I tried Flywheel, a stadium seating type indoor cycling class in Miami back in March. I loved the class especially the Torq board and competing against the other clients but was slightly underwhelmed by the intensity. I was however eager to give another instructor a shot at my heart. When I heard the NYC based chain was opening their 25th studio in Boston, I knew I had to give them another chance. Located inside the Prudential mall, next to PF Changs, I was surprised to see they picked this spot given the low foot traffic and no visibility or direct access from outside. Nevertheless, a good sweat does not depend on location but the Chinese food aroma outside may dampen your post workout high.
I became an indoor cycling regular one year ago thanks to Recycle Studio. I always enjoy my instructors and workouts but classes can be difficult to get into! You sometimes need to make reservations a week in advance. It was obvious the demand was exceeding supply and Recycle opened studio number two in March. Naturally, companies like Flywheel took notice. Handle Bar opened in Southie this summer and another cycling studio is set to open soon in Back Bay across from the Pru on Boylston Street. While NYC studios have competed and coexisted since 2010, things are just starting to heat up in Boston…
Recycle was opened by Cate Brinch, a former SoulCycle regular back in 2011. Flywheel was started by one of the 3 original SoulCycle founders, four years after it’s birth. When Flywheel announced their Boston expansion, they began to search for instructors. Naturally they reached out to the instructors at the top indoor cycling studio in Boston, Recycle. Five of the eight instructors listed on FlyWheel’s website left Recycle to join the national brand. I want to like Flywheel but right off the bat they are making me feel involved in an awkwardly cordial breakup.
Flywheel and Recycle are different and for some of the instructors that left, they felt it was a move that was more their riding style and I get that. They were not stolen away, it was their choice based on what was best for them, and I respect that 100%. It’s business and the fitness industry is no different.
I went to the 12pm class with Jessica. The studio offered free classes for an entire week for people to come and see what the class was all about. You select your bike online and shoes are provided but a single drop in is usually $28. Lockers are all outside the room without privacy but there are 2 bathrooms and 4 shower stalls to cater to the 48 spots available. Get there early if you need to use one to avoid missing part of class! There is also a water bottle station to fill your own up.
The intensity of class was balanced, I was really challenged at times but others felt a bit like I was holding back by the torq recommendations. Nevertheless, it was a good workout that left me sweaty and a better spin class than Equinox or BSC offers. One way Flywheel differentiates themselves is by using a Torq Board to measure your performance, which measures your “power,” a score determined by the level of resistance on your bike and your speed. Each class, you can try to remember your total power and beat it the next class. I like this concept. Your performance metrics are displayed on a screen in class for all to see if you choose to have your name displayed throughout the workout. If you are competitive, you will enjoy this feature. For more on the torque board and other Flywheel standards, check out my Miami review.
Unlike some cycling studios, the instructor did not do the entire workout with us, but I was OK with that since it wasn’t impossible. A pet peeve of mine is when the work is too hard but the instructor has no idea because they never bothered to try their own class before giving it to their clients. The two times she stopped were during two different thirty second races, which conceptually I loved. She put a timer up on the screen overhead with a 30 second countdown and a list of people in class with their current speeds. It was essentially a 30-second sprint disguised as a race to make you go as fast as possible and it worked but unfortunately the music stopped half way through leaving me to push it in silence for 15-seconds. Not good when you are trying to go all out but an easy fix for an instructor that will come with practice.
The music was a meh for me. The songs routinely ended during mid intervals and there really was only one song I actually enjoyed and would select to play on my own playlist.
The arm portion of class was enough. As soon as my arms started to burn we stopped. I would have liked a tiny bit more challenge. There is a weighted bar provided next to each bike, a 4 lb and a 2 lb. I doubled up and still was missing the burn until the end. The arm section of class lasted 5 minutes and was towards the end. We had a good mix of 1st and 3rd position riding throughout class, no push ups, booty taps or crunches. Some people love these, others hate them. The offerings will vary based on instructor at any given studio.
Jessica, the instructor is new to teaching spin but did a really good job. If you are new to indoor cycling, she would be a good starting point. I did burn 450 calories during the class which is on the lower end of my spin count but still a good number! As I mentioned above, there are 4 showers, 2 for “men” and 2 for “women” but they said each private room is essentially unisex. Below is a picture of the get ready area for after class.
When FlyWheel first opened in NYC, many of their instructors came from SoulCycle so it’s not surprising that they went after already established instructors who were trained similarly so. It breaks my heart a little to see a franchise come to town and disrupt a successful business operation when clearly they have the means to train their own people from scratch like Jessica. SoulCycle is adamant they too are coming to Boston proper so it leaves me curious if Bostonians will embrace studio classes like they have in NYC and LA. Are we big enough?
Indoor cycling is popular right now because it’s fun and a great workout. The more studios that offer it, the more likely people are to notice and give it a shot. I do believe you can go to Flywheel, Handle Bar and Recycle regularly to fit your scheduling needs. You don’t need to pick a side as some studio die-hards in NYC feel. Look at your price point, look at your schedule and what location is convenient for you. The more studios in town, the more people are going to start ditching their monthly gym memberships and not have to worry about booking classes weeks ahead of time. As for how Recycle handled half their instructors exiting, they have added a handful of new, peppy instructors that give you just as amazing of a workout as the ladies that left. That kind of quick resilience is known as #BostonStrong.
Disclosure: I shoot my videos at Recycle Studio in Back Bay and as a result have become friendly with the owner and staff. I do pay for my classes that I take there without any sort of discount.