When indoor cycling became popular in the early 1990s, classes were called "spinning," and they've enjoyed a recent resurgence thanks to brands like SoulCycle. By any name, indoor cycling is a low-impact workout that can burn anywhere from 300 to 800 calories per 50-minute session. It targets the muscles in the legs and back, including the quads, abs and glutes.
Many newcomers feel intimidated by indoor cycling, but studios make it easy for riders to go at their own pace. "The room is dark," says Madeline Spiers, owner of Tour Cycle Studio. "So you never need to feel like anyone is judging you, because they can't even see you."
New Orleans has seen a recent boom in indoor cycling studios. Spiers founded Tour Cycle Studio last December. This summer, Joel and Shirelle Vilmenay opened CycleBar, a national franchise that began in Boston more than 10 years ago. KINDRED, which offers family-friendly cycling classes, opened in 2015, as did Geaux Cycle, which was founded in Gentilly by Teresa Thomas and her sister Rashell Thomas.
"We thought that it would be a great idea to bring [cycling] to New Orleans," Thomas says. "It's a community that needed a push to get active and get up and moving."
Studios offer a range of class types with different elements to keep the atmosphere fun. At Geaux Cycle, Wednesday classes are illuminated by black lights and on Tuesdays everyone in the studio takes a selfie after class.
Tour Cycle and CycleBar offer classes themed to different types of music.
"Music is key in indoor cycling," Thomas says. "It's what keeps you moving. ... You really aren't focusing on anything else."
Because cycling is a low-impact workout, it is popular among expectant and new mothers. KINDRED Studios offers cycling classes that have bikes outfitted with baby seats on the handlebars.
"The classes are a great time for parents to socialize as well as the children," says Adriana Caguana of ZukaBaby+KINDRED Studios. The classes are intimate, with eight bikes in the room along with the instructor. The seats fit babies from newborns to 4 years old.
Some Tour Cycle classes incorporate tabata interval training for a high-intensity experience or small weights for an upper-body workout. CycleBar's Performance class lets participants track their progress with statistics monitors. Flashing lights, pumping music and inspirational messages from instructors make indoor cycling a fun workout.
"There's something special about indoor cycling when you get the music blasting, and the lights, and everyone is doing it as a group," Spiers says. "There's just that feeling you get."
Studios offer other things to ensure riders have fun: CycleBar has a Friday happy hour class with drinks and Tour Cycle sometimes serves Champagne.
Studios encourage a sense of community, offering complimentary amenities and making sure regulars and instructors know each other's names. At Tour Cycle, the locker room has free showers and toiletries, and bulletin boards list the names of clients who have attended the most classes. CycleBar has a room with complimentary snacks, water bottles and towels where riders can gather before and after classes.
At Geaux Cycle a single class costs $15, while at CycleBar one class is $22. Tour offers drop-in classes for $26. Drop-in classes at Zuka Baby+KINDRED cost $18. Most studios offer discounted monthly rates or packages of classes.
"We embrace all fitness levels, so everyone is welcome here," says Vilmenay, who leads a free 30-minute introductory class on Saturday mornings at CycleBar. "We have a great staff that can help ease anxiety or intimidation."
Thomas says newcomers often have to learn how to position their bikes and get comfortable. Proper gear can help, and Geaux Cycle sells padded shorts and seat covers along with other apparel. Tour Cycle and CycleBar offer free rental of SPD shoes, which clip to the bike pedals and ensure riders engage the correct muscles while pedaling. All the studios sell colorful tank tops and leggings.
"If you can make [working out] as enjoyable as possible, it definitely helps," Thomas says.