Holy quivering quadriceps, a gym has finally melded cycling with nightclubbing, and the whole dimly lit, sweat slinging, music thumping experience leaves behind the most heavenly fitness hangover.
The new CYC studio is strategically located near the University of Texas campus, where it draws a stream of students in need of study breaks to its indoor bicycling classes.
But this, as they say, is not your mother’s spinning class. Unless, of course, she was rocking out to music by Marilyn Manson.
Thirty minutes into the mash-up of bicycling and partying, I found myself whipping a towel over my head and screaming to the pounding beat of a song I’d never heard.
I was at least 20 years older than most of the folks at a recent class. I got over it after I climbed onto one of 50 stationary bikes in the dimly lit studio and started pumping, under the enthusiastic guidance of instructor and creative director Keoni Hudoba.
Hudoba, a former opera singer and Broadway performer who whittled his own body down from 327 pounds to a lean mean 180, is hip, young and uber fit. He’s also the head “cyc-ologist,” as they call them here. (Pronounce “cyc” as “psych” and you’ll get it.)
He told me to brace for a performance, not a workout, and that’s what I got. Only I got the workout, too.
Hudoba beats drums, dances in the saddle and gets his students to participate in the dance-cycling party. Before the 45-minute session had ended, I’d pedaled the equivalent of 20 hilly miles and sweat was puddling beneath my trusty go-nowhere steed.
“Let’s hit this road, are you psyched?” he hollered as we warmed up, pedaling at a reasonable pace. And then the towel-whipping commenced.
Hudoba led us through a road trip of a workout, starting by cruising through an imaginary desert, then up a series of hills and culminating with a sprint to the ocean, where we practically collapsed aboard our bikes.
CYC classes involve lots of shouting and audience interaction. When Hudoba told us to apply the brakes of our stationery bikes and pedal against the resistance, I felt like the little dog in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” lugging an overloaded sleigh up a mountain top. When he asked us our motivation for pushing so hard, people shouted out things like “For the pumpkin pie I ate!” or “For a hot body!”
It’s like regular spinning on steroids — a full body workout, involving light bean-bag weights, set to rhythm. Hudoba’s class took on elements of boxing (imagine throwing air punches while balanced on a bike) and swimming (now that I can do!). We even ended with a little bicycle-top yoga.
Each instructor brings a different flavor to class, so you might find yourself doing anything from standing up in the saddle and marching on the pedals to, for all I know, surfing on a bike. But the main focus is burning calories, which you definitely do in each 45-minute session. (Longer classes are also offered.)
We worked our way through 10 songs, “traveling as a tribe,” as Hudoba puts it. We rocked out to “Diamonds” by Rihanna and a Madonna remix. Sometimes, Hudoba asks his tribe to shut their eyes and listen to the spinning wheels and labored breathing. It’s cathartic.
“That’s why the lights are off. We don’t want anyone looking at you so you can be who you want to be,” he says.
Riders can track and share their results in real time, compete against fellow cyclists in the studio or at other CYC locations, and compare miles completed in class to real distances traveled, as seen on a map.
The Austin location is the company’s second. One opened at the University of Wisconsin earlier this year, and founder Stephen Nitkin says he plans to open 20 more in the next two years.
For every mile pedaled, CYC promises to donate a portion of its profits to one of its pre-selected charity partners. CYC’s national partner is the Challenged Athletes Foundation. In Austin, its non-profit partners are the Sustainable Food Center and Marathon Kids. Nitkin says he expects clients to log more than 1 million miles in Austin in 2013.
He also envisions UT students taking a CYC class instead of partaking in a night of drinking or going to a movie. The club has a lounge area, with free Internet access for riders before and after class. Cycling shoes, water bottles and towels are provided. Nitkin plans to use the space for events such as book readings and DJ concerts, too.
“We’re trying to create a community here that’s a healthy alternative,” he says.