What riding my bike taught me about the difficulties of Pilates equipment maintenance


A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend and I went cycling through wine country in Dahlonega, Georgia.  We stayed in a cool container cabin at the Hiker Hostel, visited a few wineries, and cycled 32 miles and climbed 2500 feet.  Whew!  My quads were bricks!

About 3/4 of the way through our ride, almost to our last winery, I was cursing my bike.  My fitness.  The hills.  You name it.  And every time my bike took 5 seconds (yes, 5 whole seconds!) to shift gears while climbing, boy was I furious!  That’s like 4 or 5 more pedals at an effort that I didn’t want to be at!   It was the straw that broke the camels back.

The thing is, around town I don’t mind that my bike doesn’t shift right away.  However, on these short, everyday trips, I’m only riding for 10-20 minutes at a time and there aren’t such steep hills.   I simply think of my bike as a mode of transportation, not an object to love.

I use my bike all the time, but I’m not really interested in working on it.

So I don’t.  And as a result, it frustrates me when I absolutely need it the most.

While I was riding, I was chastising myself.  Why didn’t I just YouTube how to adjust my shifting?  Why didn’t I take the time to fix it?

Actually sitting down and adjusting the tension on the cables so it will shift smoother is actually pretty easy.  It takes 5-10 minutes, maybe, and provides a much more user friendly and enjoyable ride.  But, I hadn’t taken the time to be proactive and learn how to prevent it or fix it until after it caused me a bunch of heartache.

Pilates equipment maintenance is the same.  It’s easy to ignore it.  The machines function fairly well, and over time you grow used to the quirks and bumps and little squeaks that develop.

What I want my clients and the Pilates industry to realize is that, someday, your un-maintained Pilates apparatus will fail you.

In the cycling world, you can turn to YouTube for literally thousands of video tutorials on how to maintain and repair your bike, no matter what size, style manufacturer it is.  Or, if you don’t want to work on your bike yourself, you can pay to take your bike to a professional and get a tune-up at a local bike shop.

As the Pilates industry grows, the need for this support network does too!  Your Pilates equipment facilitates the teaching of your method, and unsafe, inefficient and noisy equipment detracts from that experience.

We want people to fall in love with Pilates and what it can do for their lives.  Don’t let sub-par equipment performance detract from the head-over-heels feeling.  Just like riding a poorly-maintained bike can turn you off of bike riding, a poorly-maintained Reformer, Cadillac or chair can turn you off of Pilates.

To help grow the Pilates industry, I want to create the same on-going equipment support opportunities for Pilates equipment owners that bike riders have.

First, we need education for equipment owners.  I can’t tell you how many studios I visit or instructors I talk to that think their equipment doesn’t need regular care beyond wiping the upholstery between clients.  It’s not their fault… the industry just doesn’t stress the importance of safe and effective equipment.  Maintenance of Pilates equipment needs to be as natural as an oil change on your car.

Second, we need expert service-providers to turn to for on-site maintenance and repairs.  I serve the Southern US and Northern California.  The Pilates Guy is in the LA Area.  The Pilates Engineer is in New York.  And the Pilates Doctor is in Colorado.   These are my colleagues who work specifically on Pilates Equipment.  Unfortunately, I’m not sure the Pilates industry will exactly copy the bike shop model and create such an abundance of local repair shops.  This situation is quite unlucky for those studios who aren’t near these four US locations.

Third, we need an online resource for Pilates equipment owners to learn about caring for their equipment themselves, independent of the major manufacturers and easy for non-technical people to understand.  This will give studios the option to do it themselves, no matter what their budget, location or technical ability and desire.  It will provide reviews and advice for every major brand of equipment to give Pilates professionals the chance to make educated buying decisions.  Most importantly, it will be another way to keep Pilates studios in peak shape to help attract new clients and retain existing ones.

During that bike trip I got a taste of what it’s like to be a consumer who uses a machine yet doesn’t maintain or repair it, even though it’s a simple fix.  I had learned to live with the sub-par performance of my bike, and it bit me in the butt at the time I asked just a little bit more from it.  Luckily, there are tons of resources out there for bike owners and I can teach myself how to fix it myself.

Now, it’s time to create those same resources for you, my beloved Pilates instructors and studio owners, to grow our awesome community.

If you’d like to help me create resources and grow this corner of the Pilates industry, please consider taking 3 minutes out of your day to fill out this survey.  It will only be live until April 11th, 2016.  As a thank you, I will email you a copy of my four-page Ultimate DIY Maintenance Guide.

Thanks for your help!