FreeMotion Fitness joins growing group cycling world

FreeMotion Fitness has edged into the group cycling peloton with a new agreement as the U.S. and Canadian distributor for Tomahawk Indoor Cycling Solutions, owned by Cytech GmbH of Nuremberg, Germany.
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FreeMotion Fitness has edged into the group cycling peloton with a new agreement as the U.S. and Canadian distributor for Tomahawk Indoor Cycling Solutions, owned by Cytech GmbH of Nuremberg, Germany.

"We want to provide fitness solutions for every area of clubs and help club owners with all aspects of their business," Patrick Hald, FreeMotion Fitness president and COO, told SNEWS. "Although we didn't necessarily feel that this was a gap we had to fill, we are interested in studio products, and this was very complementary to what we are doing now."

Once practically dominated by Schwinn Fitness' former partnership with group cycling originator Johnny G's Mad Dogg Athletics, indoor cycling has become a hot topic again as some of the largest fitness equipment manufacturers are scurrying to team up with the independent innovators: Star Trac picked up Johnny G's Spinning after it split with Schwinn over product and contractual differences; Life Fitness is now working with LeMond Fitness after that company was dropped from the StairMaster sale to Nautilus; and Matrix Fitness last month announced its agreement with the new hip Trixter bike.

Schwinn, after it split with Mad Dogg, developed its own product and program and remains strong. Others, such as Keiser and Canadian-made Body Cycle as well as Cycle Reebok, have remained secondary players. Tomahawk, although a dominating player in Europe, had yet to make much of a mark on the indoor cycling market in North America.

In this latest partnership, the yearlong contract has FreeMotion selling the Tomahawk XL and XXL bikes for roughly $995 and $1,095, respectively, in addition to offering the custom-made Evolution model. The agreement came about after Tomahawk, a 4-year-old company and a bit of a wallflower in the United States among the sea of group cycling bikes, began looking early this year to broaden its distribution with a partner.

"We didn't want to just get any bike," said Hald, who added that Tomahawk bikes are the top studio cycles in Europe. "Group cycling bikes can be a commodity, but Tomahawk is the highest quality group cycling bike available today with unique features that set it head and shoulders above others."

Some of those features according to Hald include a four-bearing, custom-designed bottom bracket and custom-built crank arms, plus the patented handlebars, drive system and resistance and brake mechanism. One twist is the patented Sensitive Cycling Handlebar, which can be installed on XL or XXL bikes to realign participants into an upright position, which allows for neutral spinal alignment and provides comfort for seniors, pregnant women and low back pain sufferers. The bikes also carry a warranty of 10 years on the frame and five years on all drive gear components.

"This bike really represents the height of German engineering," Hald claims, "and it will stand up to lots of wear and tear."

FreeMotion also will sell Tomahawk's Indoor Cycling Education (I.C.E.) instructor training program, which Hald calls "excellent," saying that education and programming are essential components of what the company wants to offer customers as part of its "total fitness solutions."

Although admitting to being a latecomer in a crowded category, Hald sees opportunities. "Lots of studios will need replacement bikes, and some facilities still are looking for bikes," he said. "Plus, our sales force is very excited because this gives us another avenue to go back to our existing customer base."

You can test the Tomahawk bikes for yourself at early morning workouts at the upcoming Club Industry show, Oct. 9-11 in Chicago -- the debut of the partnership.

SNEWS View: Although we've been hearing that the group cycling category is flat, you wouldn't know it by the flurry of recent activity, with Star Trac nabbing Mad Dogg Athletics and spinning guru Johhny G, Nautilus holding tightly to the Schwinn name although its split with Johnny G wasn't pretty, Life Fitness diving in with LeMond's Revmaster and, just last month, Matrix snapping up the hip Trixter X-Bikes. Which makes us wonder: What's happening at Precor and Cybex? Although it may not be a front-burner market for Cybex as it re-builds itself, you'd think that Precor's parent Amer Group -- known to proclaim its goal to be No. 1 in the world in sporting goods -- would be scrambling since it's now about the only name player without a dance partner.

Since Tomahawk was a relative unknown in the United States, we scratched our head a bit about the partnership announcement. Certainly Tomahawk likely has German engineering on its side, but gee who else was left for FreeMotion? Of course, we fully believe that FreeMotion, which has a reputation for innovative and quality products, wouldn't settle for anything less than a great product because of its own solid reputation. Perhaps it's been smart and looked beyond the known players to snap up the lesser known.

So what suddenly prompted the indoor cycling market to heat up again -- after a few years of everybody-wanting-in about a decade ago -- is beyond us. We can however speculate that it's another marker of further consolidation in the industry.

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