Right around the time I was pining away for my very own ROM experience in 2008, Entrepreneur Online did an informative writeup (originally in the Los Angeles Business Journal).
[ROM manufacturer Alf] Temme, who was born in Hamburg, Germany, and lived in Sweden before emigrating to the U.S. in 1963, spent years building up his sauna business. In the mid-1970s he also owned a now-defunct chain of 25 fitness equipment stores. Contacts he developed running the business led him to ROM inventor John Pitre, who initially asked Temme only to distribute the machine, but Pitre’s business failed after a year and half.
“I was asked whether I would like to manufacture the machine,” said Temme. “I was reluctant. If the inventor goes broke why should I be interested?”
But Temme, who has a structural engineering degree from the University of Stockholm, plunged in because he felt that extensive changes could improve the machine. The inventor retains the patent and receives a monthly royalty from Temme.
“I redesigned the whole machine,” said Temme, who in the early 1990s directed about $800,000 in profits from his sauna business into the project. By late 1992, Romfab was selling a redesigned version of the machine for $10,400.
Around that time, Temme’s machine began to get some recognition from a curious news media. The machine was twice recognized by Popular Science and years later ROMfab continues to gain exposure from journalists eager to try out the $14,615 apparatus, which only comes in one model.
According to Temme, the key to the machine is its flywheel, which regulates resistance based on a user’s strength and conditioning. The machine, which can be adjusted to a user’s height and weight, offers both pushing and pulling resistance to the upper body, exercising the major muscle groups, including the chest and arms. The legs are worked through a stairstepping device. Temme encourages users to alternate daily between the machine’s two exercise options.
Temme only consents to interviews about the ROM machine if reporters come to his office and try out the equipment. And, indeed, the workout is strenuous and challenging. A digital display shows a baseline of performance that paces the user–a pace that becomes particularly challenging to follow as the four-minute workout continues.
Despite a disbelieving industry, Temme has made some headway. About 10 percent of the machines are sold for commercial use. Clients include sports teams, physicians and even some gyms, including Quick Gym Los Angeles in Pasadena.
The gym is owned by Angela Kelly, a former Hollywood body double who first used the machine at a chiropractor’s office. She said it helped eliminate her health problems, and she fell in love with it. In 2007, she started the gym and installed five of the machines.
“I was using it at the chiropractor’s office and it left a lot of his patients wanting a machine,” said Kelly. “I thought it was a great opportunity to start a gym.”
For his part, Temme is interested in the possibility of getting the machines into more gyms. While he’s cut down on his advertising budget and reduced staff levels, he’ s confident that his business can ride out the current economic decline.
“Believe me, it’s not the price, it’s really the too-good-to-be-true aspect,” he said.
This is by far the most in-depth article I’ve yet encountered going into the history, science, and controversy surrounding the ROM. I recommend reading the piece in its entirety here.