Portishead based Fox Cycling are a cycling company who run studio cycling sessions, as well as online cycling classes and cycletots classes, for kids. Intrigued about these LIVE online studio sessions particularly, we caught up with Angela from Fox Cycling to find out more
What made you want to start Fox Cycling online/studio? Could you see a gap in the market?
Cycling specific studios are relatively new in the UK, although have been hugely popular in the US. Bringing one to Portishead meant not only creating a new market which wasn’t previously there, but also creating a workforce of instructors – many of them have only instructed with us. The online market is similar – it’s not something that is widely offered. Probably because the technology is so tricky! Other companies that do it are very expensive and may expect you to invest in special equipment which is beyond the reach – and desire – of many people who would otherwise be interested in getting a quality experience at home.
How many members do you have?
We currently have about 70 members and about 900 customers. Naturally not all of them come every week.
What does cycling mean to you? Jack Fox clearly had an impact in this…?
Cycling is a special thing. For Steve [the boss], it has meant freedom, excitement and extending his horizons. He has done all sorts of different riding from road cycling and time trials, to mountain biking (including on a tandem), to BMX. He is not allowed a motorbike. But like Steve as a child, we find many of our older members and customers are widening their horizons as they are achieving their body shape and health goals, as well as increasing confidence and being involved in a really friendly community.
Don’t get me wrong though, we’re perfectly happy for people to find a dark corner to themselves and just pedal – in fact quite a few like to do that to start with at least! Cycling is social. We frequently have rides out together, it always seems to end with cake… But also, as testament to Fox Cycling, when we had our first birthday party at Venga in Portishead last June, we packed the joint – and people came because they wanted to celebrate, not because we bribed them – we couldn’t have afforded to anyway.
Who are your sessions designed for? And what’s the atmosphere like (disco lights sound like it’s a little party in there!) at the studio and online?
Our sessions are designed for everyone – we have three levels; Newcomers is very gentle and nurturing; Progressive classes are more challenging and suitable for those who do at least two sessions of exercise per week; and then we also have Advanced sessions to keep the intense cyclists away from the beginners! In the Advanced sessions, anything goes. Seriously anything.
We have disco lights, and have been known to use the smoke and bubbles on occasion as well. Each of our 12 instructors have great personalities, but they’re all different. Bella in particular ‘whoops’ a lot, and Steve doesn’t have a ‘stop’ button. Celine is great at making beginners feel welcome, and ensuring that hardened athletes get exactly what they came for. There’s frequently heckling, particularly from Taz, one of our members – who is always late.
The key is enjoyment. People won’t stick to things if they’re not fun and they don’t get results. We offer both. And we offer results you can measure, because we offer heart rate zone training, which is a great way to improve stamina quickly – and also be able to track your improvement. Fox Cycling is a specialist studio. We know what works and we have invested in the best bike, the best technology and the best heart rate software – and also the best instructors.
How do the cyclists support each other?
We like to keep the Newcomers sessions calm, but the other sessions often have challenges, and riders cheer each other and push each other on. There’s great camaraderie; it’s not just sitting in a room pedalling. We also have frequent events. We had the Tour de Fox last year. Those who wanted to take part were put into pro cycling ‘teams’ and they competed for the yellow, green, white and polka dot jerseys of the Tour de France. As we adapted the challenges to our heart rate software, it meant that everyone had a chance of winning, not just the super fit people. The white jersey in the Tour de France is typically given to the most promising rider under 25. We thought youth was its own reward, so we awarded the Fox white jersey to the person who displayed the greatest sportsmanship (which actually turned out to be two people). We then had a social evening and gave out the medals. Yes, medals! We have a very active Twitter and Facebook page and people are frequently getting involved,and also joining our Facebook group for buying/selling/swapping cycling gear.
And you support them with your FoxFit programme?
This is similar to the NHS health check but more comprehensive. Instead of 10 minutes, you get an hour to an hour and a half. We measure also sorts of stuff – BP, glucose, body fat, muscle, hydration, basal metabolic rate, etc. We take measurements, we discuss fitness dreams, goals and obstacles. We formulate a plan – and frequently we get people wanting a second session to see where the improvements have been made. I haven’t had anyone so far who has not achieved their goals. The key is to make things measurable and not forget where you were.
Cycletots looks great – how does this work?
We use balance bikes. Stabilisers don’t teach children the right skills to get them pedalling, it just delays the launch date. With balance bikes, you teach balance, braking, awareness, cornering safely and all the essential skills of cycling. Then when the child is ready, you give them a pedal bike and all they need to do is pedal. And that’s easy! We run courses, but we also do one to one sessions. The quickest we’ve had someone cycling from scratch was 27 minutes. And that was cycling confidently, safely, and with no wobbles!
What’s it like being situated in Portishead?
Our instructors are all local. Angela, Steve and Nick are three of the directors and they are all in Portishead. Richard, the finance director hasn’t moved to Portishead yet, but has received his orders.
What’s the future for Fox Cycling?
We’re at a really exciting point now; we have worked very hard since before we even opened, and now we start this year with three organisations having approached us to set up a studio within their premises. We have finished designing our cycling instructors’ qualification which will have a great emphasis on customer care, and we will be looking to run courses for delegates in the UK as well as overseas. We also look forward to our online classes gaining momentum as customers see how convenient and good value they are. I’m particularly keen on building a community that online customers feel as part of as our studio customers. Back in the studio, we are already welcoming back our customers who have been away for Christmas, and it’s great to see them. Because our customers tend to be the ones who have the best ideas, we think 2015 is going to be an interesting year for all of us.