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BallBike to add commercial unit

FitOne plans to introduce a commercial model of its recumbent bike with a stability ball seat at IHRSA next month after wowing retailers and show-goers at the Health and Fitness Business Expo in Las Vegas last September. SNEWS gets the story.

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There doesn’t seem to be anything quite like it on the market, and the BallBike has been on a roll since the recumbent bike-stability ball mashup debuted at Health and Fitness Business 2011.

Chuck Herman, FitOne’s director of sales and distribution and fitness industry veteran, said he and the other four members of the team (including FitOne CEO Rich Suarez) are working hard to tweak the current prototype invented by Aaron Huber and develop a full commercial model to launch at IHRSA.

The commercial unit features 16 levels of magnetic resistance, a cable-activated lever, dual latex upper body resistance bands and a patented ball cradle to hold the heavy-duty, burst-resistant stability ball. The console offers exercisers feedback on distance, time, pulse (measured by the included heart-rate strap), calories burned and RPM. The backrest is made from PVC foam and the unit weighs approximately 130 pounds and has a user weight capacity of 350 pounds. It also has the abilty to fold, making it easier for facilities to stowe it away.

The idea is to give exercisers a multidimensional workout, sitting on a balance ball seat and pedaling, while working the arms with resistance bands. SNEWS had a chance to test out the prototype at HFB in September 2011 and it was quite the workout. Huber told SNEWS then that he wanted to offer both a core and cardio workout because, “life emulates from your core.” Recumbent bikes can be less intimidating to exercisers than upright stationary cycles, and for years they have allowed users flexibility to add strength training to workouts.

SNEWS taped a SNEWS TV segment on the product Huber invented nearly four years ago. Back then, Huber and Suarez linked up and decided to go the direct response, infomercial route, Herman said. Later the pair added Herman to the mix. Thus, FitOne was born, with the mantra “changing fitness to fit you.”

“Right now we’re still in start-up mode,” Herman said, adding that the company is planning to launch a commercial model at IHRSA, which will be held in Los Angeles in March 2012.

He said the varied backgrounds of the three men help them come to decisions more effectively.

“If you have too many people with the same knowledge and background you overlook things and miss things,” Herman said. “We feed off each other in a positive way that leads to a solution very quickly.”

Herman has worked in the fitness industry for 16 years, most recently running a commercial medical division for a company in Ohio. Since his involvement in FitOne and its launch of the BallBike, he said he’s going back to his sales roots. He carts the prototype around in a van to show potential retailers and clubs who might purchase the product.

“I let people see how it feels, give us some feedback,” Herman said. He said they are usually interested because they’ve never seen anything like the product, on which FitOne holds several patents and trademarks. “When people get to get on it, you watch them smile.”

When Herman first got involved, he knew the product had more potential, he said.

“When I met these guys and consulted with them, I pointed them in the direction of specialty fitness commercial fitness industry,” Herman said. He added that once he saw the product it was a “no-brainer” for him to want to sell it.

In addition the commercial piece the company will bring to IHRSA, Herman said the crew has plans to bring other products to the market, though he remained tight-lipped on the details.

“BallBike is our keystone product,” Herman said. “That’s what we’re focused on right now. As a company, FitOne is going to bring other products within the BallBike line that are currently in research and development. We do have things in the pipeline we also are doing thing with functional fitness.”

Functional fitness, like the increasing popularity of core and instability training, is a growing trend Herman said is not going away. Plus, Herman said, the company is working on DVDs and educational tools for both home equipment owners and facilities that will help exercisers get the maximum benefit from a workout.

“The BallBike is going to offer something new and exciting,” Herman said. “We’re trying to break that mold of traditional fitness equipment.”

–Ana Trujillo