It’s usually 5 a.m. or 5 p.m. and usually it’s been a long day. Roughly 40 people shuffle in to find their bikes, and quickly stretch as they mentally prepare for the hour ahead. Collectively, something about that dark room, the blaring pop music and the fierce guidance from the instructor – “left, right, left, right!” – has sparked the recent phenomena of the indoor cycling studio.
In recent years, boutique exercise studios have significantly outpaced growth of traditional health clubs. According to Forbes, chains like SoulCycle, The Bar Method and Flywheel saw 8.5% year-over-year revenue growth versus 2% at traditional “big box” gyms . Specifically, indoor spinning has steadily drawn in new riders attracted to the prospect of burning up to 800 calories per class. With roughly two of every three Americans identified as overweight , these studios are actively working to combat obesity while attracting and retaining new customers. In the case of cycling studio Flywheel Sports, the company has embraced digital tools as a key differentiator. Its performance-tracking technology aims to enhance the rider experience, cultivate personal connections with customers, and ultimately generate brand loyalty .
Climbing to the Top
With nearly 40 established studios and an aggressive growth strategy to enter Europe and Asia in 2017, Flywheel has consistently ranked among the top cycling brands (SoulCycle, founded in 2009, is widely-regarded as its main competitor) . Co-founder Ruth Zukerman, who launched Flywheel after founding SoulCycle, aimed to create an inclusive experience . “I wanted to undo the intimidation. This is done via the stadium seating design, dark lighting, and of course our use of technology in studio and online.”
Flywheel riders are completely immersed in the digital experience. Upon entering a studio, he or she checks in with an iPad and confirms a bike number. The rider then enters the studio, where mini computers, or “tech packs,” are attached to each bike. The packs light up when riders sit down, greeting them by name. The screen lists key
performance metrics including resistance, speed, distance, and a power score that illustrates total energy exerted during the workout. At the front of the room are large screens, where riders can view the power scores of the top 10 performers in the class . Instructors also have access to this data, which is used periodically to encourage riders when they struggle during class. On the backend, this data helps Flywheel address bike maintenance promptly and precisely as needs arise.
Flywheel’s 360-degree use of technology is embedded within its customer promise: “The answer is performance personalization. Our on-bike tech packs let you view and adjust your effort in class. You can share your real-time performance on our in-stadium TorqBoards.” Post class, personal stats are stored on an online Flywheel dashboard. According to Flywheel, these digital features “enhance the ride, make it more efficient, and make it more fun because we can compete with ourselves.” The company plans to publish research to support the premise that its data-driven approach has made setting, managing, and achieving fitness goals more effective than ever.
Data Anywhere, Everywhere
Zukerman’s team also invested heavily in building a Flywheel mobile application, which was enhanced in 2014 to track personal performance and share results . Additional features include a geo check-in for efficient sign-ins at nearby studios; a dashboard highlighting upcoming classes and recent performance data; social sharing to post class reviews and invite Facebook friends to join a class; and a “class rank” feature which shows how a rider ranks against other members of any given session. The rank feature also allowed for “tier 2” filtering by class length, gender and individual metrics .
Overall, Flywheel has differentiated itself amid a rapidly-growing, highly competitive market by instituting a scientific, digital-first strategy for its customers. The following ideas could help Flywheel apply this innovative mindset to business operations:
- Digitizing the foot: Most spin studios require the use of special shoes that clip onto the bike pedal’s hook and secure the rider during the workout. Flywheel could consider the installation of a delicate RFID (radio-frequency identification) sensor embedded within the shoe to track additional data for the rider, such as heart rate and distance traveled.
- Electric bikes: Could Flywheel leverage all these rapid spinners to generate energy for its brick and mortar operations? If it could capitalize on riders’ millions of revolutions for energy production toward its office operations, it could significantly reduce overhead costs of running the studios.
Flywheel may not singlehandedly solve the country’s battle with obesity, but surely it has created a fun, innovative way for consumers of the future to get motivated and get moving.
Word count: 789
 O’Connor, Clare. “As SoulCycle Preps For IPO, Stats Show Boutique Fitness Isn’t Just A Fad.” Forbes 31 July 2015: n. pag. Web. 16 Nov. 2016. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2015/07/31/as-soulcycle-preps-for-ipo-stats-show-boutique-fitness-isnt-just-a-fad/#634052f13049>.
 “A Global Look at Rising Obesity Rates.” Obesity Prevention Source. Harvard T Chan School of Public Health, 14 Apr. 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
 Saint Louis, Catherine. “In New York, a Rivalry Shifts Into High Gear.” , http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/10/fashion/10Spin.html The New York Times, 8 Oct. 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
 Schlossberg, Mallory. “SoulCycle’s Biggest Competitor Is Catching up.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 07 Mar. 2016. Web. 15 Nov. 2016. <http://www.businessinsider.com/flywheel-branding-overhaul-2016-3>.
 Ogunnaike, Nikki. “How One Woman Single-Handedly Changed the Indoor Cycling Game.” Elle Magazine 16 June 2016: Print.
 “Flywheel Has New Spin: A Non-snobby, Tech-savvy and Empowering Ride to Take on SoulCycle.” New York Business Journal, 28 Mar. 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
 Ruth Zukerman Describes the Flywheel Sports Experience. Prod. Flywheel Sports. Perf. Ruth Zukerman. YouTube, 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
 Flywheel Sports. Flywheel Sports Launches The First IOS App Exclusively For Indoor Cycling Enthusiasts Nationwide. PR Newswire, 11 Mar. 2014. Web. 16 Nov. 2016. <http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/flywheel-sports-launches-the-first-ios-app-exclusively-for-indoor-cycling-enthusiasts-nationwide-249517391.html>.
 Polkinghorn, Alexandra. “Flying High at Flywheel Sports.” http://www.vanityfair.com/style/the-beauty-blog/2012/11/Flying-High-at-Flywheel-Sports Vanities. Vanity Fair, 06 Dec. 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
 Flywheel Sports. “About Us.” Flywheelsports.com. Flywheel Sports, 2016. Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <https://www.flywheelsports.com/about>.