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We recently explored the challenges and opportunities accelerated by Covid that are contributing to the emerging popularity of cycling. To continue with the theme of cycling, this article will explain how the emergence of connected bikes and related content has transformed cycling and has created immersive at-home connected experiences that are leading sports and fitness into the metaverse and creating significant investment opportunities.
A safe, flexible and fun solution to engage riders
The emergence of indoor cycling is democratizing the sport and making it more accessible for both amateur and professional riders.
AST spoke to Philippe Moity, President and Co-founder of Kinomap, an interactive training app for indoor cycling, running and rowing that is also the world’s largest geolocated video sharing platform. Philippe shared his take on how indoor cycling is transforming the sport: “Related to indoor cycling, we have seen so many gym members having their own spinning bikes or smart trainers to be able to keep training all week long. The feeling anybody can get on a smart trainer is so close to the experience you can get on the road. This is also safer than riding in traffic as the risk of falling down is quite limited at home.”
“This isn’t ‘at-home training’, this is the real thing.”
Philippe Moity, President and Co-founder of Kinomap
Indoor cycling offers a flexible solution and makes cycling more enjoyable for people to build a sustainable training pattern: “We strongly believe that variety in sports training is integral to maintaining motivation, enjoyment and improvement. Indoor training allows us to exercise in a flexible way that fits our lifestyle, however, it shouldn’t mean sticking to the same old routine. We believe that when indoor training is more exciting and enjoyable, people will train better and for longer. Ultimately leading to a healthier, happier life.” said Moity.
Christoph Wilfert, CEO and co-founder of Muoverti, a pioneering indoor cycling venture with the mission to enable athletes at all levels to train with enthusiasm and commitment, told AST: “We see a step-change in the level of global interest in cycling. For the cycling industry, the real value is in understanding what new or first-time cyclists will do next. There will inevitably be some drop-off post-pandemic but it’s our hope that a greater number will be long-term converts having now experienced the multiple benefits of cycling regularly.”
“Indoor cycling has spawned an entirely new sport in itself. Indoor bikes and trainers have long allowed outdoor cyclists to continue to train throughout the winter or when they are time-crunched. Now, however, we have a highly popular governing body that has accredited the cycling E-Sports World and National Championships, alongside a thriving global amateur racing scene. This wouldn’t have been possible without the creation of smart bikes and turbo trainers and software platforms such as Zwift and RGT so it’s incredibly exciting to imagine what impact the introduction of TiltBikes technology will have and what the indoor racing scene will look like in a few years. (Indoor racing)”
Muoverti is determined to take the indoor cycling experience to a whole new level: “It’s that desire to provide a better indoor cycling experience which compels us to ensure TiltBikes are a class apart from any other indoor trainers that have come before.”
“What’s been missing so far from the indoor experience is that feeling of exhilaration that cycling outdoors provides. We’ve built an indoor bike which offers the best of both worlds – a fun, engaging, motivating experience courtesy of TiltBikes’ ability to lean and its highly realistic algorithm driven on-pedal feel; and a powerful tool for quality, full body indoor exercise which captures a wide range of training metrics and is compatible with all the latest indoor training software innovations.” said Wilfert.
The Rising Popularity of Immersive Sports
Indoor and AR/VR sports saw exceptional growth during the pandemic. According to Strava’s report, VR + indoor rides saw a higher increase in activity uploads compared with outdoor rides in 2021 (Indoor 1.4X vs Outdoor 1.2X growth) while a survey indicated that virtual and online training ranked in the top 6 of global fitness trends in 2021.
Additionally, the world’s leading virtual cycling platform Zwift saw a 300% increase in daily activity in 2020 and now has nearly 4 million users in over 190 countries.
The integration of AR & VR technologies is unleashing many potential opportunities in sports and fitness. Companies can leverage virtual and immersive cycling training to open the doors to the Metaverse and with the rise of Move-to-Earn, developers are also able to tokenize the sport and capitalize on blockchain technology.
Kinomap is partnering with Nreal AR glasses maker to enhance immersive training experiences.
As well, cycling tours can now be hosted virtually like the Virtual Tour de France. It also enables pro-cycling to create virtual events including UCI’s esports Cycling World Championships which were held on Zwift and the ‘eRacing Championships’ organized by British Cycling. The blurring lines between traditional sports and esports will generate higher commercial value for cycling races as it could reach a broader audience and attract more sponsors. This is also a key milestone for esports and facilitates opportunities to host immersive sporting events in the metaverse.
