Wattbike at LIW2014: The Future of Indoor Cycling
Ahead of Leisure Industry Week 2014 we sat down with Health Club Management and discussed our unique history, how the Wattbike can help operators attract new members and look ahead to some exciting developments ahead for our company.
We’ll be launching our new indoor group cycling software at LIW2014 – Wattbike Power Cycling Studio Edition – and we look forward to seeing you there. Download our Commercial Brochure now.
How did the Wattbike come into existence?
The head of performance at British Cycling, Peter Keen – who was Chris Boardman’s coach at the time – wanted to create a new type of training bike that was unlike anything else on the market. The team at Wattbike had already built a conceptual idea of what this could look like and then began to consult with Peter to develop the end result. The product proposal came with a long wish list. The bike had to be accurate, give detailed scientific analysis, have universal appeal (from kids through to top athletes), be affordable, as well as offer an authentic ride experience that was close to an outdoor ride.
When did you launch?
After the initial discussions with Peter Keen and British Cycling it took eight years to perfect the product, launching Wattbike in the autumn of 2008. Keen had wanted an indoor bike that could test his top cyclists and also find the next generation of talent (cyclists Laura Trott and Lizzie Armitstead were both talent ID-ed on Wattbike), but it soon became apparent that the Wattbike had a much broader appeal.
From the outset we worked closely with National Governing Bodies and became involved with Olympic sports like rowing, track and field and hockey. UK Sport and the English Institute of Sport adopted the bike early on, and we’ve also grown a very large presence in the military, especially at rehab centres like Headley Court. In the past couple of years, with the explosion of indoor cycling in fitness clubs and dedicated studios, we’ve seen 100 per cent growth in sales year-on-year in this market too.
What’s so unique about the Wattbike?
Unlike most indoor bikes you’ll find on the gym floor, the Wattbike has a chain, chainring and sprocket just like a normal cycle enabling the Wattbike to freewheel and match the experience of riding outdoors. Part of the Wattbike’s resistance is magnetic, but most of it comes from a wind turbine situated at the front of the bike, which is the smoothest way of applying force to the rider. It’s also calibrated exactly as it would be to a rider on the open road.
It also offers a Polar View, which is able to track the force of the left leg and right leg and evaluate how efficient and effective your pedalling is. The majority of people have imbalances in their legs, which can travel up to cause discomfort and injury in the lower back. The Wattbike is the only piece of kit that can accurately assess this imbalance.
Why would fitness clubs want a Wattbike?
It’s a very effective diagnostic tool, so it’s popular with personal trainers who can accurately measure the progress of clients. Because the Wattbike measures power so accurately, and doesn’t just depend on heart rate, it can more effectively calculate your best training zone so you get a more efficient workout. The bike can be marketed as a complete fitness test, and has six key tests built in, including VO2 Max (which is within 4 per cent accuracy of a full laboratory gas analysis).
Can it be used in a group cycle setting?
Yes of course, and with the huge boom in cycling many enthusiasts are actively looking for gyms offering Wattbikes. There are around seven million gym members in the UK and 13 million cyclists. That gives some idea of how clubs can grow their membership by attracting a whole new and loyal market.
The Wattbike comes with its own software called Power Cycling, which enables clubs to easily set up their own classes. This software calculates the right training zone for each cyclist, which means that you could have Bradley Wiggins in the same class as a complete novice and each would get an effective workout because they’re matched to their personal training zone. It’s also one of the very few pieces of gym kit that can be incorporated into a HIIT class like Tabata, because resistance can be set quickly for each member and it measures the net force applied to the pedals accurately.
How can clubs ‘sell’ the Wattbike to members?
We offer comprehensive training to clubs and like to include all their sales team. It’s easy to walk past the Wattbike thinking it’s just another exercise bike. But once they know, for instance, that it’s used extensively by top England rugby and football players who can offload their weight and use it as an effective rehab and training tool, this immediately widens its appeal.
Similarly, when athlete Jessica Ennis missed the 2008 Olympic Games through injury, her coach Toni Minichiello started to use the Wattbike as a conditioning tool. However, he soon realised he could use it to assess her leg speed and power, and so it became an integral part of her training programme right up to London 2012. When Virgin Active became sponsors of the London Triathlon, it needed to offer members an effective means of training for a triathlon, and so Wattbike became its product of choice.
We also provide marketing tools for use in-club. If there’s no instructor on hand a member can pick up a training card displayed next to the bike (currently branded for cyclists, general fitness and weight management) and take themselves through a programme.
What’s new and what’s next for Wattbike?
We’re beginning to expand our training programmes, working with all the leading NGBs to find the best training methods that can be applied to the bike. If people follow these programmes, they can really get phenomenal results.
Our other big area of expansion is technology, looking at how we can best enable the push and pull of data. The Wattbike Performance Monitor is ANT+ enabled which allows users to wirelessly transfer their Wattbike session data to products and services such as Garmin, Suunto or MyZone. The next stage is looking at making our monitors wi-fi enabled, so when a person has finished their Wattbike workout they can store their data in the cloud, drawing it down again for the next workout.
In April, Wattbike’s advanced technology gained recognition at the Sports Technology Awards, where it won the award for Best Training Product and was praised by judges for its “performance indicators, real time feedback and realistic styling”. We were delighted to be recognised in this way, but it’s also important to point out that while Wattbike is a highly scientific training tool, it’s also a very intuitive machine that, quite simply, is great fun to ride. Anyone who loves riding a bike will love riding a Wattbike.