When I first heard Hattiesburg was getting a Cyclebar, an indoor cycling arena known in a previous life as ‘spin class,’ I can’t say I was enthused to add yet another gym to my already boisterous list of athletic memberships. I spend countless hours lifting, toning and burning my quads in hopes of lengthening and thinning them,not bulking and burning them to no end. After failing to take advantage of the free rides offered during Cyclebar’s grand opening in October 2016, I continued to hear my friends exclaim in disbelief that I had not gone for a session. It wasn’t until the fifth surprised, “YOU haven’t tried it yet?” that I braved the jaunt across I-59 to take my introductory class.
An introductory 20-minute ride is offered every Saturday for those whose last experience with a bike involved training wheels, but since I had just received a bicycle (one with the ability to cover actual ground, not just be mounted to it) for Christmas last year, I automatically classified myself as a pro. As I walked into the studio for my Thursday night Throwback ride, I was immediately assisted by one of the pert Cyclestars – yes, that’s right. Cyclebar doesn’t just have instructors – they have STARS. One of which informed me, as they planted a branded complimentary water bottle in my hand, that my first ride would be free of charge, as were the use of the special cycling shoes, lockers and ride-fueling snacks.
As I filled my water bottle with (also free!) chilled water, a fellow rider, one who apparently didn’t get the memo about my professional cycling status, informed me that I would be less likely to cramp if I opted for the room temperature water. Unphased, I sealed my frosty water bottle, chucked my gear in a locker and entered the dimly-lit cycle theatre (yes, theatre. It’s where the stars perform, after all).
After a quick tutorial on correct seat and handlebar positioning from Kimmie P, my Cyclestar for the evening, I climbed aboard and hit my first snag – clipping in. After a few frantic moments of waggling my foot around the petal, Kimmie stepped in to expertly rock my foot into position and now there was no turning back – I was locked in.
As class began, the lights dimmed, the music started and the display boards lit up. Aside from a digital display of RPMs (rounds per minute), watts (power output) and gear (controlled with the turn on a knob) mounted between the handlebars of each bike, all participants who choose to display their stats appear on the leaderboard. It dawned on me this is exactly why my friends were so perplexed I hadn’t attended a class before – the chance to participate in an anonymous race against strangers, all to prove that I am obviously the best? Despite years of cultivating a yoga practice to inspire self worth based on things other than personal achievement, my zen escaped me as soon as I saw my ranking. My entire driving force became to place as high as possible on that board. Rank is determined by creating as much power as possible (a formula that is derived by your personal body composition stats along with how high of gear you choose and how fast you pedal, aka how hard you torture yourself throughout the 50-minute class).
With a soundtrack from Stevie Wonder and James Brown, I muscled through the commands – “take it up” (pedal while standing and somehow not fall over – thank God for that whole clipping in feature); “tap it back” (stretch my hamstrings to tiny threads as I extended my rear backwards, all while keeping my feet moving to the beat); “give me one turn to the right” – that red knob, the one that seemed so innocent at the beginning of class when I was riding in sixth gear had me shrinking with fear as the gears ticked up to impossibly high numbers).
After the fifth song, I was pumped at my placement on the board (not dead last!) and congratulated myself on a job well done – until I realized there was another 25 minutes left in the ride. And then suddenly, a break – an entire song to work on my upperbody with an adorable four-pound weight. Adorable turned to agonizing by the end of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
As the music lulled me into a rhythmic stride and I ignored the dual calf cramps, I was fighting due to my insistence on chilly water. Only a final song stood between me and the end of class. And that’s when the races started. Thirty seconds on the clock, an opportunity to see my name in lights (well LEDs) by claiming one of the hard-fought first three slots. Though I didn’t prove to be a winner in any of the three (uh-huh, three back-to-back sprints in case I thought I was going to finish class anything less than a sweaty mess), by the final stretches, I knew two things – I would definitely have to wash my hair that evening and I would definitely be back for more.
When all was said and done, I clocked a whopping 500 calories burned, for less than an hour on the bike – more calories than I would ever log while working out solo. A congratulatory e-mail waited in my inbox, forever memorializing my ranking and providing a catalog of stats for the ride to serve as a progress log in this journey to enjoy cycling. Though I prefer the later evening classes, there are ample classes on the calendar to keep me active should I dare spend my post-work hours on recreational activities that don’t involve sweating. And if I chose to retox after my detox, CycleBar even offers Wine Down Wednesdays and Happy Hours on Fridays. Though I never managed to make it to a 5:30am slot, I’m happy to say after a month on the saddle, I managed to secure my very own first- place finish.
Whitney Miracle spends her days as the graphic designer at Signature. Her nights, she’s a part-time yoga instructor, part-time burlesque performer and full-time fitness enthusiast. She enjoys discovering new ways to perspire and convincing her friends to join her in those pursuits.