In today’s world of boutique fitness, whether standalone or club-in-club, indoor cycling studios are sanctuaries of ritual and community. Attendance becomes almost a religion among devoted fans. Symbols (logos) are worn with pride – a mark of identity and belonging. Devotees gather at the appointed time, showing unswerving loyalty to their guru – their chosen instructor.
And just as the world’s religions have their distinct stories to tell, so fitness studios have diversified and created their own philosophies to set themselves apart.
When working with new clients, our first question is always: ‘What do you believe?’
Where previously, indoor cycling looked similar the world over – go-getting, fitness-focused, push hard and then push harder – now distinct models are emerging to appeal to a multi-generational group of devotees. Amid messages of diversity and inclusion, new styles and formats have recast indoor cycling as ‘moving meditation’, spawning a new generation of studios where the focus is less on physical appearance and more on a lasting state of happiness and fulfilment.
It is the belief system, the ethos, the brand story that now distinguishes one cycling studio from another.
Design around the nuances
So, what does all this mean from a design perspective?
Just as architecture differs in form and function across houses of worship, so indoor cycling studios should also be designed based on the brand’s belief.
The studio design for a rhythm cycling class should be very different from the design for a performance class; trying to blend the needs of outdoor cyclists with those of choreography-based rhythm riders, all in one space, is where many studios fail.
IT’S NO ACCIDENT THATFLYWHEEL AND SOULCYCLEHAVE STARK CONTRASTSIN THEIR STUDIO DESIGN
But it isn’t impossible. With keen observation, meticulous planning and great creativity, we’ve been very successful in blending a variety of indoor cycling styles, delivering waitlisted classes and industry-crushing growth for our clients around the world.
Identify the contradictions
Think about the differences between SoulCycle and Flywheel. Before their division, all three founders had the same beliefs and philosophy. But now? Fly has screens and TorqBoards, Soul has candles and choreography. Soul distributes shoes from behind the front desk, Fly is a self-serve system with shoes in cubbies that correspond to the bike number. Sidebars and bikes on one level or stadium seating? There are reasons behind every decision, and it’s no accident that Flywheel and SoulCycle have stark contrasts in their studio design.
TVs and projection screens can be intrusive in a rhythm class, while the performance crowd enjoys friendly competition and checking stats on a leaderboard. Screens can also be useful for charity events, bride rides, birthday celebrations – yet they are considered “clutter” that contradict the digital detox offered by rhythm studios.
Ceiling or wall fans are mandatory for some studio owners, yet others believe fans cause arguments among instructors and members.
The true roadies and performance cyclists would be mortified to ride with a set of pink hand weights behind the saddle, yet others believe they are essential to the class format.
Even within the rhythm religion, there are contradictions: some teach freestyle with little resistance and an RPM over 120; others adhere to traditional form as certified by the likes of Mad Dogg or Schwinn.
WHY USE THE SAME DESIGN AND LANGUAGE AS YOUR COMPETITOR TO CLAIM HOW UNIQUE YOU ARE?
Chilled, scented towels after the finish line? Some believe in passing them out as a sweet reward – an integral part of a signature class. These studios require a discrete, flush-mounted small refrigerator inside the studio. Others believe towels are a waste of time and money and eliminate them all together. Problems arise when inconsistency creeps in and it’s a hit or miss amenity.
Many studio owners believe clients should come early and stay late. They need studios designed with generous social spaces to create a welcoming community – a home away from home. Others insist on small common areas to allow space for more bikes, which means getting people in and out quickly.
Ask yourself this…
Technical concerns such as sound mitigation, humidity control and reducing slippage will always be a top priority. However, when working with new clients, our first question is always: “What do you believe?”
We then design studios to reflect that belief, asking questions such as:
KNOW THE ‘WHY’ BEHIND EVERY DESIGN DECISION AND FIERCELY UPHOLD WHAT YOU BELIEVE
There are no right or wrong answers to the above questions, but it is important to think about these details. You’d be surprised by how many people don’t. If you want your brand to inspire loyalty and ignite imagination, why would you use the same design style and brand language as your competitor to claim how unique you are?
Before hiring an architect or selecting a location, you must know the ‘why’ behind every design decision and fiercely uphold what you believe.
About the Barbara Chancey Design Group
“Unlike many traditional design firms, my entire team teaches, takes or observes classes relentlessly,” says Barbara Chancey, founder of the Barbara Chancey Design Group. “Our strength comes in designing beautifully functional spaces, approaching every brief through the eyes of instructors.
“Always mindful of the enormous effort it takes to fill a class, we include thoughtful features for instructors, with meticulous details to help them deliver a superior experience. This results in creative classes, increased retention, waitlists and industry-crushing growth for our clients.”
She continues: “When working with new clients, our first question is always: ‘What do you believe?’ We then create studio designs to reflect that belief – designs that reflect your brand and that are able to grow with you.
“In the words of Simon Sinek from his TED Talk on great leaders: ‘Hire people who believe what you believe, and you’ll never fail.’
“Studio owners, what do you believe?”
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