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Here's Why Vélo-City Doesn't Have TVs, But Does Have Local Art

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Welcome to Fitness Week: five days of workout coverage, so that you can start your New Year's resolutions off right.

The Vélo mural; Photo by Melissa Ostrow, courtesy of Vélo-City

Last month, yet another indoor cycling studio opened its doors and welcomed riders on its Schwinn bikes in the Back Bay—but something different is brewing over at Vélo-City. Led by a team of four guys, the new space is decidedly more unisex than some of its local predecessors. Here we talk with Allen Potts, a former Marine and one of the studio's co-founders, about Vélo's roots and goals.

What was the a-ha moment for you guys to open Vélo?
We have always been enthusiastic about group classes and fitness concepts, and we had all gone to places in New York like SoulCycle. Though cycling has been around for a long time, the places in New York have really been raising the bar, offering a new twist on something that already existed and we realized Boston didn't have that. There are some other places that are popular studios but we really thought that there was a void. Besides that, we realized that indoor cycling is just a great workout. Tom and I are big skiers; it's one of the best ways to get in shape for ski season, whereas running is just cardio. This helps build the muscle endurance to do other things.

You all come from athletic backgrounds. How do you think those experiences are shaping your studio? What does Vélo add to the Boston cycling landscape?
Indoor cycling and group fitness has primarily attracted more women than men. And we're not going to change that to a huge degree, but what we found when we were taking classes other places is that it can be intimidating being a guy going to a spin class. Sometimes it will be all women, people who frequent that class at that time, and they kind of give you a "Who are you?" look. Already both men and women have told us that they find our atmosphere is less intimidating than some of the other studios. It's less of a scene.

The studio itself is a very functional space that feels unisex. How has it been as an independent studio competing with big national chains like Flywheel?
When we started doing this, we knew that Flywheel would be coming eventually, and SoulCycle has been trying to for a few years now. All of a sudden we're not just another studio in town that is a mom-and-pop shop; now we're competing with people who have set the standard. As far as Flywheel is concerned, we're attracting what we hope to be a different crowd. Flywheel is also unisex but because it's so competitive, we hope we can get people who are more enthusiastic about a group atmosphere and the instructor's vibes.

And you don't have TVs…
We want the sole emphasis of the class to be on the instructor and your workout. At Flywheel we were looking at the Torqboard too much.

What are your professional backgrounds prior to opening? Do they influence the way you manage the studio?

Joe and I came from commercial real estate background, Tom was in finance but also is a franchise owner of another fitness concept, and Nick is working at Suffolk Construction. We're all kind of new even though we've taken a lot of classes and know what we're ultimately aiming for, but in regard to our professional backgrounds, they all mesh quite nicely. Joe and I have a good idea of the competitive landscape: who's coming to town, where they're going, what the good markets are for this kind of thing. Tom is a great help because of his fitness studio background.

Vélo offers discounts to teachers, active duty military, cops, and firefighters. You were in the Marines yourself; How does that fit into the bigger picture for the studio?
One of the things I always hoped to do in my life is give back to those groups. Right now while I don't have the financial means to donate large amounts to them, one thing I can do is offer a service at a discount rate, which they absolutely deserve. But an added bonus hopefully is that if those groups can get past the fact that it's cycling and they might not have tried it before—they're doing their own job workouts that they have to do—we'd like to get more of those male-dominated groups in the studio. We want it to be a social atmosphere before and after class, people getting to know each other.

You have a big mural from artist Nick Z. What is the vision for artwork at Vélo?
The big guys can't work as well as with a Boston company (and when they do it seems inauthentic), so we really are a Boston company and want to support other Boston companies and small businesses. Artists are small businesses. We had our stairwell done by Nick Z and people have loved that. It's also cool because the artwork has a lot of Boston themes in it. We don't have any set plans yet for other art, but we want to keep that theme going. We still need to figure out whether we want something permanent like paint on the walls, or to hang art for people to see and possibly buy.

What has been your earliest wakeup time?
The earliest class we've had is a 6am class. Probably the earliest I've woken up to come here is 4:30am.

Do you have any tricks for waking up so early?
I mean, I was in the military.

Who is the hardest instructor you've taken at the studio?
I would say the hardest in terms of pure cycling is Ty Hall. He went to Boston College and played football there. He's lost 100 pounds spinning over the last two years, so he works just as hard as the class. They're all tough in their own ways because there's not one specific workout that everyone is going through. We give instructors some freedom. Some people have harder arm portions; others have more hills, sprints, jumps.

Describe your clientele in three words.
Upbeat, social, and fitness-oriented.
· Vélo-City Introduces Its Dude-Friendly Cycling Concept [Racked Boston]
· Vélo-City [Official Site]
· All Fitness Week 2014 posts [Racked Boston]


801 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02199