A newly-launched local stationary bike company is moving into the Chattanooga Choo Choo to launch the city's first spin-only studio as well as sell its popular retail product.
Echelon plans to move into the Choo Choo this summer, launching a spin studio for local residents that will be filmed and shown live to its global customers who have bought the stationary bike and software for their homes.
"You get all the value of any stationary bike out there, but we have an affordable price point," company marketing director Chrissy Will said. "It's really for everyone. Fitness is not a status symbol. It's a lifestyle. I also think having the app and the instructors makes us different."
Local customers can join the Choo Choo location – a spin class centered gym equipped with the company's bikes – while customers around the world can purchase the bikes for their homes. Those with the bikes can then download an app, pay a monthly fee and join any of the live classes being filmed in Chattanooga. They are also able to download old classes, stream scenic rides and sync music play lists. More than 6,500 customers have downloaded the app and registered for the software.
The company sells two models: Flex Bike Ultra and Echelon Connect.
The Echelon Connect was recently launched after the early retail success of the Flex Bike Ultra, which launched on a New Year's special on home shopping network QVC.
"Our customers were clearly looking for a product to help jump start a healthier lifestyle in 2018, and we were proud to offer a product that helps makes being active easier and more enjoyable," said Rich Yoegel, vice president of buying for QVC.
The Flex Bike Ultra is a beginner-friendly recumbent bicycle that folds for easy storage. It features upper body resistance bands for an additional workout while riding.
Echelon Director of Content and Talent Nancy McCaffrey and other Echelon employees believe they set a record for most sales on the network's New Year's Eve show. QVC does not release sales figures and did not confirm the information.
However, the company plans to go back on the network twice in the coming months, once for the Flex Bike Ultra and again to sell the Echelon Connect.
"Well that was an experience; it was fun," McCaffrey said. "We were on air seven or eight times in 24 hours. I've never done anything like that before. We got on air and sold more than $7 million in product in 24 hours because this is a great bike at a great price for people looking to start getting active."
The Echelon Connect is an upright style commonly seen in spin classes. The bike is similar to its $2,000 competitor, the Peloton, but without the built-on screen. The company instead relies on customers to use their own electronic devices to save on cost. There is a mount on the bikes for the devices. The bike syncs to the app, showing instructors who is in the class, and displays user riding information such as cadence and more.
The Flex Bike Ultra sells on the company's website for $229.99, and the Echelon Connect sells for $999.99. A monthly subscription to the online classes ranges from $19.99 to $24.99 per month.
Echelon is finalizing deals with several retailers to sell the bikes in the stores in the coming months.
The classes streamed to the app will all be filmed and streamed by local instructors from the Choo Choo location; many of whom are balancing careers, family and more.
"We're Chattanooga," McCaffrey said. "These are real people with real jobs. Most of our instructors are doing this because this is what we love. It's not actors. It's more relatable to the average person."
One of Echelon's 16 instructors is local runner and spin instructor Missy Elliot. Elliot has been a runner for years but began cycling five or six years ago as she trained for her first triathlon, she said. She received a certification to teach spin classes more than two years ago, she said, and also teaches on Signal Mountain.
"[I joined] because of Nancy," Elliot said. "She asked and said this was going to be really awesome and that I would want to get in at the beginning of this. It was something different and something I thought I would never be doing."
So far, the company has been shooting live videos with its instructors in a studio at Viatek Consumer Products near Jersey Pike and Bonny Oaks Drive until its Choo Choo location opens. The company has not decided a complete schedule of classes for the new location but plans to have classes in the morning, afternoon and evening.