Spinning for the Cycle

New Pasadena bike workout studio will test your mettle

Thursday, September 25, 2014 | 5:48 pm

2014-09-25-APG-320x320SoulCycle is more than spinning. Let’s get that out of the way right now.

It combines a zen yoga mindset with a emphatically positive approach to pumping those pedals; what they themselves call “a motivating, joyful, full-body indoor cycling dance party on a bike.”

As their website states, SoulCycle was “founded on the belief that fitness could be inspiring: With a motivational workout, a beautiful environment and outstanding customer service, each 45-minute class is a transformative experience.”

Transformative. Okay, that’s where it gets interesting.

Situated in a courtyard off Lake Avenue, the SoulCycle experience literally begins the moment you walk in the door. We were greeted by smiling faces who handed us a fresh water bottle and state-of-the-art Shimano shoes with LOOK Delta clips. (Bring water or buy it there, but make sure you have it. Shoes rent for $3, but you can bring your own, if the clips fit.)

Manager Zoe Kasiskie walked us through the studio and through the first-ride forms and shoes, along with pre-ride instructions.

An immaculately clean white co-ed locker room awaits you, to dress and prepare for your ride. Wear a t-shirt and comfortable t-shirt or tank top. (No clumsy locks to worry about, either. Each locker is controlled by a 4-digit PIN that you set yourself. It’s the little things.)

The studio itself is air-conditioned (It was 103 outside the day of our workout), and bathed in an ever-changing play of lights and LOUD house and motivational music to get you mentally prepared for the ride. Here for the first time? An instructor will lead you to your bike and help get you situated properly. Everything needs to be adjusted and secured; you’re gonna rock that bike hard.

Our instructor Kara Christofferson, is effusively, friendly and positive, but all business. And now, gentle readers, this is where it gets interesting.

I’m no stranger to a bicycle. I used to ride a lot. Like, a hundred-miles-or-more-a-week-a-lot. More years ago, than I care to remember I pushed my Schwinn Voyageur 500 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles over a week. A 50-mile ride was common.

That was then. This is now.

I sit down on the bike, and make the final series of adjustments. I’m tall, I need this, and raise this, please, and tighten that, please, and move that. Each stationery bike has a resistance wheel instead of gears. Turn it a few clicks to the right, and you’re pushing pretty hard already.

“Your weights are right behind you,” says Zoe. My weights?

And we’re off on a 45-minute blood-rushing, thigh-aching, sweat-drenched workout.

“Two clicks to the right!,” says Kara, and we go. The music is constantly driving, and you’re in the thick of it fast. We get up to cruising speed, like, right now, and the choreography begins.

This was new to me.

As you’re riding, you’ll bounce up and down in rhythm led by the instructor, and stretch back up, stand, and sit, in seamless time to the music which seems to get louder the harder we push.

We’re led through a series of choreographed moves—up, down, elbows out, elbows in, stand, sit, repeat. Now repeat it again. Then wait for the next set of choreography. But don’t stop pedaling.

Once warm, the pedaling becomes second nature. You won’t stop at all during the ride, except for one short break and stretch. Somehow, as we’re moving the resistance pedal a little further to the right, the exhortations and affirmations actually get in your psyche, and you push harder.

“You can do this!,” shouts Kara. I can, kinda.

I don’t keep up with every step and every move, but I don’t slow down and never stop pedaling. This is hard work, but as one instructor described it, it’s not really a “gym” experience. My only other bike spinning experience long ago was handily ruined by the rider in front of me who whooped and grunted during the entire workout. That was a long time ago, but Dude, if still you’re out there, you kept me out of spinning classes for fifteen years.

Soul Cycle is something different. Clearly.

We reach back for our weights, and a new sequence begins. We extend the weights, we raise them up, we hold them straight out, we cross them, we start over. As we move through maybe five or six weight sequences, I realize that, though my shoulder is aching, I have not slowed down. We push hard. The pedaling seems to go on by itself. Note to self: When she says, “One more,” she doesn’t mean you’re almost done. She means one more of that thing you’re doing right now.

We push on. I’m drenched with sweat, my ankles ache, and I think, “You’re a lot older than everyone in this room. Keep pedaling.”

And I do. When Kara finally, slowly, counts us back down into the cool down sequence, I actually feel strong, and energized. As I make my way off the bike to ask Kara some follow-up questions, it hits me.

I need to sit down. Then I need to lie down. A wave of dizziness washes over me, and I take some additional time to recuperate. Suddenly a host of staff members hover over me, giving me water, juice and wrapping me in a cold towel.

This isn’t serious, but it’s happening. I finally relent and ask them to call someone for a ride home. I don’t think I’m driving anywhere. I had simply run out of fuel. The quick sandwich I ate before class was burned up, I’m sure, in the first fifteen minutes.

But, by the time my ride arrives, I’m out of the shower, dressed and new again. I feel a twinge in my thighs, but, again, I feel strong.

The next day is another story. My thighs and shoulders ached, and just getting out of bed was excruciating. Ibuprofen and rest helped that, but for at least three days after the workout, I felt it in every step.

What do we learn here, class? SoulCycle is not for beginners. It’s a tough, advanced workout that, I’m sure, with regular attendance, will have you feeling like a superhero in no time. But, eat first. And eat afterwards. A lot. You’ll burn through everything during the class. Drink lots of water. And be mentally ready to ride.

And maybe I’ll see you at the next class.

SoulCycle Pasadena is at 140 S Lake Ave, Pasadena. (626) 408-3000. www.soul-cycle.com

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