Ride Review: Trying out the Cyclebar Cycling Studio

This past week, the nearby Cyclebar cycling studio had a coupon for a free week of cycling so I tried out a class on Labor Day Monday. For the free trial, you log into their website, reserve a seat ahead of time and they assign you a bike location.

When I walked into the reception area, the first thing I noticed was how new and shiny everything looked. The young woman at the front desk directed me to the row of little iPads so I could check in, get my seat assignment, and borrow shoes, if needed. I had brought my own clip-in shoes, but they had lots of new-looking bike shoes to use if you didn’t own your own bike shoes.

My first impression of Cyclebar:

  • They were trying very hard to make everything a really great experience.
  • clean
  • friendly
  • organized
  • energized

Next, I moved into the open locker area. There were several benches to sit and change shoes.

The wall in the “locker” room had lots of encouraging quotes and phrases, which are so popular these days. Each locker had it’s own assignable combination, so you could lock your stuff up without worrying about it.

The third room in the place is the workout area – the cycling studio theater. It was immediately clear to me that this was designed to be an “experience.” With 48 cycle seats and only 2 empty, it was a packed house.

The bikes were all matching Schwinns. They all seemed very new, clean and fully functional. Crisp, white towels were rolled up and set on left hand side of each bikes’s handlebars.

The room was dark. With my eyes, it was very hard to see where the indicator marks should be set for the seat adjustments and handlebars, so I just guesstimated based on my experience from spinning at my gym. Because it was a “free trial day”, there were a lot of first timers, including the woman next to me who asked me how to set her seat. Of course, it was my first time there too, but I tried to help her. When there are so many people in the class, it’s hard for the instructor to get to everyone before the class starts. I tried to give her some help, but I really doubt that she was set up correctly.

Our instructor was extremely fit and very energetic. He used lots of hand motions and was very animated. He wore a headset microphone, so he didn’t have to shout. It was definitely a good sound system. The music was loud, but not ear splitting. I didn’t recognize any the songs, but I think there might have been a Bruce Springsteen one near the end of our session.

cycling studio

The instructor gave us lots of directions. I felt that with so many instructions throughout the session, it was difficult for me to get into the groove of the music by just closing my eyes and riding. Maybe it was just because this was my first time and everything seemed so new and different.

From a marketing standpoint, the Cyclebar franchise positions their “Rock Your Ride” theater experience as a feeling between a “sanctuary and rock concert.”

There were lots of colorful lights (mostly red) that the instructor played with all the time throughout the 45-minute class. I guess that was part of the rock concert feel. Once we got going, it was a bit of sensory overload for me. Maybe the music was curated for someone in their 30’s or 40’s. There were 3 or 4 battery operated candles in front of the instructor’s bike. My friend never even noticed the candles until she was leaving, because they were too low. I only saw them when he got off his bike and was moving them around, but wondered why they were there. After reviewing their website, I now figure that was a nod to the sanctuary feel.

The ride had a really good warm up at the beginning. I liked that the bikes’ monitors actually showed the resistance level on the mini screen and the mini screen stays lit up for the duration the ride. At the beginning of each song, the instructor would give us a number range for resistance (in the photo below, mine is set at a 6) and RPM (89). From my spinning classes I knew what the RPM was, but I wasn’t used to actually seeing the resistance level – I had always just thought of the resistance as easy, medium or hard.  It was kinda nice to actually see the number that correlated to the resistance of what I just felt as easy, medium or hard. The instructor didn’t really talk about hills or jumps. I don’t think the idea of this particular ride was to mimic outdoor riding at all.
The handlebars had about 6 places to hold onto and I liked the bar up the center so you could lean your elbows down on the handlebars with your hands along the top in the middle.

During the class, there was a lot of moving around on the bike: up and back, down and forward. I guess that is supposed to work your core. It felt a bit weird seeing the whole room standing and bowing to the music. It was like a sea of people. With the lights flashing and everyone moving together to the music, it made me a little bit dizzy  for a minute because of the mirrors and where I was located in the room.

One of the songs utilized two bar weights that were included down the front fork of each bike. I’d say they were about 3 or 4 pounds each, but I only did it for a couple of moves with them. I’ve tried a weighted ride before and I know that, without proper form, this is a good way for me to strain my back. I’m pretty conservative when it comes to getting injured, so I just put the bar back in place and did the hand motions of out and up with the rest of the class. (Okay, I’m a wimp!)

Most interesting is the scoreboard. From time to time, it would rank everyone in the room in number terms. I’m still not sure what all the numbers mean. The instructor only let it flash it up on the screen a few times, before turning it off. He’d show the whole class, and then the top 5 riders or maybe the top two. I guess he didn’t want people to obsess about their ranking during the ride.

When I looked around, most people were wearing a plain tank top with no writing on it. I couldn’t tell if they had bike shorts or regular shorts on and had a bike pad under their shorts.

The air conditioning was cranking when we first walked into the place and it felt cold in the front rooms, but about 15 minutes into the session I was wondering if he was going to turn on the fans. Granted, I sweat a lot, but there were an awful lot of people in one room working out and it was one very hot Labor Day weekend here in Northeast Ohio.

At the 45 minute mark, the ride was over and while we stretched, one of the staff members passed out damp disposable wipes for each person to disinfect their bike. They mentioned that another class was about to start in 30 minutes.

The bike that I was assigned to was up against the mirror. There were four of us in this position. While it looked like I had lots of room – because of the mirror – when it was time to stretch at the end of class, my arm was hitting the mirror.

The instructor went over near the exit door of the cycling studio and greeted each person with a fist bump as they left. He left the scoreboard up on the screen so everyone could read it as they cleaned off there bikes and left the room.

When we walked into the locker room area, another staff member handed out face clothes. I think the thing I liked very best about the entire experience was these little face cloth towels, all rolled up, smelling like lavender, wet and cool when we walked out. It reminded me of the Japanese custom of passing out little cloths after a meal and also on the airplane on the way to Japan.

Because it was a full class, the locker room was extremely tight as we got our belongings out of the lockers. At first there wasn’t enough room to switch into street shoes, so we waited a bit for things to clear out. I’m not sure why, but it reminded me of a ride at an amusement park that I had just completed — Maybe it was the flashing colorful lights and loud music. And that the theater room was so dark. By comparison, the locker room was very bright and cheery. The distinct difference between the two reinforced that Cyclebar is set up to be a very well-planned experience, not just a workout.

It was fun to do this over the holiday weekend. They mentioned that they had a special running – monthly unlimited memberships are $99/mo which compares favorably to their drop-in rate of $20 a class.

After I got home, found an email sent to me with my results. You can also log into their website to see how you did. Here is the screen captures.

Truthfully, I’m not exactly sure the significance of the numbers, except for the calorie burn. They never asked for my weight, so I’m not sure how accurate the calories are. By comparison, my FitBit showed I only burned 311 calories during the 45 minutes of the actual ride, but it also showed another 97 calories in the first 15 minutes after class too. So I’d say my actual total calorie burn for the class was 408. Not too bad for a Monday morning!

Later I noticed on their website, you can go back to your class to click on the instructor’s play list and it is connected to Spotify. I don’t have a Spotify account, but if I did, I’m sure I would like being able to do this.

Do you have a Cyclebar studio near you? If you’ve tried it, what did you think? What new workout have you tried lately? Anything out of the ordinary?

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