I had a free weekend with no plans, so what did I decide to do? I travelled to Seattle to try out a different spin studio, of course!
I have been to over half a dozen spin studios in Vancouver and all of them offer pretty much the same thing. So when my friend and huge spin enthusiast, Carli Cifelli started raving about Flywheel, I had to see for myself how different this spin class could really be.
On first glance of their appealing website, I discovered they are famous for their in-studio TorqBoards, which are large-screen displays that occasionally flash leader-boards that show you and everyone else in the class how you're performing and where you rank. Being a bit of the competitive type, this greatly appealed to me. (If you don’t want your performance advertised to everyone in the class, you can opt out of this feature.)
With the offer of a free first class for me and my boyfriend, I registered for a Sunday 9:30 a.m. Power class at the South Lake Union location in downtown Seattle, only a few blocks from the Space Needle.
The class is 60 minutes and costs $25 to drop-in. Flywheel was launched in New York City and counts 16 U.S. locations as well as one in Dubai.
When signing up, we had to choose a bike. Just like choosing a seat in an airplane, we could see how many bikes were taken and where each bike was located in the stadium-style sitting arrangement. There were 46 bikes in total and 75 per cent of those were already booked a week in advance. After we chose our bikes, we typed in our shoe sizes and opted to participate in the leader board.
We immediately received a confirmation email and were ready to go.
On Sunday we arrived early, parked directly beside the Flywheel and walked into the bright, very clean and very white studio. The receptionist directed us to sign ourselves in using their new iPad system. It was very efficient.
Under the tablet computers were rows of numbered boxes; there was one for every bike, each with rental shoes. My 8.5-size shoes were waiting in box number four. How convenient!
We grabbed our shoes and walked inside to find complimentary lockers. The simple convenience and pleasure of a free, easy-to-use locker made me happy.
With our street clothes in the locker and our rental shoes on our feet, we grabbed a sweat towel and lined up for the class. The door opened to a bright, energetic smile and it seemed our instructor, Aina Williams, was definitely excited to be there.
As I was adjusting my bike, another staff member walked around helping the newbies set up their bikes. I assured her I had done this before and continued with my overly picky bike set up. As the room filled up, the music was cranked up and our instructor announced the motto for today’s class: “Suck it up!”
For the next hour, the class was pretty much like all the spin classes I had been to — with three exceptions.
First of all, the music and sound system were both phenomenal. It was loud but not destroying my eardrums, and Aina had no trouble talking over her tunes.
Secondly, with 40 other bodies in the room giving off a ton of energy and a leader board to keep us all honest, it was pretty difficult to slack off. So far the only other instructor who was ever able to push me this hard was Chad Eberle at Rep1 Fitness.
Thirdly, Aina had the most energy and the best motivational one-hour monologue I have heard in the handful of classes I’ve attended. No matter how great the music is, it is the instructor who has the power to make or break a class.
To my great dismay, I was battling for eighth position out of the 15 women who were on the leader-board. I tried to glance around the room to see who my competition was, but the lights had been turned down low so I could only make out a few people.
I tried to increase my standing, but so did the other girls and I remained in the same position. I finally tried to ignore the board and focus on the workout, which was taking everything out of me.
After about 45 minutes of sprints and hills, Aina led us through an upper body segment using our two- and four-pound bars. I laughed at the small weights but only for a few minutes before my arms started to burn and I begged Aina with my eyes to stop. She didn’t relent.
After the upper body set, Aina finished the class with some extremely fast sprints, pushing us one last time to Suck! It! Up!
As soon as the music finished, the leader board lit up to show who pushed themselves the most overall during the class. My boyfriend won overall, and I won’t tell you where I placed.
So what did I think of Flywheel? Their only weakness was the number of showers — just two — in the entire studio. In my case, I waited 30 minutes to shower.
But I loved every minute of it, from the easy registration to the convenience at check in; the attitude of the staff and our energetic instructor, Aina. And of course, I love their famous TorqBoard leader-boards and I need to go back again to restore my ego.
Kristina Bangma is a coach, personal trainer and writer with a love of riding and racing. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.