There are two keys to a great party: Inviting lots of different, interesting people and getting them all to show up so you’ve got a full house.
Billing itself as a ‘high-energy party on a bike,’ Ottawa, Canada’s Wheelhouse Cycle excels at both.
It’s run by people like co-founder Heather Andrews (ride vibe: The Queen B) and instructor Jen Theberge (who lists her celeb parents as Goldie Hawn and Evel Knievel).
Andrews, Theberge, and the other brains behind the studio's push for inclusive policies. They want all clients—every race, sexual orientation, and body type—to feel welcome.
They’re also sticklers for a cancellation policy that they say leads to full classes. It’s a must in their brand of group fitness, which requires a vibe that feeds off of a packed house.
By combining the practices, which boil down to ‘more is better,’ Wheelhouse is an Ottawa favorite. Its classes are packed and its atmosphere is fun.
A studio for all
Wheelhouse opened in 2015 because Ottawa didn’t have a cycling studio. Its staff prides themselves on inclusivity.
The brains behind the studio recently hosted a diversity training to understand and keep up with social changes.
“We had someone come in to educate us so we could actually move forward with that knowledge,” Andrews said. “Then we just started making very authentic, real changes in our studio that are true to us.”
Wheelhouse’s leaders changed its bathroom policy and posted it right on the wall.
“Hey, these are our changerooms, and you use whatever changeroom you’re comfortable in using. We support that,” Andrews said. “And if you’re not supportive of that, you’re not welcome here.”
They also use marketing photos of real clients on bikes and not the standard fare of mostly white fitness models in addition to hosting pride rides to make sure everyone feels included.
Bring ‘em out
Not only does the Wheelhouse team want a diverse crowd, they want a big one, as well.
“Our classes get better when they’re more full,” Theberge said. “People don’t want a lot of spots open. They want the vibe and energy of a full room.”
To fill those rooms, Wheelhouse’s leaders enforce a strict cancellation policy.
Basically, anyone who books a class and does not cancel within 8 hours of the start of class will be charged for it. When someone cancels, waitlisted clients are notified via text and email of an open bike and then added in.
“We did have it from when we first opened, but we didn’t enforce it,” Andrews said.
The team was timid around enforcement for fear of losing customers.
“They would say ‘why are you charging me when there are still 10 open bikes?,’” Theberge said.
But then the studio grew in popularity and classes started filling. Empty bikes became a liability.
“So we said [the policy enforcement] absolutely has to happen. Whether you have 5 people signed up or 50,” Andrews said.
So they did. And enforcement did something important: it forced clients to be accountable and show up.
“Frankly, we get more positive feedback than negative feedback about the policy,” said Theberge. “They say ‘Oh my God, I hate that policy. But actually, I really love it because it forces me to get into your class.’”
The cancellation policy is better for the staff, better for the riders, and, of course, better for the studio’s bottom line, Andrews said.
Put it together with Wheelhouse’s big tent policy of making everyone feel welcome, and it’s a recipe for a great party (and full classes, too).