Category Archives: Legal and Financial

Help understanding the legal and financial issues of running a cycling studio.

Should you ban competitors from your studio?


This was first published over at ICI/PRO

This morning I read how Soul Cycle has been banning fitness instructors (from competing studios) who try to attend their class.

SoulCycle bans fitness instructors from its classes

About 10 days after hitting a SoulCycle class on a recent day off, Barry’s Bootcamp owner Joey Gonzalez got a phone call. It was a lawyer for the mega-popular cycling brand issuing a message: don’t come back.

“He essentially said we have a policy at SoulCycle where instructors at other group fitness studios are not allowed to take class,” Gonzalez says. “He seemed half embarrassed.” We reached out to SoulCycle’s public relations team for comment on the policy but did not hear back.

Gonzalez took to Facebook with the news, and his post went viral. (At time of this writing, it had 158 comments and 14 shares.) Other popular fitness instructors, like Natalie Uhling, Darryl Gaines, and Lindsey Clayton weighed in to say the same thing had happened to them. Flywheel instructors jumped in to invite trainers from other studios to come take their classes (“#team”), and tons of people weighed in to rail against the lack of “soul” the policy stood for.

Then I dug in to this story a bit more. The article references this post from addressing the same issue. They begin with listing a few reasons why it maybe OK to limit the access of Instructors from competing fitness clubs. I see it as incomplete… in fact, I feel they are missing the real concerns of Soul Cycle completely.


Why do studios ban instructors employed by competitors?

  • Trade secrets. We suppose the primary reason studios do this is to prevent competitors from coming in and spying on their ways of business, copying them or stealing their methods.

  • Exclusivity. Perhaps some studios want to create a country club bubble, where only approved members are allowed within their establishment.

  • To ward off studio-bombing. On rare occasions, people do show up just to cause trouble. In our opinion, bad behavior is the only justifiable reason to ban a paying client.

Limiting access to your “Tribe”

Paul Harmeling from Full Psycle Studio really opened my eyes about what makes Soul Cycle so successful – how good they are at cultivating a “team” or “tribe” of passionate people who are united by their participation in class. This sense of community isn’t just between the customers and Soul Cycle or the Instructor. There are a lot of relationships, both personal and professional, being made between the riders.

You’ve probably seen this at your club. It’s no secret that common interests and activities build trust between people. That trust can lead to relationships that extend beyond the club. Over the years my family and I have chosen to do business with people we’ve gotten to know at our club;

  • Claudia is Amy and my financial planner – she’s also been a longtime regular in our classes.
  • Amy first met Craig at the club. He later hired her and we’ve been friends of Craig and his wife Julie for 15 years.
  • Morry (another regular) arranged for daughter Abby’s interview, which resulted in her current job.
  • Richard is an Instructor at our club. He’s also a C level employee at a company where younger daughter Carly would like to have a summer internship…

I can easily understand why Soul Cycle (or your club for that mater) would want to limit access to their Tribe of passionate, fitness minded people who have the financial wherewithal to pay for premium classes.

Wouldn’t these same people be prospective customers for any fitness business – especially a competitor located near by? 

Soul Cycle’s “Tribe” is really their brand, the “special sauce” that makes them unique and profitable. Using attorneys to protect a brand from competitors isn’t really any different from how Mad Dogg Athletic will do the same thing to protect the Spinning® brand from improper use.

I don’t know anymore than what’s been written, but I would venture this guess; Soul Cycle was concerned that Mr. Gonzalez was recruiting customers for his boot camp business. Neither of the articles, nor the Facebook post, explains how Soul Cycle’s attorney would know Gonzalez was an Instructor… unless someone (maybe a class participant?) informed management.

Does that make sense?

Understanding Fitness Instructor Professional Liability Insurance

Discount Low Cost Fitness Instructor Professional Liability Insurance

I’ve cross posted this from and it maybe of value to your Instructors.

During the interview below, my guest Coleen Kelly makes a good point about how studio owners should be asking to be listed as an “additionally insured” on your instructor’s professional liability policies.

Indoor Cycling is experiencing a boom, with new bouquet studios popping up pretty much everywhere. This is great because all these new studios = more places for us to teach. But there’s a small catch. Many of these new studios hire Fitness Instructors as independent contractors, not as true employees, but it shouldn’t scare you away from teaching there.

There are multiple advantages for teaching as a self-employed contractor (you may be able to expense your fitness clothes and mileage) and a few disadvantages. The biggest being there’s a very good chance the studio’s general liability insurance won’t protect you if someone gets hurt and sues you personally for millions of dollars 🙁

Professional Liability Insurance is designed to protect Instructors (you) and your family’s financial assets, in the event that you’re sued by a client. Many fitness businesses require contractors to have their own policy.

In a previous post; Low Cost Fitness Instructor Professional Liability Insurance I explain where I found a great deal (saved us $58.00) on an annual policy for Amy. I contacted the company for someone to interview and they provided Coleen Kelly, their Vice President Program Management for Aon Affinity and  HPSO – Healthcare Providers Service Organization where we purchased Amy’s insurance.

Listen to my interview below (sound quality is low as we couldn’t use Skype) and if you have additional questions you can call HPSO’s info line 1.800.982.9491

Help Wanted

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If you are Professional (possibly already blogging) in any of those areas and would like to add value to our community, or if you know of someone you would like to recommend, please use to contact  link above to let us know.

Maintenance costs for indoor cycling and SPIN® bikes

If you have a thriving studio, you know your bikes take a real beating.  100 to 300 pound cyclists pound on them, sweat on them Help with Indoor Cycling Maintenanceand  rock them 3 to 7 times a day in a hot moist environment.  With that kind of treatment, maintenance and TLC is a necessity…..and a cost.   Some of this maintenance can be done by the studio owner with some basic tools and a regular time commitment — but unless you are hugely handy (and trained), a good portion of your maintenance will be outsourced to a professional in your area.

Maintenance needs evolve and increase as your bikes age, but our experience has been that well-maintained bikes can last 3 to 5 years or more if they are properly maintained.  There is also a reasonably good re-sale market for used bikes making it a little less expensive to upgrade to new equipment when your lease expires.  We have had good success selling old bikes on Craig’s List, or directly to our customers (though you may want to limit those sales if you think it will keep someone in their basement and out of your studio!).   Often the reason for moving your bikes on is because you want the nice new model…..and maintenance costs are starting to creep up.

I would love to hear how other people deal with the maintenance issue, I feel like your cost is based on a few factors:

  1. What type of bikes you have (some break down more than others, some are more expensive to fix)
  2. How often they are ridden (the more full classes, the more maintenance is needed)
  3. How much “day to day” maintenance you do (the more the better)
  4. How often you have them professionally maintained (regular visits? or only when the totally break down?)
  5. What your tolerance is for noise and vibration (if you and your customers don’t mind the squeaks, you can cut down on maintenance)
  6. How many bikes you have (the higher the number, the lower cost per bike since repair guy is there already)

One sample studio’s 2- year experience (basic cleaning and lube done by owner)
40 bikes / Schwinn Evolutions
Average 22 classes per week
Total bike repair costs:  $4450
Cost-per-bike:   $56 per year

If you have a similar example from your own studio, or thoughts on maintenance, please share them with comments here!   Thanks.