing else, always seek to offer value. Ask for feedback, ask riders how it could be better. Be human. Be interested in your riders; help them, encourage them, and find yet more ways to help them.
Don't stop learning. As soon as you think you know much pretty much all there is to know about studio cycling/instructing - that's your cue. Avoid going 'stale' by keeping on top of your learning. Not only will your riders benefit from a more knowledgeable and enthusiastic instructor, you'll find so much more enjoyment as you're able to keep on giving extra value to your riders. Share ideas with others, share resources, and share knowledge. Always remember to check up on new ideas though - sometimes the new 'thing' isn't all it seems, and just because someone else is doing it or 'the riders like it' doesn't mean it is safe or effective. Keep them safe, keep them fit, keep them loving it!
See how amazing it can be? If you'd like to take your instructing further (or if you fancy taking the plunge for the first time); join one of our courses. Our courses are packed with content to help you futureproof your career and stay ahead of the rest. To be trained as an indoor cycling instructor, you don't need prior fitness qualifications - you can start right here, and we'll ensure you get the most comprehensive training available in the UK. We also offer post-course support so you're not on your own.
Check out our courses in the menu above, or contact Angela at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details - or encouragement!