Thursday, July 7, 2016

Cyclebar Review

I got to try a class at the new Cycle Bar studio in my town.
Full disclosures:

1. The class was free for me. The owners send their child to the same daycare as mine, and they offered all the parents a free ride to try it out. I don't know them personally and they don't know I'm writing a review or even that I have a passion for health and fitness. I so appreciate their generosity (and smart marketing move)!

2. I am completely biased in favor of my home workouts. Trying new things with an open mind is a priority for me though--and I definitely went into it with a mind for enjoying the experience. I figure I should mention that upfront because I'll talk more about it in the "cons" section of my review.


Sweaty post workout selfie! And short T-Rex arms means my face is at a really weird angle!

The good stuff:
  • It was a 50 minute class and it just flew by. It's in a dark room with dramatic lights and video monitors and the instructor put together an awesome playlist. 
  • You get to pick your bike online before class--so none of that, "crap! I'm late, I'm gonna get stuck front and center" anxiety. 
  • The bikes are top-quality and have a computer attached so that you know your RPMs, cadence, resistance, and power generated. You are also part of the computer system monitoring the whole class so you get ranked and the instructor can see how everyone is doing. I really liked knowing my resistance level--no more guessing about how much a "half-turn" will slow you down or if you are even in the ballpark of resistance that the instructor wants. 
  • The pre and post class amenities are super luxurious. The facility is bright, clean, and modern. They offered free water bottles, snacks, a water filling station, lockers, showers complete with everything you might have forgotten. They also provide you with towels and shoes! Cycling shoes make a BIG difference in spinning. 
  • They email you your "stats" after the workout and you can see your progression over the long term if you continue to take classes there. 
  • It's a great cardiovascular workout. 
The "buts" 
  • Although this was a really fun experience, to me classes at boutique style fitness centers like Cyclebar are good for socializing (it's fun to meet up with friends for a health activity instead of always hitting up happy hour!) and good for an occasional change of pace. I do not think they are a good, comprehensive solution to someone's fitness needs. (And to be fair, maybe they aren't trying to be.) 
  • There seemed to be an odd emphasis on food--bananas, coffee, granola bars, they were offering a coupon for a Chipotle burrito in conjunction with an upcoming class. That's all fine, I just hope that the people going to the class realize that you don't burn as many calories as you think when you take a 50 minute class. My emailed stats estimated about 370 calories burned, which seems pretty realistic. Considering that the average Chipotle order has upwards of 1,000 calories, this hardly seems like a trade-off. I think this plays into a lot of what is wrong with the health and fitness options out there and why people still struggle with their weight and the chronic health problems associated with our lifestyles today. We think: "I just worked out really hard. I deserve a burrito. I'm hungry. I will get a burrito." And the intake far exceeds the output. (Our bodies are actually wired to do this! No wonder it's so hard.) Or, without even thinking, you grab that free banana just because it's there, not because it's the best post-workout fuel or because you are actually hungry. (I know, I'm probably the only person on the planet to bitch about free food--I just feel like this stuff  hurts peoples' results and, although well meaning, is ultimately detrimental.) 
  • It's freaking expensive. Not more expensive than things like yoga classes or trainers or barre classes or Crossfit--but I have a hard time justifying the cost when I've found something else that is so much more effective AND cost effective. (See my caveat above.) Let's compare the $$. You can buy Cyclebar rides for anywhere from $15 to $20 per ride depending on the package you purchase. And let's say you want to go 4xs a week. So at the least expensive price point (buying 100 rides at a whopping $1,500) you end up paying approximately $240 per month. But to get that, you have to plunk down that $1,500 up front. And you are only getting a workout 4xs a week in my scenario. What do you do the other 3 days of the week (or 2 if you take a rest day)? Obviously you can squeeze more out of the cost/month calculation if you go less, but why would you want to workout less? And why would that be a good option to help you achieve your goals? Working out with me can cost anywhere from $12 per month for access to thousands of videos along with personalized coaching and accountability to about $100 per month for an option which INCLUDES the nutrition piece of the puzzle (that means you are getting one of your daily meals included). Considering that you'd probably spend about $5 per day on that meal anyway, you are coming out ahead and saving money.
  • Cyclebar is a bit different than other spinning classes I've done in that they also use a weighted bar and include some resistance training for your arms. But, at least in the class that I took, it was so minimal and the weight so light, it barely registered. Now, this could be class specific, but I believe the weighted bars only went up to 8lbs. 
  • Longer cardio sessions like Cyclebar are not as effective at getting results a mix which includes bodyweight training, traditional strength training, high-intensity intervals, and active recovery. 
  • It's a class that I have to drive to--so factor in about 40 more minutes getting there and back--and they do not have any childcare. The scheduling is on their terms--and while they offer a lot of options, I still can't do it at 5AM if I want or 10PM like I can when I work out at home. 
Is my bias showing? Have you read all those words?--I know, I talk a lot.

Lest you think that I'm a hater, I would love to do more Cyclebar classes. It is a good, fun, hard class and this location was impeccable.  But please note that I do not think it's a comprehensive fitness solution that will get you results if you have specific health and fitness goals.  If you have goals like that, and are looking for a path that will lead you to actual results and lifestyle improvement, email me at megan9j@gmail.com. Sign up for my newsletter. Ask me questions. 

What I have to offer is not mutually exclusive. I will be back to Cyclebar. I loved it! I will also be trying Crossfit soon, and I love love love to run. But the baseline for me is a home workout that I can do consistently, without fail, and a nutrition plan that keeps me energized and eating clean. Consistency is key. 
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