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What the appointment of Flywheel’s new CEO means for your next spin class

(Photo: Flywheel)
(Photo: Flywheel)

The first line of Ed Kinnaly’s Linkedin profile, the new CEO of Flywheel, reads, “Dynamic executive leader with broad global management experience in re-energizing brands and under-performing businesses.”

Since Kinnaly’s only officially been in his new role for a few weeks, it’s too early to tell if he’s already revitalized the international indoor cycling brand (and he won’t exactly fess up to the fact that he’s being called in as a knight in shining cycling shoes).

Flywheel was one of the first and biggest players on the boutique fitness scene, especially the indoor cycling space, when it launched in 2010. But in recent years it seems they have been outpaced by brands like SoulCycle in some markets (even if their geographical footprint is larger and number of studios on par). Kinnaly has big plans to change that—and make Flywheel an indefatigable leader in the competitive boutique fitness arena.

Not to mention he’s feeling pretty fearless right now. (In addition to the news about his appointment as CEO, The Bostonian’s hometown football team just won the Super Bowl.) “I don’t feel the company or the brand needs to be revitalized,” says Kinnaly, who’s run the Boston Marathon 13 times and hops on the spin bike about five times a week. For him, that’s not what this is about.

“The space continues to become more competitive on a weekly basis, but we feel our products and customer experience today, as well as things in the pipeline, are just going to add more fuel to our mission to separate ourselves from everybody else,” he says.

What does Kinnaly’s appointment mean for your next spin class? Here are five things you need to know…

Flywheel’s Lincoln Center studio. (Photo: Matthew Peyton)
Flywheel’s Lincoln Center studio. (Photo: Matthew Peyton)

1. He’s going to listen to you. Kinnaly, who was the executive vice president of Bauer, the hockey brand, for more than 13 years (and tripled, yes tripled, the brand’s revenue over the course of that time), admits that part of Flywheel’s future success will involve streamlining processes and strategies, but he says a lot of that stems from listening to the riders.

“That will continue to be a major mantra,” he says. “I think the biggest thing for us is to provide the most satisfying boutique fitness experience available in the marketplace. That’s a bold statement, but I think it’s doable.”

2. Flywheel is introducing a new music-based class. Case and point of listening to the customers is a music-driven spin class that customers have been requesting. (We can’t help but picture a few loyal riders cheating on Flywheel at SoulCycle, hiding in the back row with their emblazoned Fly tanks to get their bike dancing groove on.)

“Without giving away too much, we’re going to be starting to roll that out in a soft manner,” Kinnaly says, indicating that the brand is recognizing the importance of having a class with tons of athletic appeal—and one that’s a little more about the beat and choreography.

3. It’s coming to a city near you. The brand is opening studios in Miami and introducing Flybarre to Boston this month, as well as opening in D.C. in March. But the brand is pedaling into even more cities in 2015 with “aggressive national expansion,” Kinnaly says. Flywheel currently has just over 30 studios in the US and two in Dubai, so expect that number to grow even more.

4. Booking your class will be a whole lot easier. SoulCycle and Barry’s Bootcamp have both improved their websites and reservation systems over the last two years and, even though Flywheel’s been ahead on this front with “who’s in my class” features and check-ins by app, it’s the company’s turn at bat again. Kinnaly says that they’re going to amp up the digital and mobile experiences and roll out an e-commerce platform.

5. Expect more (fashionable) Flywheel apparel. Last year, a handful of fashion industry execs—from Coach and Intermix to Theory—invested in Flywheel and put their stamp of approval (and stamp of “we want more”) on the apparel side of the business.

So it’s a good thing that Kinnaly brings a boatload of retail experience to Flywheel. In addition to Bauer, he worked at Nike for more than 12 years and plans to expand the space devoted to retail in some of Flywheel’s studios. He’ll work closely with Natalie Cohen Gould, Flywheel’s vice president, on that side of things.

“We’ve seen over the course of the last two years, a significant uptick in retail versus our overall sales. It’s a nice metric to look at with regards to how people perceive the brand,” Kinnaly says.

What he means by that? Flywheel customers are buying classes and coming to the workouts, but they’re also showing their love for the data-capturing bikes and motivating instructor by wearing Flywheel apparel outside the studio, too. (If you’ve ever worn one of their super comfy sweatshirts, you can relate.)

“People are identifying themselves as being affiliated with the Flywheel brand,” Kinnaly says. “They want to take piece of Flywheel home with them.” And it sounds like we’ll be seeing even more souvenirs of studio pride out on the street very soon. —Molly Gallagher

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