This post is prompted by some great points made by Chuck Cali in his comment on the article titled, “How To HIIT on Outdoor Riders.” Click that link and scroll down to read his comment. It’s too long to post in full here, but the overarching question he is asking is: “Why are we trying to bring outdoor riders to indoor cycling classes?”
It’s a valid question. Both Tom Scotto and Jennifer Sage have written their replies below.
Tom Scotto’s reply:
It can be frustrating to focus on pulling in those outdoor brethren, and to what end? It is also true that most of those who attend indoor classes are not outdoor riders. The focus on bringing in the outdoors can be different depending on the facility and location. Some smaller studios have a greater need for this population for their sustainability; larger, big box clubs always welcome the additional memberships. I’ve taught in studios all over the country and found the differences to be vast.
In the Boston area where I teach, there is a larger population of outdoor riders. Just to clarify, when I say outdoor rider, I’m not solely talking about the elite competitive cyclist. Outdoor riders in my vernacular refer to weekend recreational riders, charity riders, and those that compete on various levels from beginner to advanced. Since Boston has a larger volume of outdoor cyclists, my classes vary from 20% to 40% outdoor folk who are mostly recreational and charity riders.
I also apologize if I led people to believe that classes of 60 minutes or less were not adequate to train for riding outdoors or not desirable for “real” cyclists. To be more specific, “endurance” training for those participating in multi-hour events should consist of sessions 90 minutes or longer. These long rides are only one type of training focus. All other cycling training needs can be accomplished indoors. From those I’ve talked to, outdoor riders appreciate both 45- to 60-minute classes if they have a purpose and use methods that promote cycling fitness. During the bad weather months, outdoor cyclists are looking for a place to train. Bad weather, a change of pace, and a fun environment will drive us indoors during the rest of the year.
It is my conviction that the class length is NOT the reason outdoor riders are deterred from indoor cycling classes. To quote a rider I talked to on my last outdoor group ride, “You teach indoor cycling? Those classes are a joke! The instructors don’t know a thing about cycling and we did some of the stupidest stuff ever. It was a total waste of time.” Other riders overheard our conversation and chimed in with their own horror stories. These comments were not easy to swallow while wearing my ICA kit.
In the end, we have to ask this question: Why are individuals who want to improve their fitness on a bike not attracted to cycling classes? It sounds silly when we think about it in this context. Saying we are not interested in people who ride bikes coming to our cycling classes is also an odd statement. An indoor cycling industry that does not attract people who cycle should raise more than a few eyebrows.
If we teach classes that promote effective fitness on a bike, coupled with great music and motivational instructors, everyone will want to join in, including outdoor riders.
Jennifer Sage’s reply:
You all know I’m 100% in favor of reaching out to outdoor cyclists. I believe that if we teach our classes as if we are aiming to improve performance like a cyclist might do, then we will also better meet the goals of the non-cyclists, because in the process you are far more likely to improve general fitness and burn more calories for the weight-loss crowd than if you resort to non-cycling gimmicks on a bike. As Tom says, you are likely to attract more cyclists because you “get it” and the word will get out.
I want to respond to Chuck’s comment questioning why we would teach Tour de France stages since most indoor students have little to no idea about the Tour, they don’t watch it, and we won’t likely attract the serious cyclists anyway. So why bother?
Even in my region with a large population of outdoor riders, many of my students knew very little about the Tour. A few watched the highlights in the afternoon; only one got up early to watch part of it live. The first year I taught at this particular club (2006), I introduced them to Tour de France stages and they were blown away. For the first time ever at that club, those classes in July had more than a small handful of students. My class told me they had never experienced such fun, dramatic, and emotional “Spinning” classes as those TDF stages, nor had they worked so hard. They did not know an indoor class could be this exciting! Most only knew about the yellow jersey, so they were fascinated to learn the more intricate details about the strategy of bike racing, and everyone loved the interesting and fun trivia I gave them during our Tour.
I believe some of my profiles based on Tour de France stages are some of the MOST fun in my entire repertoire. Who cares if they are not cyclists, or if they knew nothing about the Tour—isn’t that the goal of any indoor cycling profile? If you can offer incredibly fun, exciting rides with great music, why would you not do that? Big bonus that the rides are based on a bike race and that they “keep it real”!
But guess what? After that, word got around, and I started to have even more cyclists show up during the winter who normally stayed away from indoor cycling classes.
If you build it, they will come! 😉