The London pair slipstreaming Peloton with London fitness bike Apex Rides

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Simon Cook and Charlie Lucas knew little about the fitness market before launching Peloton competitor Apex Rides last year, but the startup has grown rapidly.

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Eamon Cook and Charlie Lucas had a business idea that was pandemic-perfect: a cheaper, smaller, British version of the Peloton home exercise bike. He completed the prototype, designed an app and was preparing to launch in March 2020, just as half of Britons wanted to buy a product like him.

There was only one problem: the construction of things. His brand new £1200 Apex bike could not be made in stock as Covid was making its way through China and his factory.

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“The market was going crazy for what we were building, but we didn’t really have bikes,” co-founder Lucas says mournfully. “For a few days in March when it looked like the world was ending, we had to decide: would we shut down operations until it was all over, or seize this huge opportunity Take because everyone is stuck at home?

“We decided to crack that with a pre-sale campaign, where people paid a 10% deposit, and we guaranteed them one of the first bikes – which we expected to be in the summer, but actually It was October by the time they were ready and here.”

A year later, entrepreneurs are happy they’re hanging on to their saddle. He sold 2500 Apex Rides bikes in his first year.

“This could have been a huge launch year – once the first batch of bikes arrived, we quickly ran out of stock,” Cook explains. “And by the beginning of this year, when we were back in lockdown and demand picked up again, our lead time was eight to 10 weeks – not very attractive. When people buy exercise equipment they usually want to go immediately.”

Nevertheless, the 2021 turnover is £2.8 million due to strong online sales, a retail partnership with John Lewis, and over 95% of bike buyers subscribing to Apex’s online classes for around £30 a month.

Cook and Lucas, who are both 34 and live (separately) in Fulham, had no experience in the fitness business when they started. Lucas was an investment manager at Kilic and Cook was working at Divido, a fintech start-up. The pair were childhood friends who first met at the age of eight at their Surrey school. The idea for Apex came over a dinner of pasta and “two bottles” of wine.

Simon Cooke, founder of Apex Rides

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Simon Cooke, founder of Apex Rides

, top ride

Cook explains: “We started talking about how American technology was disrupting the traditional bricks-and-mortar practice set-up and thought: if we were going to do the same thing in the UK, we would do it differently. How’d you do it? This was 2018, Peloton was US-only, a premium, verging-on elitist product. We wanted to make a [smart] bikes that were available for a wider market.”

The pair raised an initial £700,000 led by Capita founder Sir Rod Aldridge. (“We knew he loved the sport and just ran for a meeting.”) He went on to design the cash bike, through an agency in Shoreditch, and build an app.

“We didn’t quit our full-time jobs for about six months — we’d pretend we had meetings and hid for an hour talking to a sourcing agent in China,” says Lucas. Their Chinese agent led Cook and Lucas on a tour of a factory on the east coast of China (“soup with chicken legs in it was a strong memory”).

They chose the largest exercise-machine manufacturer in the country to build the Apex Rides. A second fundraising round, this time £3.2 million, helped fund the initial manufacturing run. Supporters included former Formula 1 boss Eddie Jordan.

Next year, both have plans to expand internationally. “We are forecasting sales of 10,000 bikes by 2022 on revenue of approximately £12 million,” Lucas casually predicted.

Apex rides claim to be “up to 40% cheaper” [than Peloton] depending on your package”. It also cut costs by asking users to join its classes from their own iPhone or iPad, rather than hosting an attractive screen on the bike. Subscribers can access eight weekly live classes based at Boom Cycle’s Hammersmith Spin Studio and hosted by 800 on-demand instructors.

Peloton – which counts Lizzo and David Beckham as fans – is still a better-known brand but the Apex duo say: “We are grateful [Peloton] – We wouldn’t have been able to market without them.” Peloton “spent £20 million to educate the UK population on what” [a smart bike] And how it works — they created the market for us,” Lucas says. “Now we’re going to make the most of it.”

now read: How we did it: Apex Ride’s Simon Cook on due diligence, listening to customers and more


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