I Tried Cycling at CycleBar, and Lived to Tell the Tale
Recently, I was invited to an influencer event where I and a few others had the opportunity to try cycling. If you're new to the party: It’s a somewhat recent phenomenon in the health and fitness world where you sit on a stationary bike in a room full of other people and pedal your peach emoji off to club beats until you feel like you’re having organ failure and die in a puddle of your own sweat after 45 minutes.
I’m mostly joking. Mostly. Below is my account of what happened, but first, some things you should know:
Why it’s Called CycleBar
It’s not like a regular gym, it’s a cool gym that takes the very mundane idea of riding a bike going nowhere and flips it into this premium, almost luxurious experience with state-of-the-art audio and visual effects in a theatre room lined with bikes. This is not your mother’s stationary bike collecting dust and long forgotten in the garage. This is a full on dance-party experience, except you trade in your heels for special cycling shoes and the only shots you’ll be taking are gulps of H20.
It’s a Pretty Big Deal
There are more than 100 independently owned CycleBar franchises across the US, so you need to know right now this is not a joke and it’s not going anywhere. I had the pleasure of trying my first CycleBar experience in the Winter Park location in Central Florida.
Now that we’re squared away, here’s how my experience went.
This Is So…Fancy
The space was well-lit, open and inviting, with lockers to secure your belongings to the left. In the corner, there was an elegant cooler-fountain where you could fill up your bottle with perfectly PH-ed, filtered water. To the right, part of the shop had been converted into a boutique selling CycleBar-branded apparel.
And in the middle were the double doors that lead into to the cycling room. The first thing I noticed was that it actually smelled really nice, not at all like the mysterious, testosterone-laden musk from L.A. Fitness or Gold’s Gym that I was used to. Since this was a promotional event, we were given tank tops and water bottles by the friendly staff, who were genuinely excited to see us.
The Instructors are Fierce AF
I had some reservations about what the cycling instructors might be like, and I had this very vivid picture painted in my head that they were going to be angry, militant beasts barking orders in my face like PUSH HARDER, and PAIN IS WEAKNESS LEAVING THE BODY and YOU ARE A WORTHLESS MAGGOT.
No part of that was true. The instructors, called Cyclestars, were Alicia and Valentina. Though they were militant, they were enthusiastic, charismatic and encouraging from the beginning, and I clearly remember one of them prefacing the class with “I’m known for two things: my ass and my workouts, so get ready to sweat.”
I wanted to be a part of this confident and intense energy right away, and that’s all it took to make my nerves disappear. I was very much committed at that point to hang on to their every word, and if I didn’t make it out alive, I was okay with that.
You Need to Wear the Damn Shoes.
I’m resistant to a lot of things, often for no other reason than to blatantly disrespect authority. I brought my own shoes, but Valentina, advised I wear the special cycling shoes they provided. I tried to refuse, but she insisted that it would be safer and give me the best possible experience.
To be honest, that scared me a little bit, but I reluctantly agreed. I even forgot socks, because of course I did. Yet, she darted behind the counter, and returned with a fresh pair for me. These girls have your back, and they really do keep your safety and comfort top of mind.
When I got to my bike (back row, naturally) I finally understood why the shoes were so important. They’re tailored to the stationary bike and clip in to secure your feet, so that they don’t go flying off the pedals and kicking your neighbor. One of the staff members saw me struggling to clip in my shoes and jumped in to help me. They snapped into place and I was born ready to cycle, baby.
A Few Minutes in…
Okay. This could work. I can do this. Jason Derulo brought us to life over the loudspeakers with the warmup while the lights in the room dimmed. The instructors were getting hyped and we turned up the resistance with a little knob on our bikes, getting into sync.
We could check our progress on a monitor by the front, which would actively rank our stats in real-time. This adds a little friendly competition to the mix, which is a cool way to make the workout fully immersive and more engaging.
15 Minutes in…
It’s full on LIV Miami in here, minus the Dom Perignon. I half expected Calvin Harris to burst through the door and perform a surprise set. By now I am sweating, and not just little beads above my brow. This is intense! At the front of the room, the instructors are demonstrating how to move to the beat to get a full range of motion and target key muscle groups.
Sit up on your seat, dip back, to the left, to the right and back again. I almost forgot I was pedaling my brains out. Almost.
24 Minutes in…
Oh God. I’m not going to make it. I don’t think I can survive another 20 minutes of this. This is work. My legs and core are on fire. The only things keeping me going are the music and positive reinforcement from the instructors. Speaking of the music, it took some interesting turns with mixes that included Biggie, Marshmellow, Lady Gaga, and even some Ozzy.
It somehow all worked and as we turned up the incline and “raced” to the top of an imaginary hill, the music flowed seamlessly. I briefly survey the room, and was relieved to see my fellow cyclers were just as challenged. At one point, the rows were pitted against eachother to race. It was exhilarating -- teamwork makes the dream work, it appears.
32 Minutes in…
There's more?! Down near the front wheel were 4 and 6 lb weights. We were instructed to take out one of them, and shown a series of shoulder, bicep and tricep workouts. This was unexpected, but awesome – I didn’t think I’d be getting a full body workout in this class, but was beginning to see why people love this. And also, I am dying.
40 Minutes in…
How do I still have a pulse? EVERYTHING HURTS! But the hard part is over. The endorphins are coming in hot while the cooldown commences. My body returns to a somewhat normal state, while I’m dripping with sweat and shaking from all the adrenaline along with everyone else in the room. We unclip our shoes, do some light stretching, and we’re done.
Once the doors opened, we were greeted with refreshments like mimosas, fruit, yogurt and much-needed carbs. I grabbed a celebratory croissant and checked out some of the local vendors, who were kind enough to give us goodies in a gift bag, such as gift cards from Lulu Lemon, The Glass Knife, jewelry from Kendra Scott, freshly pressed juiced from Clean Juice and more.
The Cycling Experience Overall
I never thought cycling would be something I’d be into, ever, especially being someone who resists cardio over yoga and strength training. But CycleBar is in a league of its own: they measure six key metrics of your performance which is emailed to you after each session so you can track your improvement over time. They even send you the playlist on Spotify, so you can add it to your own Fitspo playlist, or just relive the moments over and over again.
I had zero expectations going in, and was impressed and inspired when I left. And it wasn’t all about the fitness (though I discvered I torched more than 350 calories when I read my email containing my stats). I met the owner, Lauren Steinberg and asked why she choose to open a CycleBar. She told me a heartfelt story about her struggle coping with losing a foster child. She tried cycling, and that’s what helped her work through her anguish. She opened her own franchise because she wanted to bring what helped her into the community.
If you haven’t tried cycling, there’s bound to be a CycleBar near you with a welcoming atmosphere that will get you aquainted right away. Others looking to switch up their workout routine, this is a perfect way to spice things up, all while expanding your music library.