It seems like just yesterday that traditional "Spinning" classes were all the rage. I remember jumps, hovers, and three handlebar grip positions. Resistance was measured by dialing an archaic red knob, and only the truly dedicated wore Lycra and cycling shoes. I am not even sure if the instructors regularly rode “real” bikes.
Nowadays, classes look and feel more like cycling and less like "Spinning": They are earning some street credibility. Advanced interval-based training with race-inspired sprints, hill repeats based on Mt. Bonnell, and wattage-based time trials are now the norm. Most participants wear cycling shoes and shorts. Efforts are measured in watts and RPMs.
Today, more serious recreational riders and racers use indoor cycling classes as a means to improve their technique and fitness. As a result, new studios dedicated to providing the most advanced workouts in town are popping up everywhere, and existing gyms are hiring actual cyclists/coaches to teach rather than those who are primarily qualified through “Spinning” certification. The following gyms/studios are at the forefront of this revolution.
At Pure Austin Fitness, the arsenal of instructors who are local, well-known bike racers is unparalleled, which influences the gym’s overall style. Eric Wood, cycling program manager, explained, “Pure uses a unique combination of outdoor experience and talented instructors to bring challenging race-inspired rides to members.” Some of the indoor cycling classes are inspired by cyclocross or criterium races.
Bikes in the cycling studio have a computer that measures power, RPMs, calories, and trip distance. “We focus on power, cadence, and link those to what happens outside and what it does to your body,” said Wood. “Cycling is about pushing an object in a steady state.
Indoor cycling provides a huge benefit in terms of both strength and stamina.”
*The author is an indoor cycling instructor at Pure Austin Fitness
PureRyde Cycling is the only indoor cycling studio in Austin to use the cutting edge RealRyder fitness bikes, which mimic the movement of outdoor bikes. Riders can lean, steer, and balance on top of the RealRyder bikes, allowing for a full-body workout that claims to burn 20 percent more calories than those on stationary bikes. Learning how to control the bike when standing out of the saddle builds coordination and core strength.
Energetic instructor Tio Bustillo described his class as a “positive endorphin rush.” He continued: “I like to push my class beyond their own fitness limitations and prove that they are far better than they think they are. From the moment they are on their bikes, we ride towards becoming champions. Nothing makes me more excited than to finish as a strong team.”
Routines change frequently to keep classes fresh and exciting while always providing a full-body workout. Instructor Aimee Allen stated, "As instructors, we work hard to create a high energy, fun, and inviting atmosphere connecting riders to a community that keeps them motivated and inspired."
With bright neon lighting and sophisticated studio acoustics, Ride feels like an upscale nightclub. As cool as the studio is, it’s not all about looks; instructors focus on creating meaningful, spiritually uplifting workouts that motivate and empower participants.
David Garza, Ride’s co-owner, is Austin’s most well known triathlete/instructor. He goes from pounding out morning hill repeats on Jester to teaching an intense noon class. This brings an authentic element of intensity to the studio. He takes pride in all of the instructors at Ride.
“Our cycling team has over 25 years [of] experience in group instruction, which has helped us create a safe, effective, and fun ride experience you won't soon forget,” said Garza. He also stressed the importance of form: “We want our riders to have the best experience, and that starts with a great understanding of proper form on the bike. Our workout takes you through a wide variety of movements to challenge your core and stabilize muscles. By ensuring your form is top notch, we are ensuring your success.”
More and more cyclists are practicing yoga as a way to recover faster and improve flexibility on the bike. The schedule at Resolute Fitness always offers a yoga class immediately following a cycling class for those who like to do both back to back.
The owner, Sara-Mai Conway, believes “that the combination of cycling and yoga offers everything a body could need for total fitness, health, and well-being.”
They have 45-minute intense, total-body cycling classes that incorporate five minutes of upper-body work. Resolute Fitness is the only studio in Austin to offer stadium-style seating and DJ-curated playlists. Instructor Anja Seth stressed that working out should be fun. “Music is a big factor for me in the classes I teach,” said Seth. “It takes me hours to develop a new playlist. I design my rides to be challenging for regulars but also doable for first timers.”
Advancements in equipment, technique, and talent give indoor cycling an authentic feel that newbies and hardcore cyclists can both appreciate. So, what’s next? I’m thinking the only thing better than these state-of-the-art classes is going out and doing the real thing!
“Spinning, an indoor cycling fitness routine started by endurance athlete Jonathan Goldberg, has been spreading like wildfire after the class premiered in 1992 in Venice, California. Goldberg, also known as Johnny G, was the vanguard of this indoor cycling movement, when he started indoor cycling in his effort to come up with a program during his training for The Race Across America, one of the longest running endurance cycling races in the world, with the course running from L.A. to New York. Since night training presented some safety concerns, he devised a program that still involved key aspects in training as if he was outdoors. Together with John Baudhuin, they founded Mad Dogg Athletics, Inc., a company with the trademarked program we now know as Spinning. With the formation of Mad Dogg, Goldberg and Baudhuin made bikes and trained instructors.”
“Spinning bikes are designed to hold a person's weight and rapid cycling motion, thanks to a combination of sturdy build and special wheel design. The spinning bike's only wheel is connected to a weighted flywheel that has pedals attached to it. The tension on the wheel can be adjusted by a special knob located either in front of the seat on the frame or in the middle of the handlebar. The pedals have straps to keep the cyclist's feet in place during high speeds. There is no rear wheel, as the spinning bike is designed to be stationary. The body construction is made of extra-strong steel in order to handle the stress of continuous body position changes and speed changes. The seat is typically smaller than a regular bike's and is uncomfortable to many new riders.”