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Curating fitness for designer buffs

Jasmine Alimin
Jasmine Alimin • 9 min read
Curating fitness for designer buffs
Tay and Guillamot: Working out at home inspired us to think, how can we offer gym equipment that is functional yet beautifully designed to blend in seamlessly with its surrounding aesthetics?
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If the pandemic has turned you into a home workout buff, perhaps it’s time to call the Cycling Bears to turn your pad into the ultimate luxury fitness space to fit your personal style.

Launched this year by husband-and-wife team Tudi Guillamot and Debra Tay, the homegrown brand is the first luxury fitness equipment provider in Singapore to retail design-led handcrafted products paired with white glove bespoke services. It caters to discerning individuals seeking beautiful well-made equipment that is not only smart, functional, sustainable and customisable, but that will also elevate the overall look and feel of their home interiors.

By day, Guillamot works as the Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific head of sales for fire protection company Rotarex, while Tay is a full-time banker currently heading the ultra-high-net-worth wealth management team for Singapore and Malaysia at UBS.

Both fitness buffs, the couple noticed a gap in the market for luxury home gym brands, mostly due their own personal experience using ugly utilitarian equipment at home. “We found that the last two pandemic years spent indoors increased our need for home workouts, especially when gyms were shuttered. Being avid fitness enthusiasts, we bought some fitness equipment for home, but realised we were scrambling to stow away the bulky and unsightly equipment whenever anyone visited. This inspired us to think, how can we offer gym equipment that is functional yet beautifully designed to blend in seamlessly with its surrounding aesthetics?” shares Tay.

A trained interior designer and certified National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) home gym designer, Tay is well equipped to help clients design and set up fitness centres or dedicated gym areas in their hotels, offices and even yachts. Every piece of equipment is customisable in terms of its material applications, where one can pick their preferred materials and colours to match the rest of their homes.

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Partnering with international luxury fitness brands like Ciclotte, Pent, NoHrd, Enigma and WaterRower, Cycling Bears offers equipment that is exquisitely handcrafted from rich materials such as wood, steel and leather.

Why wood? Materials like American walnut and ash are said to be naturally imbued with antibacterial properties that prevent germs from building up over time and use. Unlike plastics and synthetic rubber which quickly degrade in hot and humid environments, the hardwood used in Cycling Bears’ products ensures that they remain unyielding under the Singapore heat.

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Many items are also sustainably produced. For example, eco-certified Pent uses leather scraps as filling for their punching bags, while NoHrd and WaterRower use sustainably and ethically sourced wood, and power their machinery with production residue and solar energy.

Luxury, however, doesn’t come cheap. Prices range from $320 for a Sienna Luxury Skipping Rope to $25,455 for a Ciclotte Glass Exercise Bike, while most items hover in the four-figure category. Still the couple is confident that consumers are ready to level up their fitness goals with an elevated collection of products. According to Tay, they get the most queries for the Ciclotte Bikes and WaterRower, but the most sellable item is the Pent Banka exercise bench.

Trying is believing. Cycling Bears invites you to test out their products at their showroom at East Coast Road. Hoping to inspire people to reimagine what a home gym can look and feel like, the couple have curated each item to fit seamlessly in the upscale contemporary space.

“The intoxicating scent of fresh leather from the exercise bench, boxing bag and gloves never fails to lift our spirits, while the fresh, earthy scent from the wooden stands evokes a sense of deep calm, like when walking through a crisp fragrant forest — these are the feelings we hope to help people create in their abode with our products,” says Guillamot.

In an interview with Options, the couple share why they are confident that Singapore is ready for upmarket gym equipment.

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As fitness enthusiasts, what type of workouts do you like?

Guillamot: Since I am an avid cyclist and fan of professional cycling races, you mostly find me engaged in cycling. Our rides can take hours and is typically what I do during the week. But apart from that, when we travel, I do enjoy skiing and running.
Tay: I like variety and have different activities during the week like boxing, running, spinning, yoga and strength training. I also love golf, scuba diving and skiing when I get the chance.

How confident are you that there is a market for luxury fitness equipment?

Tay: In my day job as a banker, I often meet people who live in beautiful homes, but their home gyms are always hidden away or looked out of place. Some of the clients also told me that there was not much aesthetically pleasing fitness equipment available in the market. That's when I realised that there is definitely a need for such equipment and that’s how we came up with Cycling Bears.

