Most of the adrenaline and fear I feel riding a bicycle in New York City is derived from various morbid fantasies featuring a car door, the pavement, and a funeral in quick succession. The bike commute is dangerous but thrilling business. As a cyclist, I’ve traditionally regarded spinners with derision. The idea of pedaling furiously in a dark room while house music blares and no one goes anywhere seems tribal and gerbilish in the worst possible way. So I arrive at Flywheel, a new spinning studio that is spreading like wildfire through New York, where they just opened their third studio; the Hamptons, where they just opened their second; and Boca (Boca!) where they just opened their first, with some degree of skepticism.
But Flywheel is essentially a metrics game which appeals to the geek in me. Unlike other spinning studios, there’s a proprietary Torqboard, which adjusts resistance on the bikes with real, not relative, numbers, so you can be competitive easier. That’s also helped by the pair of flatscreen displays which show a leaderboard. I don’t care about spinning, but I hate to lose.
That first class was something between mortification of the flesh, motivational seminar, and hip-hop sing-a-long. Our eerily defined and definitely perky instructor Holly knew all the words to Cam’Ron’s “Hey Ma,” which was nice to hear though at one point she sang, “You smoke, I smoke. I drink. Me too,” which was definitely not true. (The music is curated by “internationally known” artist, DJ Scott Melker.) Also not true but appreciated was her refrain “Every day is Saturday.” It was Thursday morning.
As Holly guided us through frantic periods of low resistance and painful periods of high resistance, she also proved herself remarkably good at pushing one through agony by sheer perkiness. Any scorn I felt for spinners was subsumed by anaerobic agony by minute 23, halfway through the class, during a remix of “Freedom.” “It’s all about freedom,” yelled Holly. “We’re not sprinting, we’re flying. Can I get a ‘Heya’?” “Heya!” I yelled.
Illustration by Matthew Jennings