For cyclists, the benefits of getting their sweat on at group shop trainer classes as opposed to alone in the basement are obvious. Structured training, and having others to hold them accountable makes training bearable, and sometimes even…dare we say fun?
For retailers, offering trainer classes helps to boost sales, keep more employees on staff during the winter, increase their number of regular customers, and differentiate their shop from others in the area.
“Having off-season trainer classes not only helps financially, but mentally too. For our staff, there’s no winter doldrums here. There isn’t a single day where we don’t have at least a handful of our regulars come in,” explains Sam Morgen of NOW Bikes and Fitness in Minnesota.
Clark Butcher, owner of Victory Bicycle Studio in Tennessee adds, “The biggest benefit for us is the increased facetime with customers. Hosting trainer classes gives me even more one-on-one time with customers, which builds trust and keeps them coming in the shop year-round.”
Both Morgen and Butcher work at similarly-sized shops that offer a bit of everything from high-end carbon road bikes to aluminum hybrids. They cater to casual riders who might compete in a handful of races or organized rides each year and who enjoy riding for the experience and exercise. They also both offer indoor trainer classes and have enjoyed the benefits of running multi-year long programs that customers rave about.
Their programs are similar in some ways, but also differ in key areas. Despite their shops’ similarities, they’ve found their own ways to maximize class profits and popularity. Read on to gain tips from Morgen and Butcher on creating or improving your own indoor trainer program in a way that works for your shop.
“We’ve landed on a pretty standard schedule of starting in late September or early October, having a break during the holidays, then picking back up again in early January. So, each year, we offer two 8-week sessions. Each session has multiple options as far as days and times go, but they’re mostly during shop hours in the evenings.” – Morgen
“We started out with classes on Wednesdays and Fridays from 6-7 am. They sold out fast so we added more classes and now offer classes year-round, 6 days per week from 6-7 am. We’ve tried evening classes too, but it made more sense for us to stick with mornings due to store hours and staff availability.” – Butcher
- There are plenty of reasons to offer classes during the spring, summer, and fall including customer retention, daylight, safety, etc.
- If your staff is responsible for setting up trainers and/or coaching classes, consider scheduling classes outside of business hours so that you’re able to have a full staff available while customers are in the store
- Busy working professionals and parents appreciate early morning classes (6 am) or evening classes on weekdays
- Avoid scheduling classes during the holidays
“I use coaching as an incentive for our employees. After they’ve been here for a year and have spent some time sitting in on classes, they’re allowed to teach. Each coach keeps 100% of the class registration fees if they fill classes. They like it because it’s a significant pay increase, and I like it because I don’t have to teach all the classes.” – Butcher
“We currently have two coaches who we hired many years ago based on word of mouth. We have riders who sign up for specific classes just because they like our coaches so much.” – Morgen
- Decide up front if you want to invest time and resources in training your staff to teach classes, or would rather hire coaches from outside your shop
- Choose outgoing and enthusiastic individuals to coach
- Have coaches select upbeat, non-vulgar music for classes
“We don’t have a large floorplan. Our 14-person training space takes up about 20% of it, but we’ve seen a huge value in having a dedicated space. Don’t cram people into a small space just to maximize profits.” – Morgen
“Since our classes are at 6 am on weekdays, we move the bikes out of the middle of the sales floor at night, train in that space in the morning, and then set up the bikes afterwards. It’s actually a pretty slick process.” – Butcher
- If you have the room, having a dedicated training space is optimal
- Use the sales floor as a training space by keeping product on rolling displays that are easy to move
- Schedule classes before or after store hours if you need to use the sales floor
“Over time, we’ve decided to invest higher-end trainers here. Each of the 14 stations has a Wahoo Kickr and iPad so riders can track their power numbers. A lot of them get hooked on training by power and end up buying power meters for their bike. While we have a pretty tech-savvy setup, I wouldn’t say that’s completely necessary or even typical for smaller or newer shops. It’s definitely not where we started!” – Morgen
“We’ve had the same trainers since the beginning. They’ve lasted almost 7 years. We actually did a survey recently to see if riders wanted a smart trainer set up, and most of them said no so we stuck with the ones we have.” – Butcher
- You don’t need the newest top-of-the-line equipment to get started
- Select trainers that are easy to pack up and move if your training space is the sales floor
- If using smart trainer technology, be sure your staff can solve any tech issues that may arise
- Invest in a bangin’ sound system (direct quote from Clark Butcher)
- Supply fans so that clients stay cool when the trainer space gets hot
- Regularly inspect trainers and customers’ bikes to ensure they’re in proper working order
“We base our pricing off of yoga classes in the area, which has worked well. When coming up with a price structure, also keep in mind that riders who take classes will be purchasing more nutritionals, apparel, and coming in for maintenance more often, which adds to your bottom line.” – Butcher
“The biggest thing for us has been building a community and loyal customer base that wants to be in the store. That generates a lot of sales and tons of other benefits that we didn’t expect when we started.” – Morgen
- If you’re giving up retail space for your trainer program, crunch the numbers to find out how much you need to charge to offset potential lost sales
- Remember that having trainer classes also presents increased sales opportunities
- Offer bike storage for trainer class participants for a fee
- Determine how you plan on compensating coaches
“We think of our classes as a natural extension of our group rides, but taken indoors. In a studio space, everyone can ride at their own intensity and no one gets dropped. It’s become a really great rider community.” – Morgen
“I have everyone from casual riders on hybrids to triathletes on carbon bikes next to each other. That’s the beauty of being on a trainer - no one cares how fast you’re going! While they could just as easily train at home, they come here because it challenges them to work harder, stay engaged, and build the trainer class program around staying fit.” – Butcher
- The little things are big things: clean bathrooms, complimentary towels, playing your clients’ favorite songs, helping them set up their bike
- Keep training jargon to a minimum and take the time to explain it
- Focus on keeping the experience fun, not competitive
“Through joining our classes, a lot of our clients become members of our cycling club and, as a result, join in on our outdoor group rides and attend store events.” – Morgen
“90% of the clothing we sell has our brand on it and 90% of the people who come to our rides and classes are rocking our gear. They care about our shop and want it to be successful.” – Butcher
- Advertise classes via email, social, shop flyers, and word of mouth
- Make outdoor rides an extension of indoor rides
- Stock customized shop apparel
Any bike shop can benefit from offering off-season trainer classes. Get started now and increase your off-season traffic, give your employees more individualized time with customers, and set your shop apart from the competition.
Be sure to check with your insurance agent about coverage for holding indoor training sessions at your shop. Whether or not you charge a fee for the sessions, it is recommended that participants sign an appropriate waiver or release.