Known for its classy aesthetics a la Mercedes Benz chic, Matrix Fitness Systems has taken a leap into edgier territory, entering a distribution agreement with the Ã¼ber-hip Trixter indoor cycling X-Bike. Matrix has also launched a cool new "LaserFit Performance Press" strength piece to boot.
"Our brand has been focused on being the Lexus or Mercedes with an understated elegance," Matrix president Ken Lucas told SNEWS. "These new products are a refreshing change; they open opportunities for us to look at the world from a different vantage point."
No kidding, Sherlock. If you were anywhere near this year's IHRSA trade show floor (or even on the stairs leading there), you couldn't have missed the Trixter indoor cycling X-Bikes that made their U.S. debut. (See SNEWS story from March 14, 2003) These were real mountain biker dudes (in a bright yellow booth with blaring rock music in less-than-fitness-conservative knit watch caps) who were popping wheelies in the aisles on their regular Giant mountain bikes or doing gnarly downhill drops on the stairs. Kept security busy, to say the least.
"I stopped in my tracks when I saw their booth," said Lucas. "These guys were looking for a meaningful way to get the product into the public eye, and it fit in perfectly with how we are building our brandâ€”on quality and innovation."
With the idea of bringing outdoor exercise indoors, the unique Trixter X-Bike is fitted with a real, patent-pending mountain bike handlebar, bar-ends included, which articulates from side-to-side against seven adjustable levels of resistance, letting you engage your upper body and core muscles naturally. And a Twist-Grip shifter, similar to real mountain bikes, is integrated into the handgrip so riders don't have to let go of the bars to fiddle with intensity knobs like on other group cycling bikes.
Under the semi-exclusive agreement, Matrix will handle sales, service and marketing to commercial markets worldwide, leaving Trixter to tap into the consumer side. Trixter also will provide its X-Biking Indoor Mountain Bike Experience program and instructor training package to Matrix customers.
The new Matrix X-Bikes have been "Matricized" a bit in design, featuring the Matrix logo emblazoned on a splashy new "sunlit copper" bronze color (OK, so maybe that canary yellow pushed the Matrix envelope too far) that the company borrowed from the auto industry. The bikes will sell for $1,195 and will begin shipping in October. Ads running in September industry magazines will still tout the Matrix mantra of "Strong, Smart. Beautiful."
At the CanFitPro show in Toronto this month, the 15 Matrix X-Bikes were packed, with waiting lists for every class. And David "Patch" Evans, who operates some 73 GoodLife Fitness Centers in Canada, called the bike the most innovative product at the show and even ordered one for his home.
"This really is evolutionary," said Lucas, "and we didn't want to just say 'me too'. We wanted to make a statement."
As for the entry into group cycling? Matrix says its goal is to be a full service provider, which nowadays includes group exercise. You can take a spin on the new bikes at Matrix' booth at the Club Industry show in October. Having tried the bike at IHRSA and having called it a break-through ourselves, SNEWS will be first in line for a ride. Be there.
And in another trendy move, the Matrix guys also added the LaserFit Performance Press strength training unit to its rosterâ€”to be launched at Club Industry as well. The refined Smith machine concept was developed by "a little Italian guy who hardly speaks English," according to Lucas, and it won the Innovation Award for Fitness Equipment at the 2000 FIBO show in Essen, Germany.
With his finely tuned innovation antennae, Lucas locked in on this machine at the 2002 FIBO, recognizing that it simply needed marketing legs. Get thisâ€”the product can function as a regular Smith machine with a 40-pound unloaded bar with 20 lockout points, or, for those who prefer a little variety, the bar can adjust 20 degrees forward and back as well as side to side by swinging from a pivoting axis at the top of the machine.
So, he says, it allows exercisers the freedom to choose their path of motion, which has become an increasingly popular way to train with the slew of "functional" cable and pulley selectorized machines of late since the innovation break-through by now-FreeMotion Fitness. But the beauty is that while this feels like free weights and enables exercisers to do things like arm curls that previously weren't comfortable in a Smith, Lucas says the Smith machine advantage still exists because a spotter for safety isn't needed.
Matrix bought the license to this patent-pending machine, reswizzled it a bit to fit into its line of 30 metallic-colored strength machines, and will sell it for $3,595.
"Our goal is to always have something innovative in our booth at trade shows," said Lucas. "We try to look at products from the club owner's perspectiveâ€”what will drive people through the door."
So will these new, forward-thinking, push-the-edge products alter the Matrix tagline of "Strong. Smart. Beautiful.?" Says Lucas, "Probably not, but we're opening up a bit." In fact, Matrix may find it likes this newfound edginess.
SNEWS View: We think these are wise additions that will continue broadening the appeal of Matrix, a company that has been highly respected for its product design. It already has pushed the envelope a bit in a conservative way, and these additions set a tone for the company's bright future. With some ultra-nifty points of differentiation, the X-Bike and the LaserFit Performance Press definitely stand out among competitors, and we thought the X-Bike felt great during our brief time in the saddle at IHRSA. We love the headline on the bike ads that break next month: "Not just raising the bar. Giving it purpose." We're keeping our eye on Matrix. You should too.