StarTrac Fitness has taken over with Mad Dogg Athletics where Schwinn lost out -- The ink is practically still wet on a licensing agreement between the two companies in which StarTrac will take over manufacturing the Spinner bike, and Mad Dogg will continue to run the indoor cycling program's education and teacher training.
"The strength of the Spinning brand and their leadership in the area, and our understanding of the commercial marketplace sets us up to make an impact -- and to make an impact immediately," Randy Bergstedt, StarTrac director of marketing, told SNEWS.
StarTrac and Spinning will introduce their partnership and indoor cycling product at the IHRSA club show March 6-9 in Phoenix, Ariz. The dueling indoor cycling show will be complete with Schwinn Fitness also expected to present its new product and program, for the first time sans Johnny G who is one of the founders of Mad Dogg Athletics (MDA) and the creator of the indoor cycling phenomenon.
"We now have the strongest brand, so let's go!" Bergstedt added.
Of note is that StarTrac had introduced its own indoor cycling bike, the V-Bike, and program -- called Precision Cycling -- about three years ago in partnership with Jay Blahnik, and had been a competitor of Spinning. Because of that competition, when the two Southern California companies started talking in November, Bergstedt said, they had to spend some time getting to know each other before a deal could be penned. But what came out quickly, he said, was their "mutual desire to grow and to improve group cycling worldwide."
StarTrac's V-Bike (MSRP $795) will continue to be available as an additional club bike and will be authorized for use in licensed Spinning centers. The two Spinner bikes -- officially called "StarTrac Johnny G Spinner Pro," and "StarTrac Johnny G Spinner Elite" -- have different features but will cost approximately the same, with the Elite being slightly higher because of added features.
The Precision Cycling program, which has trained about 8,000 instructors nationally, will be offered through this year. Bergstedt said the company is working on what will happen with the program after that. He said there are synergies to the two, but that Spinning -- with some 60,000 instructors trained worldwide -- is obviously the bigger program with the largest reputation. The two will not be merged; rather, Spinning will take the lead, he said.
"It's about what makes the best sense for our customers," he said. Already, StarTrac has set up two new distributorships because of the relationship, one in Germany and one in Italy.
The Tustin, Calif.-based cardiovascular equipment company known for its solid equipment and conservatism, StarTrac is also trying to break free of that trustworthy albeit a bit stodgy reputation. To be announced in a pre-IHRSA mailing, StarTrac says, "We're on a mission." Then announces in the brochure not only its Spinning partnership, but also its dedication to "making exercise a compelling experience."
Bergstedt told SNEWS rather than just focus on making motors that last a few decades, as in the past, the company will also make equipment with features that are inviting and welcoming. At the IHRSA show, he said the company's new treadmill will demonstrate that feeling with features that include ergonomic and rounded construction that welcomes a user and offers intuitive, easy-to-use features.
In addition, the company will launch a new logo next month -- a distinctive oblong reminiscent of the track on its treadmills for which it is known. That logo will be recognizable and readable, even from a distance, he said, allowing users to get to know the brand StarTrac rather than just say, "oh yeah, you're the guys with the track on the treadmill."
More new equipment will follow, he said, but that all takes time with the long development process.
"We think people will look back in nine months and say, 'Wow, StarTrac has changed a lot,'" he said. "This Spinning partnership in combination with our new treadmill should propel StarTrac to new heights in 2002."
SNEWS View: StarTrac has always been old reliable: Privately owned and in business since 1975-- gasp, even with the same ownership -- it's gotten a bit lost in the shuffle of companies coming and going, bandstanding then going bankrupt, going big then selling out, making glamorous marketing campaigns then changing their tune. But, funny thing, it's still there, still making reliable treadmills, as well now as some good ellipticals and other equipment. Now, if they could lose the stodg and keep the reliable, the company could be poised to move to even greater heights. Winning Spinning could help move StarTrac toward its goal of being a name that is better known, even among consumers.