Guillamot: Having such a tailored, luxurious space offers a calming effect and instantly draws people in. That is also the feeling we hope people get when they enter our showroom.

Which items do you personally enjoy using?

Guillamot: I am in the process of building an enigma bike which I intend to use a lot. I also make the most of the showroom equipment as a complement to my cycling. I use the Pent Scala Wall Bar, Pent fitness ball and the foam roller regularly.

Tay: I almost feel like we had partly selected these brands because they carry all the equipment for the fitness activities that I enjoy. I spend a lot of my free time exercising at the showroom. The ones I use most are probably the Ciclotte bike, the WaterRower, the Pent Raxa boxing bag, Pent Lova (kettlebell) and the Pent Colmia (dumbbells) for a full body workout.

Who are your typical customers?

Tay: We have sold mostly to homeowners — the majority of them are building a new home and want to kit out their home gym, or are in the process of renovating their home and want to refresh their home gym. We have also sold individual pieces to clients who just wanted a WaterRower, a new yoga mat or a pair of dumbbells.

We also get orders from interior designers who are staging homes and showflats for new developments and exclusive boutique hotels. Before starting Cycling Bears, we did introduce some hotel owners to the various brands we carry, and they have also bought the equipment to be used in the hotel suites or higher-value rooms. This gave us the confidence to start Cycling Bears.

What kind of capital was required to start Cycling Bears?

Guillamot: During our research, we spent some money buying equipment from various gym equipment makers. We wanted to get to know the differences between the brands within the market, ensuring that we really wanted to work with the companies that we had chosen. The main capital outlay for us is on the showroom — spending on renovations and display stock. We had to ensure that we had a sufficient variety of display stock for clients to visualise their fitness space when they visit our showroom. We also hold some stocks for people who want to buy single items, and we additionally had to invest in the initial start-up cost for our digital presence. We are happy with where the showroom is and its representation of what we can offer, and we make sure our showroom is relevant through every bit of interaction with our customers.

What is a client experience like?

Tay: We typically speak with our clients to understand their fitness goals and their exercise routines so that we can identify the type of equipment that they would need. Instead of trying to sell someone as many things as we can, our goal is to find a way to ensure that their purchases are fully utilised. Some clients even bring their fitness instructors for the initial meeting, introducing the equipment to their fitness professionals and narrowing down the equipment suitable for the customer. We are also happy to introduce the fitness professionals who we work with to clients who need such equipment.

From that initial conversation, we get an understanding of their space so we can do spatial design, and customise the equipment to match the rest of the home or hotel. Clients can select the type of wood and colour of the leather for most of the equipment.

Can you explain your bespoke offerings?

Tay: Every order is customised, so every project involves designing. We spend the time creating the fitness space for our clients, including the layout and styling. The actual products also have to be customised, and we design them to match the rest of the home. The formal interior design and NASM training helps with spatial planning, while taste and styling come with experience and exposure.

Does being ethical and sustainable make sourcing for products harder?

Guillamot: I would say that finding companies with strong ESG values is definitely challenging. To keep up with our brand’s spirit of sustainability, we make sure that our manufacturers only use sustainably sourced materials. We also take time to get to know the team, which makes it easier to work with them and the partnerships with such companies tend to be much longer. With happy employees and strong values, these companies tend to sustain themselves in the market for a good period of time. Most importantly, it is a joy for us to work with such craftsmen and suppliers.

Why are your brands so pricey?

Tay: We offer bespoke luxury fitness equipment which is fully tailored and made-to-order to fit every customer’s needs. Some brands, like Pent and Ciclotte, are fully customisable, from the type of wood to the colour of the leather. We also offer leather embroidery or wood engraving services for Pent’s products, so you can personalise them for gifting to your loved ones too. Every brand that we carry also uses high-quality sustainable materials in the process. Given the customisation and how each piece is handmade, they are actually well priced for the value, longevity and peace of mind that they give to the customers.

Everyone who has seen the products has given amazing reviews, and all agree that they are absolutely beautiful. It is a sticker shock when they ask about the prices but we believe that this is just a matter of time. Many Singaporeans easily spend over $10,000 on a handbag or a bicycle and $1,000 on a meal out, so why not invest the same for something that is good for their overall well-being and could last for generations?

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