The TV monitors are jumping, the colored strobe lights are flashing, the music is pounding, and the instructor is barking out encouragement to step it up. There’s sweat. Panting. Maybe a little trash-talking.
Exercising so hard was never so much fun.
That’s the idea, anyway, behind Saddle Indoor Cycling, which is just reaching cruising speed at 1094 Hertel Avenue, near Delaware. And owner Rod Nagy is banking on the idea that this kind of “boutique” workout is the next big thing in fitness.
Nagy, who’s 53, has been in the fitness business since his high school days in Texas, working his way up to managing and owning big-box gyms. It was as a “road warrior” for Gold’s Gym, traveling around the country helping franchisees get established, that he first came to Buffalo on assignment in 2002.
It was a formidable prospect for someone whose main impression of the city was the CNN news clip of a guy running his snow blower on the roof. But he discovered, he says, a livable city with great people and “a whole new market” to try out his ideas in the fitness industry.
Now Nagy and his wife, Amy – director of marketing and finance for Sinatra & Company Realty – live in the Elmwood Village with their three kids. He’s looking to refine Saddle’s niche – not just a workout, but an experience – before opening more locations locally and, he hopes, statewide.
Nagy’s customers buy their sessions online (www.saddlecycling.com) for about $10 apiece, then arrive ready to pump. They climb aboard one of 30 Schwinn stationary bikes, then hang on for the ride – pitted red team against blue, maybe, or challenged to pedal like hell for 20 seconds and see how far they can move the needle on the giant display monitors. The atmosphere is more rave than gym. And when it’s all over the computer sends their session stats, from mileage to calories burned, by email.
“Technology is driving the industry,” Nagy says. “Ninety seconds after the class ends, everyone’s grabbing their phones. My goal is to have people come in at lunchtime and then be able to brag about what they did.”
The business’s fortunes are tied in with the success of the Hertel commercial district; Saddle is at its western end. “We’ve got to make people realize how walkable it is,” Nagy says. “You can park your car, shop, have lunch, catch a movie – do a whole afternoon or evening if you want. And it’s easier to park here than it is on Elmwood.”
And he’s all for business owners cross-promoting themselves, maybe along the lines of a progressive dinner – a group starts at one business, eats, drinks, talks shop, then goes on to the next. “Maybe to get in, we have every business owner bring one person with them, get them into the mix,” he says. “With proper marketing and attention, that kind of thing can definitely help out.”
His adopted city, he says, “has a lot going for it. Look at all these boutique businesses – you don’t see that anywhere else. You don’t see this architecture anywhere. I know some people want to keep Buffalo a well-kept secret, but then there are those who say, ‘Let’s grow this puppy.’ ”