A futile search for a dedicated indoor cycle studio prompted Tanya Weeks to embrace the maxim that ‘if it doesn’t exist, build it’. The result was Vicious Cycle, the first group exercise business of its kind in Sydney.
I moved to Sydney three years ago and made Bondi Beach my home. As a runner l was determined to make the most of the beautiful coast for my training and avoid shutting myself away in a big box gym. l was fed up with paying for long locked-in memberships, being mechanically swiped in at reception (often without so much as a hello or even eye contact), waiting in line for classes, getting on old, broken or run down bikes and machines, cycling to bad music, and enduring bad instructors and poor sound.
The only indoor training l wanted to continue was indoor cycle. As a participant for over 10 years, l had developed a deep love for the intensity and results achievable with this incredible interval-based training program. I started to look for standalone indoor cycle studios on the internet, but was surprised to be unable to find one. My research did reveal something interesting however: l came across a great many people looking for the exact same thing that I was – which furthered my curiosity as to why the concept hadn’t already been done in Australia – especially as l discovered multiple standalone studios located throughout the US. Considering the plethora of dedicated yoga, Pilates and personal training studios in my new neighbourhood, l simply couldn’t understand why nobody here had developed a model for an indoor studio.
At the time, l was a buyer in the fashion industry. Unfulfilled in my job, and with a passion for fitness and motivating people, l started to seriously consider developing a model for an indoor cycle-only studio. My move to Sydney had been partially prompted by the ending of an eight-year relationship, resulting in the prospective sale of property that would leave me with some capital to reinvest.
I needed to decide whether l wanted to stay in a well paid but unfulfilling job, or to take a risk and be the first in Sydney – and pretty much the country – to develop and open a standalone cycle studio based on my personal vision of the ultimate indoor cycle experience – despite the fact that I had no professional fitness or cycling background.
The turning point
Then fate intervened to make my mind up for me. In December 2011 l was made redundant. I knew what l had to do. I studied for my Certificate III in Fitness and trained hard to become a cycle instructor. I sold my properties, sourced a consultant in the US with multi standalone indoor cycle studios, and found an agent and a studio space to lease – all within four months. Everything fell into place, and nine months from the day l was made redundant, l opened Vicious Cycle at Bondi Beach.
The name came from my feelings of being trapped in a spiraling circle of negativity, in which I continually felt unhappy and unfulfilled. When l referred to my life a vicious cycle to a friend, they suggested l use the phrase as my studio name. I thought it was a brilliant idea – and a great way for me to redirect my life and reclaim the saying into something positive, not just for me, but for everyone who would experience the energy and passion in the new studio. I wanted to change my life and other people’s too.
Physically, developing the studio happened quickly, but emotionally, it was a long and challenging journey. All of a sudden I found myself playing the roles of architect, builder, finance controller, marketing manager and director – as well as indoor cycle instructor. Each new phase brought meltdowns and a few panic attacks, but also incredible feelings of internal happiness and satisfaction.
Principles for success
The concept for the studio is based around three key principles; the best music; the best instruction; the best structure for riders.
The best music
Music is the most important focal point for us. You can have the best coaching in the world, but if it’s delivered to bad music then it’s wasted. l have been approved for licensing and am paying the fees to deliver the best music available. In conjunction with this, l have specific themed Rock and ‘80s sessions, and once a month on Saturday afternoons we plan to have live DJs on the decks, spinning out vicious tracks in heart-pounding one-hour sessions. I’ll say it again: music is absolutely key.
The best instruction
The second principle is first class coaching. I have worked hard to source the best instructors in Sydney, and I would prefer to cancel a class than to use a substitute instructor who is also substandard. Over the years, I have experienced too many indoor cycle classes packed with participants being led by really bad instructors. What is most frustrating about this is that many participants have grown accustomed to poor instruction and expect no better.
As Vicious Cycle becomes more established, we plan to run technique classes once a month, with all participants encouraged to attend at least once. I want to teach clients how to ride so they can achieve maximum results from their training.
The best structure
The third principle is for all processes and procedures to be structured in a way that is best for riders. This includes: no memberships, no joining fees, pay per ride, the ability to reserve your spot in class online up to two weeks in advance, and the option to, eventually, reserve your actual bike via a preferred seating system. We also aim to develop classes and workshops to suit participants rather than the licensing laws, and to streamline coaching so that all instructors talk the same talk, deliver the same coaching standards, and use less imagery and more technique. Most importantly, we want our instructors to exhibit the energy necessary to deliver the ultimate experience for every rider, every single time they walk through the door.
The power of support
The support l have received for Vicious Cycle has been overwhelming, not only from people in and around Bondi Beach who have been longing for a facility like this, but also from well respected people in the cycling community who have said how great it is that a studio like this finally exists. Some have been generous enough to say that Vicious Cycle is changing the game in group fitness and indoor cycling.
I have also been very fortunate to receive the support of some amazing businesses: at the end of 2011, Lululemon Athletica made me an ambassador for their brand. I plan to reciprocate the support we have received by holding charity events to support the local community, and these will be developed in due course.
A lot of people are watching Vicious Cycle closely to see how the model works, and more and more people are expressing an interest in the concept. Getting the studio to where we are today hasn’t been easy, but it has been the most incredible thing l have ever done – and the journey has only just begun.
Tanya is an indoor cycling fanatic and a lifelong fitness enthusiast who swam state competition for VIC through high school and has twice been in the top 3 per cent of finishers in her category in half marathon events. She holds Certificate III in Fitness and is Les Mills trained in RPM. For more information on Vicious Cycle call 0416 033 140 or visit www.viciouscycle.com.au