In May 2018, Stages Indoor Cycling officially opened their first direct office in mainland Europe. This will be the fourth direct office for the indoor business in three years, which will join Portland, Oregon, Denver, Colorado and London, England.
Sebastian Eckmann is Managing Director for Stages Cycling in Europe. Eckmann is not new to the game; he and his Team launched the Stages Cycling Europe distribution business four years ago with Stages’ outdoor cycling range. Now a well established organisation, this Spring they announced a joint venture with the Stages’ US corporate team, bringing with it the addition of Stages’ indoor range to their portfolio. Eckmann and his Team will now directly manage operations Germany and Austria for the indoor brand.
We caught Sebastian at this Summer’s Eurobike — the biggest annual international show for outdoor cycling for a perspective on the advancements of indoor cycling in Europe and his expectations in the next 12 months.
“Our earliest priority will be to service the German market. Our foremost goal has been connecting with all of Stages Indoor Cycling’s existing gym and studio customers to best manage their customer experience and aftersales requirements at the local level for the first time.
“The responses so far from our customers to Stages’ innovations has also been great. Take the SprintShift. The SprintShift is a real testament to how dedicated the Stages product team is to building a product that is useful and makes the riding experience better. Sure it sounds like a minor accessory, but our customers are telling us that the experience change is quite significant — it’s a feature built by individuals who know what indoor cycling is about. As a person who believes in the brand and the product, and also as a rider, I’m excited at the prospect of what experience changes we can deliver for our customers and theirs.
“Building out the direct team with the right individuals to listen to the feedback and needs of our customers and provide benchmark services is our second job.”
Eckmann and the team already have a four year history with Stages Cycling, running a direct office for the outdoor business since 2013; these guys know cycling: “It’s been our daily business for the last four years,” explains Eckmann. “The entire team are cyclists and they know the bike and the power meter inside out. For the outdoor business, the team has prioritised customer service and the same will apply in the move to indoor: a close connection to our customers is important to us.”
The story makes a lot of sense. There is a lot of synergy between cycling outdoors and in. “I see it as my responsibility to keep the connection”, explains Eckmann. “Sure, they’re different categories, industries and people but the core of the brand is the same. This is about cycling. The brand has been created from cyclists. This heritage sets us apart. We know what it takes to build a bike, a power meter — and a world class studio cycling experience.”
THE GERMAN MARKET
Over the last 10-15 years indoor cycling has become huge in Germany. The category experienced a dip in popularity with the onset of alternative trends — like CrossFit and mind body. Nevertheless, it has remained a substantial and stable offering within the portfolio of gyms / studios. After a period of stabilisations, there has been a revival in its popularity. Why? “Leading global brands and boutique cycling studios have developed the indoor cycling category here well — it’s now a stand alone genre in its own right.”
“The German boutique fitness market is around two years behind the development of the English speaking markets. Add to that the volume of active outdoor cyclists now choosing to ride indoors — they don’t have time to ride outdoors so much and indoor cycling is widely recognised to bolster outdoor cycling training regimens in the winter months — the market faces a ton of development in the next 2-3 years,” adds Eckmann. “Stages Indoor Cycling is still a pretty new brand in Germany, but our global coverage and the heritage of the outdoor brand in the German market means that we do not lack the experience our customers expect of us.”
Installs continue for the SC2 bike for Germany’s rhythm customers and the SC3 bike for studios offering data and performance, and the appetite for group display and interactive gym floor technology — Stages Flight and Stages Solo — has continued to rise at an increasing rate since FIBO.
“Training with power is in its infancy in the local market. The heritage of Stages Cycling with Team Sky and the Tour de France holds a strong story that has helped demonstrate to our customers of the robust nature of the technology. We have a responsibility now to educate and train our peers on the value and options of the technology available to them now today — what is power, what it does, why it’s different than heart rate, how to set up a power meter and how to maintain it.
“In 2013/14 we experienced the same questions from our outdoor community, with the exceptions only to the pro’s who have relied on data sets for a long time. For sure, these riders will play a part in pioneering the growth of indoor power use now that they know that’s available — they’ll want somewhere they can train indoors with the same precision, and I believe they’ll champion its popularity as a fitness tracking tool. For me the real value is in its accuracy, reliability and the freedom technology can provide to instructor teams to automate their music, programming and better manage their riders’ results.
“For us at the office, now being responsible for both indoor and outdoor departments means we can build up on the foundations and knowledge we’ve set with the outdoor business and increase mutual growth and success across both for our customers. If a football player wants to improve their shooting potential, they’ll recruit a coach that can develop their scoring skills. We apply the same mentality to advancing the indoor cycling business in Germany with our knowledge of outdoor cycling experiences for every type of rider. We’re excited for the year ahead.”