The Propilot indoor trainer won the best start-up title at the Eurobike trade show. The device has been designed to strengthen those deep muscles providing control over handling of the bike. Most DH riders can upgrade their fitness even without riding, which now seems more relevant than ever. Meet Christian Jaeger, the co-founder of the company that developed the “PRAEP” training tool.
Christian, what is the Propilot device good for? Your product advertises it should improve some of the rider’s skills. What kind of skills?
The ProPilot features three different levels of instability. A beginner’s mode where you simply do planks or push-ups on handlebars. Good for people who’ve never trained before or for those with hand injuries so they can’t do regular push-ups any more. The second mode is the advanced mode, featuring a side-to-side instability. You may compare this to some off-camber riding where you need to balance it out on the bike. Same on the ProPilot, just much harder because you put your whole body weight on it. This incorporates all your core muscles – that area where your stability on the bike comes from. And then we have the pro-mode. This means 360° instability by point balance. It feels like riding rock patches all day but also with your whole body weight. It engages the deep muscles of your core, the whole upper body, and your wrists and hands. So all the muscles that you may just train while riding. As most of us can’t go riding all day, this is the perfect and effective preparation. And just because it is so much harder than riding, you will feel results much quicker. You will sit more stably on the bike. You will have less or no arm pump within a couple of weeks and your bike will feel like a toy because you will gain functional strength.
What is the difference between ‘riding’ the PRAEP and doing, let’s say, push-ups?
The main difference is the instability and the muscles it triggers: the deep muscles. These are not the classic “Schwarzenegger muscles” you may pump up at the gym or with regular push-ups. It’s more of the Bruce-Lee type of muscles that ensure stability, strength, and endurance. Generally, we all have two different kinds of muscle fibres. The ones that burn sugar and get sore when engaged too hard and too long, and the ones that are close to your joints that burn oxygen and have a better long-term performance. They are called deep muscles and this is what we are triggering. So you won’t size up when using the ProPilot, haha!
You can connect a smartphone to your device – how does that work and how does it refine the experience?
The thing with the app came to my mind when I was riding with my buddy Dakotah Norton in Schladming. It was so interesting how these WorldCup guys behave in the lift cabin… instead of talking trash all the time, they were so focused on the trails, looking for the lines and stuff. And we all know the results of doing so. So, my idea was to make the track-learning more haptic. Sitting in front of a laptop is not that bad but why not utilising your smartphone for that and make learning the track a part of your workout… That brought the smartness into the ProPilot and also shaped its form. And since the modern smartphone has all kinds of sensors, we added some games to it as well where you can enjoy virtual trail riding in the plank position. Something you need to try out. It makes the whole training more gamified.
Who’s the man behind the project?
There are two guys behind it, me and Tim. Tim’s the one riding the bike with an engine, I am the one who made the move from skateboarding to biking. We both run a decent industrial design company since 2010 and always wanted to start our brand. So, with Praep, we did just that. Nonetheless, we recognised that you can’t manage a company with 20 employees on one hand and a start-up a brand alongside it on the other and still be cool dads to the kids… So, after running both at the same time for 3 months, we set our focus 100 % on Praep since summer 2018.
How did you invent “PRAEP”? Do you remember the moment when the idea was conceived?
It’s pretty much the story that many riders might know: you take old handlebars, mount something to them and have a push-up tool. I just found out the more unstable it was, the better the effect was. Besides that, I saw that a lot of my riding buddies did no training at all, resulting in arm pump and all those things that simply kill the flow out on the trails. So the mission was born to make a device that looks sexy and is available to many. So we started with the idea of preparation that turned into our company mission today – “praeparation” is everything. We just wanted to make it easy to access and good looking so it will remain in your living room and aesthetically tell you every morning, “use me, I’m good for you!”
Have you experienced some struggles during the development process?
Production, the supply chain and sourcing! Oh man, the whole engineering and design part has been our daily business for more than a decade but now we were the ones to bring it to life and we did not take the easy route there. Our main goal was to avoid unnecessary container shipping, simply because shipping containers are massive pollution contributors. The ProPilot itself is made 100 % locally in Germany. Our boxes are made in our hometown, Munich. Of course, we also incorporate stuff from Taiwan because there are no European suppliers for things like handlebars any more. And we are no patriots here, we are rather practical. But lining all that up in a constant supply chain took more than a year. But we are super stoked on the result and, even in these tough corona times, we have a steady material flow and we can deliver directly.
How about the sales? Can you give us some numbers?
Since the ProPilot became available 15 months ago, we have been through the good and the bad. I think it is important to mention that we went all in here and funded everything by ourselves and we are not financially blessed. So the first nine months, the sales were so low that we were forced to sell almost anything (furniture, computers, etc.) We had to fell back on our agency days to be able to pay the rent but it all changed with the Eurobike. For some reason, it seemed like there was a ton of people watching us but they needed a proof that we were for real… Since then, it kind of exploded and we are so happy and grateful to be very close to 10,000 happy customers these days.
Some new improvements ahead?
Yes, absolutely. With everything running now, we are going to release a couple of new tools in the next few months. With our Athlete Team and good feedback from the social media, we are quite happy to hit the development pedal flat out! 100 % sport-specific for people that love spending time behind the handlebars. Stay tuned, the first thing might be out when this article gets published.