In the boutique indoor cycling scene, you’re either Team SoulCycle or Team Flywheel.
Though Flywheel’s following is a little quieter and little less diehard than SoulCycle’s cultish following, it’s rapidly catching up to its competitor.
A recent major marketing and branding overhaul has filled in any gaps Flywheel had, and some new improvements and expansion plans make it an even stronger competitor in the silent indoor cycling wars.
Chief Marketing Officer Tamara Odinec told Business Insider that this overhaul was about catching the brand’s looks up to the product that it offers.
“We wanted to catch our brand up with who we are today and who we appeal to with our ridership, so it’s important for us to think how we’re showing up to the world,” Odinec said to Business Insider. “And that meant revamping all aspects of our experience to ensure that what [riding] prospects see when they come to visit our site is indicative of what they find when they come to the stadiums and studios.”
Further, Flywheel has given its website a major boost. Here’s what the home page looks like now.
The heart of a cycling class, though, is the instructor. SoulCycle instructors are known for their personalities, and it appears Flywheel wants to remind users that their instructors — though more coach-like than their SoulCycle counterparts — are a crucial part of each class’s equation.
To highlight instructor’s personalities, Flywheel has improved instructor bio pages, which include more digestible bios, confessions of guilty pleasures, class descriptions, and their current music.
Odinec swears these changes weren’t inspired by SoulCycle; they are “completely independent of anything our competitors are doing.”
However, the resemblance to SoulCycle’s instructor bio pages is undeniable, and SoulCycle is Flywheel’s biggest competitor — it filed to go public in July. (Flywheel is private and does not disclose financials.)
It proves that Flywheel has caught up aesthetically, at the very least, to where it was lagging behind in the industry.
But what has long separated Flywheel from SoulCycle and its “pack” with its “soulful” jargon is its technology. A “Torq Board” clues people into how hard they’re actually working, by indicating resistance, cadence, and overall power output.
As a part of this brand overhaul, Flywheel has improved the Torq Boards by making them more personal; the Torq Board greets riders by name when they arrive at their bikes. Flywheel has also updated each instructor’s dashboards, so that every instructor knows who is a new rider and how they’re progressing. The company has also added in a feature in which the app suggests classes to riders based on their past classes. (The personalised details also serve as a stark contrast to SoulCycle’s emphasis on “riding with the pack.”)
The importance of improved technology seems more crucial than ever, especially given the rise of cycling company Peloton. Peloton streams live classes to stationery bikes in users’ homes. It swept up $75 million in funding in December.
Perhaps the most interesting new addition is a feature which autobooks classes. SoulCycle is known for its infamous booking policy — classes notoriously open for the week on Mondays at 12 p.m. Similarly, Flywheel’s classes open for registration the Sunday night before at 5 p.m. Flywheel has now implemented an autobook procedure for riders who want a regular seat in a particular class, mitigating any concerns that they will have to sign up at 5 p.m. on the dot.
The company is in rapid expansion mode, too. The company recently launched its thirty-sixth studio, and CEO Ed Kinnaly told Business Insider this summer that by the end of 2016, Flywheel will open about 20 more. By 2017, Flywheel is looking to expand to Europe and Asia. Kinnaly said he expected to have 150-175 studios across the continental US and 75 international studios within five years.
And though Flywheel won’t openly say it, it is the anti-SoulCycle. SoulCycle tells inexperienced riders to stay away from the front; in FlyWheel’s class stadium seating, everyone can see the instructor, and the inclusive ethos is central to the company’s success.
“We have created a very kind of supportive and encouraging community of people where it’s not about who’s prettier or who has more jewellery or who has the better workout outfit,” founder Ruth Zukerman said to Business Insider this past summer.
And Flywheel aims to emphasise its inclusivity with its new brand overhaul.
“The update with our brand identity is really our desire to focus on what our underlying values and equities are,” Odinec said, describing the company as “inclusive,” “authentic,” and “empowering.”
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