Why I Bought Bikes For My Gym

CrossFit is more than cycling a barbell. A LOT more.
I first heard the word “CrossFit” in the pit area of a local triathlon. I was a bike marshal (aka tire-pumper) and one of the kids asked if I’d heard of CrossFit while he was putting his shoes on.
I said, “What?”
He made a little cross sign in front of his face.
“You know–like a cross. Plus ‘Fit’. You might run a mile carrying a rope, then tie the rope to a tree and climb up ten times, and then run back.”
I said–and I’ll never forget this–“That sounds like bullshit.”
He ran away, laughing. That was 2006.
Ten years into being a CrossFit affiliate, I can now afford to broaden the definition of “fitness” for my clients. But even when I couldn’t buy more equipment, I was always drawn back to the bike. I used to ride MTB (and ride a roadie to train for the trails). On my first visit to HQ, Greg and Sevan showed up on bicycles. And Greg’s first speeches compared gymnasts, weightlifters and cyclists. The bike has ALWAYS been part of CrossFit.
For the last year, I’ve been thinking, “How do I get people outside more, and still keep them as members?”
When I visited HQ last fall, I asked some of Greg’s original clients about doing bike workouts. Sevan and Bruce shared a couple of them, and I asked Greg himself when I visited him at home in Portland. He described one workout something like this:

“I took a bunch of bikes and stashed them at the bottom of a big hill. Then I drive my dumbbells to the top in my truck. I told people to ride the bikes up the hill, do 50 thrusters or something, and then ride back down. I’m surprised no one crashed.”

We laughed, but really–you probably wouldn’t do that in 2018.
I asked Greg if I should buy some bikes for the gym. He said it would be “really cool.”
In the summer, almost every gym sees a slight decline in adherence (that’s attendance, not necessarily drop-offs in membership.) That’s fine, as long as our clients are continuing to exercise. One of the ways to best keep them engaged is to sign groups of members up for events: Spartan Races, Tough Mudders, long runs, triathlons and bikes. Having a goal keeps them engaged–and needing a coach. So when a local 100km ride fundraiser was announced, that was my final push: I ordered 5 Cannondales from my friend Jan, worked out a package for maintenance, and bought some bike racks.
Here are the details:
Bike model: Cannondale CAADX (commonly used in rental shops. They’re bulletproof) with a MTB headset instead of a cyclocross headset (if that’s Greek to you, it means the handlebars look like mountain bike handlebars instead of road bike handlebars)
I bought 2 Medium-sized frames; 2 Large-size; and 1 Small-size.
Features: Disc brakes, rapid-fire shifters, very low profile road tire and 27 gears. Basically, it’s higher-end mountain bike gearing with medium-level road wheel kit. They’re very comfortable, but it’s not hard to stay in the big ring. Just don’t touch soft gravel with them.
Maintenance: Jan provided the gym with a free seminar on bike maintenance and emergency repair.
In case of a problem (like a flat tire), clients are told to take problems to Jan’s bike shop. He keeps a tab and invoices me every month.
In case of a major issue, clients are told to replace the bike. At around $800 Canadian, that makes some think twice about borrowing them. But it also makes them think twice about backing over the bike with their car.
Safety: Bikes are equipped with LED flashers and basic pedals. I don’t use toe-clips because some aren’t familiar with them, and those who are will probably have compatibility issues. If a client wanted to sign out a bike for an event and wanted to use clip-in pedals, they could have the pedals swapped out at Jan’s bike shop.
Usage: So far, we haven’t run out of bikes. I was happy to see two of our bikes parked at the gym yesterday when I arrived for noon group. But if we put a lot of miles on them, I’ll double the fleet next year.
We haven’t used them in a WOD, but we’ve launched a cycling group to train for the 100km ride around St. Joseph Island. Since our gym location is close to downtown (and there’s a stoplight on every corner) I haven’t figured out how to put them into shorter workouts. But it’s fine with me to have more “long” and less “hard” in our programming during the summer.
Download: Bike Check-Out Sheet
Unexpected bonus: Many of my members are now joining Strava, which is–in my opinion–the best workout tracking app out there. CrossFitty-tracking apps could learn a lot from Strava. And the app has also put me in daily contact with dozens of athletic runners and cyclists that I never see on Facebook or Instagram.


One more thing!

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