Connecticut cycling studios pivot during pandemic era of home workouts

Joining a spinning class is more than a workout, it’s about camaraderie. At least that’s what the Vice President of Experience at CycleBar Tevia Celli thinks. According to Celli, that’s the very thing that spin class participants lost when the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered studios for several months.

“It’s great to be able to train at home, but the one thing you’ll never get at home is that community — riding with other people and that extra support,” Celli said.

Riding at home was what many spin class enthusiasts turned to when in-person classes came to a halt. Home cycling options like Peloton have become the next best thing, and Peloton’s nearly $3.15 billion worldwide revenue in 2021 underscores riders’ desire to continue from home. The cycling brand even has two physical stores in Connecticut, in Westport and West Hartford. Stationary bikes as a whole saw triple-digit sales increases during the height of the pandemic, recording a 170% sales increase in 2020, market research firm NPD reported.

JoyRide Cycling has taken over Shift Cycling’s former location at 199 Crown St.

Kyle P Norton / Contributed

The impact has been felt across the fitness industry, according to Amy Hocchauser, co-owner, founder and CEO of JoyRide Cycling + Fitness.

“The fitness industry, and small independent fitness studios in particular, have been decimated by the pandemic,” she said in an email. “Thirty percent have closed and 1.4 million jobs have been lost. One in three studios is still threatened with bankruptcy.

Hocchauser’s JoyRide Studios took a similar hit.

“We have been mandated to close for three months and have been operating at reduced capacity since July 2020,” she said. “Before the pandemic, we had seven thriving locations, and now only two remain open: Westport and New Haven.”

As the studios closed, they learned to pivot, and to do that they had to meet their riders where they were: home.

Early in the pandemic, Celli said CycleBar’s parent company, Xponential Fitness, launched an on-demand fitness platform called XPLUS. Giving members access to live and on-demand workouts ranging from cycling and rowing to barre and boxing, Celli said the platform has become a trusted way for their customers to continue training. practice despite closed studio doors.

“Maybe they didn’t have a bike at home, but they could do the PureBarre,” Celli said. “They could do Pilates, and they were training with the different things we had.”

CycleBar, an indoor cycling studio founded in Boston, has expanded to include locations nationwide.

CycleBar, an indoor cycling studio founded in Boston, has expanded to include locations nationwide.

cycle bar

Nearly two years into the pandemic in the United States, Celli said the on-demand platform offered by the company, which has cycling studios in Fairfield, West Hartford, Canton and Waterford, is proving always beneficial as positivity rates fluctuate nationwide.

“That’s something we’re still falling back on in some areas that are really hot spots right now,” Celli said. “Where we see a decline, we offer that.”

JoyRide made a similar pivot during the pandemic and launched JoyRideGO which offers an at-home selection of 50 on-bike and “off-bike” Pilates and strength classes. JoyRide also streams its cycling classes using Forte.Fit, which offers fitness classes at fitness studios across the country.

Hocchauser said their virtual offerings have “been a good way to keep customers who couldn’t return to the studio connected to JoyRide.”

For Celli, having CycleBar’s classes, and then some available on-demand for their customers, has been an “added bonus,” even now that the lockdowns and travel restrictions that marked the early days of the pandemic have dissipated.

But that doesn’t mean CycleBar and JoyRide customers have fully converted to their digital course offerings.

Both Celli and Hocchauser said their studios have continued COVID-19 safety protocols, which include sanitizing machines and high-touch surfaces, and spacing machines in classrooms, among other measures. JoyRide also requires proof of vaccination, Hocchauser noted, and requires staff to wear masks. CycleBar added UV air filters to its studios and switched to non-contact recordings for classes.

SoulCycle studios in Greenwich and Westport are following suit in their COVID-19 safety measures, requiring proof of vaccination for cyclists, increasing cleaning of equipment and surfaces and installing new air filtration systems.

Beyond the coronavirus safety measures that have become standard in fitness facilities, Celli and Hocchauser said what keeps their customers coming back is the in-studio community that can’t be replicated online.

“You have these people who have been training together or have been on the same course and the same instructor for maybe a few years,” Celli said. “They’re hanging out with these people on the worst day of their lives, or they’re going to have some of the best times of their lives and they’re on their bikes with these people — there’s this unspoken community.”

At Hocchauser’s JoyRide, the community the brand is centered on is precisely what keeps them afloat as the pandemic continues to evolve.

Despite the studio’s “vigorous marketing,” Hocchauser said typical marketing efforts to fill JoyRide’s studios, like loyalty programs and class pack sale offers, haven’t been as effective in recent months. . The studio’s riders have since taken matters into their own hands to keep its doors open.

“Over the past 11 years, we’ve hosted dozens of fundraising rides for philanthropies close to the hearts of our riders, as well as needs affecting our community,” Hocchauser said, noting that JoyRide raised approximately $1 million. dollars for such causes. “Now we’re honored that our community is stepping up to help our studio thrive. Several of our loyal customers have also launched a GoFundMe campaign to help us stay afloat until the world returns to ‘normal’.

“Small fitness studios need support,” she added. “Unlike restaurants, the fitness industry has not received targeted government support (restaurants could receive loans and grants; gyms could receive loans and are currently lobbying for additional funding). endlessly, it’s hard to scale up and rebuild our customer base.We need people to come back to JOY, bring their friends and spread the word.

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