Cycling Instructors: Racing to the Top
Industry experts share tips for finding top-tier cycling instructors and creating the best indoor cycling experience at your facility.
Indoor cycling has become one of the most popular Group X offerings among consumers. As a result, gyms need to put a lot of thought into how to create the best indoor cycling experience in order to compete.
At CycleBar — a national chain with more than 200 locations in the U.S. — this begins with having a great, motivating instructor leading the class.
“Cycling instructors are essentially the product,” said Tevia Celli, the vice president of experience at CycleBar. “They must be dynamic and be able to deliver not only a great workout but an experience for the rider.”
As a result, CycleBar looks for two traits when identifying potential cycling instructors:
- They must have rhythm.
- They must have a personality that can command a room.
“We can teach them everything else,” added Celli. “I always tell our studios that are recruiting that when they see a potential instructor by either taking their class or in an audition, the person must be worth $25 a class, three times a week, week after week, month after month and year after year. The experience must be emotional as well as physical.”
At In-Shape Health Clubs — with around 45 locations in California — a great indoor cycling experience also begins with the person leading the class.
“Success in a cycling experience begins and ends with a motivating and passionate instructor,” said Rachelle Gardette, the senior director of fitness programming, education and innovation at In-Shape Health Clubs. “Without a motivating and connected instructor or coach, a class can fall flat and feel long or tedious.”
As a result, In-Shape strategically looks for instructors who are motivational and high-energy in nature.
“We recruit and train instructors who are bigger than life and use their coaching and cuing to inspire the members to be better than they were in the last class,” said Gardette. “A great instructor is super passionate about making the member’s day better no matter what they have encountered or will encounter that day. They make them forget any problems and work it all out on that bike.”
Once the talent has been identified, the next element to consider when crafting a great indoor cycling experience is the environment.
“Lighting is key,” said Celli. “We have lighting in our theater that can be changed during the class to add to the experience. In addition, make sure the rider can always see the instructor. Place bikes staggered so a rider’s view is never blocked by someone in front of them. Make sure the instructor bike is elevated so they can be seen.”
Gardette echoed these tips, adding the layout of the room should feel inviting and create community, like riding with a team. “The lighting elements should also match the mood for each style of ride, from a sunrise ride or a dark studio rhythm ride,” she said.
In addition, technology and equipment are vital aspects to consider. Gardette shared the following to keep in mind:
- Offer an easy-to-use bike — such as Keiser — that tracks your output as well as provides resistance and a comfortable ride. Nobody wants to fumble with adjusting their bike the whole time.
- Offer technology that measures performance. Members work hard and want — and deserve — credit for it and for simply showing up. This keeps them motivated.
- Carefully consider audio equipment. Clarity and pitch of the instructor, and clarity and bass of the music are key.
- Regarding indoor cycling trends, Celli said virtual classes were popular during the pandemic, but she believes this trend will fade as gyms continue to reopen.
“I am seeing a lot more virtual experiences happening, but I do believe people will find their way back to a studio where they can ride with a community present in the room,” said Celli. “Nothing replaces in-person human connection.”
For Gardette, focusing on the entire indoor cycling experience — from the music to the lighting — is a trend she foresees continuing to be top of mind in this space.
“In addition to things like dark rooms and themed rides we’ve seen over the last few years, cycling really has become an experience rather than just music and movement,” said Gardette. “It’s about creating that feeling of inclusion, connection and maybe some friendly competition. We’re seeing some emerging technology being used to email members their stats after rides and keep them engaged in their performance.”
Keeping these trends in mind, don’t forget the most important element of a cycling class: the instructor, who ultimately drives the overall experience for those in the room.
“A great instructor will coach their participants to push themselves and stay engaged during the whole workout. By the time they look up, 45 minutes has flown by,” said Gardette. “That’s what we are looking for. I’m looking for an instructor that makes every member forget about everything else going on in their life, even if it’s just for that hour.”