When StairMaster was bought by then-Direct Focus in bankruptcy auction in January, left without a dance partner was the bankrupt company's indoor-group-cycling branch, the LeMond RevMaster bike and program. Direct Focus (now The Nautilus Group) had its own Schwinn program and product, so it didn't want RevMaster.
Once a few StairMaster managers decided not to transfer to the Boulder, Col-based Nautilus from their homes near Seattle, Wash., the next step became a no-brainer: Start their own company with the cycling legend who was behind the RevMaster, Greg LeMond, first American to win the Tour de France, going on to win it three times. LeMond in March had bought all rights to the bike and program. Owners are LeMond, top management, and a few select investors.
LeMond Fitness Inc. officially opened its doors in early April and, this week, finished several intense days of strategic planning to bring its product and program back to the fitness market by the fall, as well as to discuss the company's next steps.
"We want to take group cycling to the next level," vice president of sales Bernie Boglioli, told SNEWS, and he said the company thinks the time is right. "The players have switched around out there. It's difficult to determine who the leaders are. Greg's name is a great brand."
Johnny G's Spinning under the auspices of Mad Dogg Athletics parted ways with Schwinn last year, although court wrangling over rights and contracts lasted for a few months. In the spring, Tustin, Calif.-based StarTrac tied up an agreement to partner with Spinning. Meanwhile, Schwinn was preparing to roll out its own program and bikes.
Joining the new company's management team, now with eight full-time employees, were Boglioli, who was VP of sales at StairMaster, as well as John Post, now LeMond president who was director of marketing at StairMaster. Also at LeMond from StairMaster are Paul Swift, director of development and special markets who designed the original RevMaster; Joan Wenson, now director of education who wrote the program; and John Kennedy, now international sales manager.
Although a latecomer to the indoor cycling boom that began in the mid-90s -- only introducing its program at the IHRSA show in 2000 -- Boglioli said the combination of product, program and personality is one the others lack. They spent nearly two years planning the package to make sure the bike satisfied the quality standards that LeMond's professional cycling background demanded and still suited a fitness club's durability needs.
"We didn't want to rush it," Boglioli said. "We wanted to come in with what we felt was a better program since we knew we were late to the game."
With the company just launching, its too late to have much of a showing at IDEA's conference for fitness professionals, this year in late June in San Diego, Calif. But Boglioli said they are working on some alliances that may allow them to be in a booth. The company's first real show will be Club Industry in Chicago in October. Plans at this point are for 2003 and beyond.
He also said LeMond Fitness (www.lemondfitness.com) may look into additional products and some accessories, but won't rush into anything.
"Our short term expectations are to try to take the momentum we've got, and really grow it," he said. "We'll focus ourselves on enhancements in indoor cycling -- become a focused company, a one-product company.
"It's nice in this industry to have the opportunity to focus on one product, and we want to become the best. We believe we have the best product. We believe we have the best program."
SNEWS® View: LeMond, it seems, was approached by other "big companies" in fitness about jumping ship to them. (Now, it wouldn't take too much to figure out who those sans-cycling "big" companies are or were who knocked on his door, would it?) He in fact was pretty near signing on before he rang up his former StairMaster colleagues who didn't want to make the move to Colorado after all the dust cleared after the auction. But the entrepreneur in LeMond itched to be on his own, and so a company is born. With a fine product and an all-American name like LeMond's, breaking in to the top 3 of indoor cycling companies shouldn't be a big deal. In fact, bumping higher than that -- with the right planning and slow growth method they have planned -- could be next. Indoor cycling, you see continues to hang onto its clientele, with a third or so of clubs offering something. Not only do those bikes need replacing every three or four years, but clubs are in need of new education and program ideas to keep their members interested. What would be next? Well, maybe one of those "big" companies who lost out would just decide to buy the company they missed out on. Now that's a thought.