I began by asking Kirill how he and Till came to realising their vision and their journey to get us up to speed!
After meeting in high school, Till and Kirill stayed in touch and after meeting trainer Johanna Oevermann many years later they decided to embark on the journey of creating, what we now know as Ride Berlin. Their goal was to combine Till’s love of sports with Kirill’s entrepreneurial spirit and so decided to bring their concept of boutique fitness which offered an effective workout back to their hometown of Berlin. ‘We had similar concepts in us…That was the spark,’ Kirill explained to me, their determination and drive are clearly paying off now but their journey wasn’t without its difficulties. ‘The boutique fitness market was very small’ Kirill continued, ‘our thinking was always: If you’re doing something you should do it really well.’
Kirill explained to me that the toughest part of their story so far was to explain how they were different from other gyms or classes; ‘there’s a preconceived notion that traditional ‘spinning’ or indoor cycle classes are a winter alternative to road cycling.’ Kirill and Till worked hard to break down these ideas and the stereotype of a novel alternative to traditional cycling. Their determination really has paid off as now Ride is known for its uniqueness, Kirill said that ‘for the first year and a half, every customer was fought for. Then slowly but surely the word started spreading, the emphasis of Ride Berlin was always on the whole experience and this still maintains today.’
“Cycle based workouts used to be an add on, we made them the main event.”
You only opened at your first location in April 2016, have you since been surprised by the reception of it and how quickly it has taken off?
Kirill explained to me that honestly, the duo had expected Ride to be quicker in its pick up. At first, clients were wary that the workout could be more style than substance but that they really targeted both German and English speaking clients to push their product and slowly but surely they built their customer base. Gradually, people became more receptive and open to new workouts and soon the spike hit where Ride Berlin became hugely popular to where it is today.
Considering that you have both achieved so much in the past year, what was your absolute highlight of 2018?
‘Opening our second studio [West] at the beginning of 2018 was a massive step forward, from there on there was a big pick up. People started looking at Ride differently.’ But ultimately Kirill explained to me that every month had been better than the one before and that now the pair is embarking on a whole new wave of their journey and are looking to expand to a 3rd site.
From what I’ve seen and the people I’ve talked to, fitness is all about trends and although Spinning and other cycle-based workouts are huge in the UK, here in Germany I haven’t seen them being as popular. Do you think this could be the next big craze?
Kirill told me that at the moment he thought the newest ‘craze’ was based simply on getting more than a workout. There is a huge focus on lifestyle now more than ever before, people are now looking for a whole experience, not just a workout. ‘The added bonus by working out now for many is that they work actively to get healthier, but the driving force in people working out or taking part in workouts is the feel good and fun factor. This being said, now business plans and marketing strategies also are turning towards this lifestyle based approach and this is something every company in the fitness industry has to explore.’
You said that you both came together to start your vision in Berlin, what role would you say Berlin has played in the conception and success of Ride Berlin?
‘Of course, music, and especially techno and hip hop is a massive part of Berlin and music is a huge part of what we do. The Ride experts are even expected to change their playlists to make sure there’s always something new at Ride.’
I know that Ride is so much more than a workout but why is the overall service as important to you and not just the workout? Many companies would be focused on shortcuts and all the other little things you offer could be seen as unnecessary perhaps to some?
With the extras that Ride offers such as their highly personable service, towels, bottled water, shoes and all other equipment you could possibly need, Kirill told me that the ‘whole service is simply more personal’ and stated that ‘the ride starts at the door.’ He said that the personal touch is so important and as: ‘We want people to feel comfortable. The typical excuses not to work out don’t apply here! It’s the easiest way to workout and is a very simple concept, Ride takes the hassle out of training and every step is taken care of for you.’
You push social media posting a lot through Ride Berlin, what do you think about the pressure of social media on the fitness world?
‘The thing is social media is super helpful, cheap and easy marketing.’ Kirill explained, ‘there is an argument to say, let customers do the work and it’s the quickest way to get customer feedback.’
However, Kirill explained that the whole team is cautious in how they use social media to make sure they are portraying the right message and so that people don’t feel uncomfortable. He told me their vision for their social media platforms is to give the message: ‘No matter what you do, what you look like or who you are….you will enjoy doing this!’ Overall he told me that he finds the online side of things helpful in ‘showcasing what Ride is best at’. He stated, ‘the best thing right now is that all Ride Social Media is run by the team, with no outsourcing, this means the platforms are more transparent and fluid than ever.
Out of all the different classes you offer at both locations which is your favourite one if you had to choose?
‘Okay well, it would definitely be a morning class and either house or pop music.’ Kirill carried on, saying that he needs some sort of singing involved and that techno is too much for him so early, even though it is a really popular session!
You have a total of 17 trainers now, how do you choose and train them? The 2 classes I’ve been to so far were different but their choreography was similar: How do you encourage your trainers to incorporate the same things but in their own way?
‘Johanna is our master instructor. It’s tough to get the fitness instructor out of the person and so most of our Ride Experts are dancers, students, and even dentists! They’re people who have fun with their workouts and are passionate about what they do. All our trainers go through a 6-8 week training programme, they have to be good at improvising and they receive constant support from us in terms of check-ins and workshops.’
Are there any exciting plans for next year you can let us in on?
‘We’re at the final stages of finalising our location in Prenzlauer Berg. In the longer term, we’re looking at bringing Berlin to other places.’ By this, we mean bringing the power, dedication and energy of what we’ve created here in Berlin to other German cities!’
I hope the other cities are ready! One thing that could potentially hold people back from new things like Ride workouts, in my opinion, is feeling daunted. What would you say to anyone who doesn’t think they’re fit enough to take part or is not confident enough to go alone?
‘Everyone is fit enough! We offer a free intro ride once a week and a buddy programme where if you bring someone who hasn’t been before, you both ride for free. This is so that no one feels out of their depth, we really try and offer people many opportunities to get involved in a fun and comfortable way.’
Why would you encourage people to get out of their comfort zones?
‘Quite simply: That’s the only way to get better!’
What do you think about New Year’s Resolutions, especially since we’re coming towards the end of January now?
‘In January some people go nuts and sometimes people really do fall off the bandwagon. Sustainable workouts are what counts and resolutions are great as long as you can keep to them.’ Kirill continued, ‘anyhow it’s great to see people expanding their goals any time of the year.’
And to finish off, is it ever too late to try something new?
To answer my last question Kirill put it very simply to me: ‘our oldest rider is 85 years old, Ride is so customisable and there’s something for everyone. It’s never too late!’