UNIVERSITY PARK -- Most fitness buffs or those new to the workout scene wouldn't expect to find LED lights and a DJ booth reminiscent of a nightclub in a gym, but for CycleBar customers, the "rock concert-like" atmosphere is de rigueur.
Sarasota's first CycleBar opens Thursday with its first free class at 5:45 a.m. and follows with 10 days of free classes. According to the CycleBar fact sheet, the indoor cycling chain is a "luxury boutique fitness franchise" with specialty light and sound systems, high-energy video graphics and personalized performance data.
CycleBar riders walk into the studio where they reserve a specific bike on an iPad if they haven't already done so through online reservations. Next, riders select a pair of cycling shoes provided by CycleBar. They're led through the studio's community room, where riders can rehydrate and perhaps plan rides for CycleGiving, CycleBar's ride-for-charity program. Then they enter the CycleBar studio where an instructor will take them through an exhilarating 50-minute bike workout.
The Sarasota CycleBar, 5275 University Parkway, is owned by Ciclo Management, named for the Italian word for cycle. Ciclo hopes to bring an additional 10 to 15 CycleBar studios to the I-4 corridor between Tampa and Orlando over the
next year and a half.
CycleBar is a part of the growing trend of indoor cycling not only nationwide but also in Florida. According to Spynergy Consulting Services -- who helps "develop business plans, build websites and assist in the challenges of launching and operating these specialized fitness businesses" -- Florida is fourth in the nation for the number of indoor cycling studios. Spynergy's data collection regarding cycling studios did not include cycling classes or studios within larger health clubs or multi-purpose gyms. The CycleBar franchise is built on Spynergy's business model.
Patrick Valentine is an instructor at CycleBar. He started cycling outside and still enjoys outdoor biking, but said there are many reasons for people to make the switch from outdoor to indoor.
"It's hard to crash when you're inside," Valentine said. "You don't have to worry about the hands on a steering wheel of a Toyota Camry. That's always in the back of your mind when you're outside. Plus, you can't control the elements; you can't control potholes or the weather." Valentine said those reasons plus the many amenities offered by indoor cycling studios draw people in.
Annie Bernstein, vice president of operations and marketing for Ciclo Management said the CycleBar experience is one-of-a-kind and offers mental benefits not offered by outdoor cycling.
"You can close your eyes in there and almost meditate," Bernstein said.
CycleBar is one of many indoor cycling studios in the Manatee-Sarasota area, including the Go Legs Cycle Studio in Bradenton, On1 Cycle in Sarasota and Rotations Indoor Cycling and TRX Studio in Lakewood Ranch.
Sandy Birczak owns Rotations, which has been open nearly three years. Birczak built a reputation with clients by working as an instructor at other area gyms and cycling studios before branching out on her own. Birczak thinks what she describes as an "awesome sport; especially for anyone with knee ailments" has taken off in Florida for several reasons.
"I think it's good here in Florida because we get hot and when we get hot we get hot quick," Birczak said. With indoor cycling "you're walking into a 70 degree temperature."
The indoor cycling craze may also be a sign of a larger industry trend in the fitness market.
"Boutique, niche fitness concepts are the future of working out," Bernstein said. Birczak agreed and said her small class size keeps customers coming back to Rotations.
"I draw in a lot of people who do not like the bigger atmosphere," Birczak said. "They feel intimidated by that. I know they are with me because they get individual and personable attention."
Janelle O'Dea, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095 or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.