ONCE UPON A STUDIO

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In 2004, siblings Bill Pryor and Alex Klemmer set out to create one of the first independent cycling studios in the country. Bill and Alex come from a tight-knit family with seven(!) children, and they drew inspiration from their other sister’s small and successful cycling studio in Chicago.

Bill, then a corporate executive, and Alex, a stay-at-home mom, had both taken numerous cycling classes at traditional fitness centers. The workout was usually good, but the quality of the experience was inconsistent.

They visited several thriving studios in Los Angeles and had their AHA! moment when they experienced a sell-out ride in a pay-per-class studio. When the facility was nice, the music was great, and the instructor had the right energy; the classes were magical and addictive.

They wanted to refine the concept and bring it to Boston. While Bill crunched the numbers and Alex created the vibe, this dynamic duo used their complimentary skills to open their first dedicated studio a year later. They have been perfecting their high-energy, cycling-focused concept ever since.

As the CycleBar brand expands to cities all over the country, we got a chance to talk to Bill about what makes his studio—the studio that started it all—so successful.

What made your studio so successful?
We have a convenient location in a great neighborhood, but it’s more than that. From the beginning, we stressed that a great class is much more than a workout. Our top instructors create an energy-driven performance using music, lighting, and other dramatic elements. In addition, the studio has an intimate vibe that is extremely different from the traditional “gym” environment. It’s a true community. We’ve run hundreds of fundraisers and other special events at the studio over the years, we have cross-promoted other local business, we are visible in the community in a very real way. When people find a workout that is fun, in an environment that they enjoy, they build it into their lives in a regular, repeatable way—and that is why we have been successful.

You and Alex are both instructors. How did that happen?
In the beginning, we relied primarily on experienced instructors we hired from other health clubs in the area. We are both extroverts who love music and fitness, so eventually, we decided to give instructing a try. We’d always taken classes and said, “I would love to do that!” As it turns out, we were both good at it in our own unique way. We developed strong followings and regularly sold out rides, so we added more classes to our schedule.

Today, our studio has 14 instructors and more than 40 classes per week. Alex and I both still teach 3 or 4 times a week, because it connects us to our riders in a very real way and keeps us highly engaged at the studio. We love it.

How have you contributed to the popularity of indoor cycling?
Indoor cycling has always had a reputation for intensity, which scares a lot of people away. We have worked hard to de-mystify cycling classes and to make them accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels. Men and women, teenagers and retirees, athletes and non-athletes—they all enjoy it. This highly effective workout has a broad appeal. In fact, a huge number of our riders were largely inactive from a fitness standpoint until they discovered our studio. This is highly rewarding. We are making people healthy and happy. What could be better than that?

How has your studio and approach changed in 10 years? That is, how has indoor cycling as a whole changed over the past decade?
The core model for the studio has remained constant, but the tools that we can use are constantly evolving, which changes the class experience in dramatically different ways. The bikes themselves have made huge strides in comfort, reliability, and in their ability to provide performance metrics to riders. Music technology has exploded, which allows creative instructors to integrate an amazing variety of genres, tempos, and eras into their classes. Web-enabled booking and other online services make rider-convenience amazing compared to even 5 years ago. For us, the exciting thing is that these advances will continue to evolve and advance the indoor cycling experience without changing what makes it so great in the first place. We can’t wait to see what happens next!

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