I Tried It: Fit Ryde Indoor Cycling in West Chester

This was unlike any other spinning class I've ever taken. (That's a compliment.)

Courtesy of Real Ryder

When I do a spinning class (rarely), it’s purely for the torture of it.

Here’s how this typically goes: After a few months of running, I start to think, “Huh, maybe I should mix it up for a bit.” I imagine myself at age 45 hobbling around with busted knees from all the pavement pounding I did in my twenties. So as a favor to my body, I start to consider lower-impact forms of cardio—which brings me to spinning.

See, the thing about spinning is, in my head, I always think I should like it. I own not one but two bicycles: a fixed-gear bike for city riding and commuting, and a geared road bike for longer fitness rides. Truth be told, I’m not super consistent with my bicycling, but the fact remains that I always have the option to hop on a bike and just go. And I like that.

So with the best of intentions, I sign up for an after-work class, arrive early to get a “good” bike (one sort of in the middle so you’re not so close to the teacher that you’ll be picked on, but not so far back that you can’t hear anything), and try to psych myself up. “This will be fun!” I tell myself over-enthusiastically. “You’ll feel so good afterwards!”

Then the class starts—and so do my endless, futile staring sessions with the clock. Five minutes in and all I can think about is when the torture will be over. My quads ache; sweat begins to pour. The club-like atmosphere—a basement or windowless space with dimmed lights, glow-in-the-dark paint, twinkling Christmas lights and the occasional (ick) disco ball—do nothing to distract me. It’s months before I return.

I first heard about Fit Ryde in December. Steve Hollingsworth, owner of the West Chester indoor cycling studio, emailed Philly Mag by way of introduction. His query was forwarded to me and I read it—but didn’t respond. His studio seemed interesting enough: It’s equipped with these newfangled bikes called Real Ryders, which tilt and lean from side to side in a way that more closely mimics outdoor riding. But the fact remained that I just don’t like spinning. Period.

But then … a month out from Broad Street I started to feel that familiar ache for something different. I wanted to mix it up. I emailed Steve.

Yesterday was my inaugural Fit Ryde class. Just by the looks of it, I had high hopes: Steve’s studio isn’t one of these windowless-basement types, but a ground-level space in a new shopping center on 202 near Route 1. One of his neighbors is a new Bikram yoga studio. The front wall is made up of sunlight-swathed windows and a glass door that look out onto a farm sitting atop a grassy hill across the street. Some view, no? I’m told during morning classes, the sun peeks up over that hill and it’s absolutely breathtaking; I can imagine.

Steve set me up on one of his 18 Real Ryders. Mounting it was a strange sensation. I’m used to the won’t-move-an-inch stationary spinners, but this one swung to the side when I put my foot on the pedal. I friend I’d brought along likened it to mounting a horse. She wasn’t far off.

Once you get over the initial instability, these bikes actually make for a really fun—and challenging—ride. Our instructor, Jordan Verdeur, guided us through some of the typical spinning motions—jumps, hill climbs, descents—but we also turned to the left and right, movements that required a good bit of upper body strength (I could really feel it in my shoulders and triceps) and, surprisingly, engaged my obliques, too. The jumps were different because standing up in the saddle sent the bike swinging wildly to the left and right—a no-no. To bring it back to balance, you have to grip the handlebars with the strength of Samson (pre-haircut) and squeeze the life out of your core. It’s hard, and it really makes you focus. I think buckets of sweat started pouring before we were out of the warmup.

My one complaint was that at times, Jordan was hard to hear. My class wasn’t even full (I’m told the morning ones are the best sellers), but I still I had a hard time making sense of some of what she said. I imagine the din of all the bikes spinning at once would make the acoustics even more muddled. A microphone, it seems, would be a wise investment.

The best part? I hardly glanced at the clock. And before I knew it, the 45-minute class was winding down. Victory.

>> Fit Ryde classes are $19 each; packages for multiple classes are available. Be Well Philly readers can score a five-class pass for $25 (an $85 value) with the coupon code bwp040412. (Note: The offer only applies to first-time Fit Ryde clients.)


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