Leveraging digital socialization and gamification
Digital socialization and gamification are also instrumental in increasing riders’ engagement, especially for young digital native riders. These virtual cycling systems are reimagining cycling by offering gamified and immersive rides, with features including personalized training modes, captivating video content and music, multiplayer functions and more making the sport more versatile and interactive than ever. Users can also share their rides on social fitness apps further increasing engagement. These elements are key to user acquisition and retention and as well as encouraging inactive people to start moving by joining the growing world of cycling.
Gamification features are one of Muoverti’s TiltBike’s product highlights: “Current indoor bikes and virtual training platforms are primarily focused around pedaling along a linear, predetermined track. TiltBikes’ handlebar steering, braking, gear shifting and shifter integrated joysticks open up a whole new realm of possibilities with riders now able to roam a vast open-world of virtual environments in the same way that video-gamers have been able to do so for many years. With the bike essentially becoming the video game controller, we’ve blended the two pastimes – exercise and gaming, meaning you no longer need to choose between spending your time either having fun or exercising.” said Wilfert.
Building scalable virtual training programs for youth
Besides professional training and fitness, virtual training platforms could also play a huge role in physical education and help today’s youth become more active. These immersive cycling programs are designed to create a more engaging way to make the sport more accessible and appealing for youth, while performance analysis enables students, coaches and parents to receive feedback and keep track of their progress. A scalable system could also be developed for cycling companies to expand their business and build online communities. Imagine youth taking PE lessons in the metaverse where they can move and interact with their classmates and others around the world without training together physically. This could be a game changer in youth sports education!
Capitalizing on Asia’s avid hybrid gym-goers
Since Hybrid training has become a key part of today’s fitness culture, indoor training is here to stay even after the pandemic. According to a LES MILLS 2021 Report, 80% of gym members globally intend to continue using digital workouts post-pandemic. As well, the percentage of gym members that will also continue to work out at home in is significantly higher in Asian countries including China, India and Japan than those in the US and some European countries, implying great opportunities for indoor cycling companies to capitalize on the huge population of hybrid gym and home fitness enthusiasts in Asia.
Investors are focussing on the potential of the indoor cycling market
Indoor cycling has become a highly-coveted sector among investors as they are realizing how lucrative the virtual cycling market can be with growing consumer demand and the explosion of sports tech and fit tech. We are witnessing large investments from top VC firms and tech giants in this space and this will continue to be a trending category for investors.
(Read AST’s article on VC investment trends in Sports Tech to learn more)
Significant financing activities include:
- Zwift passed a US$1billion valuation following a US$450million fundraise led by KKR in 2020 with other investors including Permira, the Amazon Alexa Fund and Specialized Bicycle’s venture capital fund, Zone 5 Ventures. (Read AST’s analysis on Zwift’s valuation)
- Rouvy received US$6million funding from Pale Fire Investment in 2021 and earlier this year, the group announced that they are buying Virtual Training, the company behind Rouvy. Muoverti has recently secured US$3.16million in funding to support the launch of TiltBike later this year.
- Wahoo Fitness, a fitness technology company, has just acquired virtual cycling platform RGT after the relaunch of their training app SYSTM last year. Peloton, currently valued at $6 Billion, reportedly has tech giants including Apple, Amazon and Nike exploring bids to acquire the company.
- Cult.fit, India’s fitness unicorn recently acquired smart fitness bike company TREAD and rebranded the product as Cultbike X1 where users can pair the bike with Cult.fit’s app to access different kinds of workouts.
As the indoor cycling market continues to grow, we will continue to see more investors realizing the potential of this vertical and investing in these companies.
Opportunities in Asia
Asia’s increasing demand for hybrid and at-home fitness training and education, coupled with connected fitness, virtual and immersive sports experiences that are increasingly linked to the metaverse will create highly scalable and profitable businesses and investment opportunities in Asia.
Finding the right markets to enter at the right time, determining the product-market fit and acquiring customers and choosing the right companies to invest in requires insights, strategies and connections.
Reach out to us to capitalize on the limitless potential of immersive sports!