I took my first spinning class six years ago because of a Groupon deal. It was a mostly joyless affair. I already rode a bike around San Francisco every day, and getting from point A to point B was motivation enough. I didn't need someone yelling at me to cycle. I mean, everything I'd heard about spinning was true—the class was tough and required a lot of physical endurance, but I found zero stimulation in pedaling like a circus monkey, so I didn't do it again.
But, it looks like something has happened in the years since. Spinning's become... cool? It might have been the cult of SoulCycle spreading across the U.S. The first SoulCycle studio opened in Manhattan in 2006 with a brilliant new formula: spinning + club-like environment + mind-body-spirit motivational speaking = Lady Gaga and Lena Dunham telling everyone they love spinning and every SoulCycle session getting fully booked by a class of anxious yuppies who wanted to roll exercise, entertainment and therapy into one 45 minute go.
And so, last month I went to Becycle and tried my hand at spinning again. The place opened two months ago in the same fitness complex in north Jing'an that houses the Aboro Academy and Factory Five's new digs. Becycle's got a small-ish studio, with 14 bikes and one instructor bike up front. They've got the place set up with all the club fittings: KRK sound system, LED lighting strips on the ceiling that flash from one Skittle shade to another.
As for the class itself...
What you need
Comfortable threads and shoes. If you sweat a lot, then you'll probably want to bring a small hand towel. Becycle shares its lockers, showers and sauna with the other fitness studios in this complex, which provides large towels, shampoo, body wash and hair dryers for people taking classes. There's no extra charge for these amenities.
Who goes in for this
So far, people who love endurance training and a quick, high-intensity workout. Some of the participants I spoke to said that they love cycling but feel that the air quality and terrain of the city keep them from more rigorous activity or training, so indoor cycling makes a good alternative.
Whether or not you have a satisfying spinning class depends largely on whether the style and speed of your instructor is suitable for you. My re-introduction to spinning happened with Luna at the helm. Turns out Luna is one of Becycle's most intense instructors, with the style of a military drill sergeant sprinkled with hints of spiritual yoga teacher. She'll come by your bike, fists pumping, telling you to "GO! GO! GO!" one minute, then sweep her arms open serenely the next, reminding you to feel your spirit soaring and feeling free, even as your physical body suffers, moving but not really going anywhere.
Anyway, the routine varies on the instructor, but generally he or she will start the hour-long session with some light upper body stretches while your bottom half starts warming up with some easy cycling. After about five minutes of that, the interval training begins—that's when you really start to sweat. The instructor will guide you through it, telling you when to increase resistance, cycle in upright or forward-leaning positions, and when you can sit down and lower the resistance for a few moments of sweet relief.
You'll do that several times throughout the class. It's meant to simulate riding up a hill, then sprinting through flatter terrain, then all over again. All the while, there's a video projected behind the instructor with a POV look at someone cycling somewhere beautiful, like this:
The last five minutes of the class is the cool down period, when the instructor takes you through a smooth, easy ride and some more stretches to help your body relax.
As for how I fared, well... here's the long and short of it: spinning sucks when you haven't got any muscles. Seems something else happened in the last six years: cabs + brunches + Sherpa's = muscle degeneration, ha, ha, ha.
Not really "ha". It's a bitter e-laugh because my ego's still hurt by how much I got my ass kicked by this class. I later tried a class with Noureddine, who puts more emphasis on enjoying yourself and matching up your movements to the music, which was nice. I found myself slacking off a bit more with him, though, and defying his orders to increase the level of resistance, so it seems I need the military-style instruction.
How much of your life will this take up
The class itself is an hour long, though if it's your first time to Becycle, or trying spinning in general, then you'll want to arrive at least 10 minutes early to ask the Becycle staff to adjust your seat for you and show you how to use the speed and distance monitor attached to the top of your bike.
Seems like most of the Becycle regulars go in for a class once or twice a week, and supplement that with regular workouts.
How much does it cost
Becycle offers the first class for free. After that, the classes run 150rmb each, or you can buy a package—1300rmb for 10 classes, 2400rmb for 20 classes or 3600rmb for unlimited classes within a three month period.
If you'd rather use the bikes on your own, without an instructor, then it'll cost you 75rmb for each visit. The hours are limited to non-class hours for that, though: from 10am to noon and 3 to 5pm.
As much as my body hurt for it, each spinning class left me feeling great. I felt like I'd unloaded a lot of tension that had built up in my non-muscles and my mind. The music and the little light show that goes with it might seem a bit gimmicky at first, but when you're moving fast and your adrenaline is pumping, that clubby feeling is actually great fun, and acts as an excellent motivator.
The sauna and showers at this facility are nice, too. Might want to stick around a little longer to take advantage of that.
Becycle also has a pretty efficient online scheduling system so that you can reserve a spot online and receive email reminders of your class the day before it runs.
For a group exercise class, it ain't cheap. Now that spinning is a "lifestyle", though, people are willing to pay a lot for this kind of thing (SoulCycle in NYC charges 34usd, or 210rmb, per class). Even so, I can see how people become fanatical about spinning and feel like the intensity, the "fun", and the motivation make it worth the costs.
Another one, and it's a typical complaint about this entire complex—it's far. The nearest metro stop is Changshou Lu, with another 10-15 minute walk. Though if the point of going is to exercise, then an added 10-15 minute walk is probably not a big deal.
Find Becycle spinning studio here.