Riding in Real Life

Peloton Member Survives Real Life Spin!

Yes… In Real Life

I have a bit of existential angst tonight, and I’m hoping Peloton’s not jealous. I took an in-person spin bootcamp class in a real spin studio that wasn’t my house, and you know… while of course it wasn’t my own Peloton in my own house, I definitely got a bit of a kick from the group fitness environment that I haven’t seen in a long time (like a really, really, even a couple years pre-Covid, long time.)

By the way, if you thought “in real life” meant on a real bike on a real road, outside and everything… nah, I’m not that brave, and I really like climate control.

Let me back up.


[Insert rewind sound effect here]

Why Leave the House?

I’ve been to a total of one live group spin class in my life, quite a few years ago when I went with my dad to his favorite class at the YMCA. Dad has been a gifted athlete at several pursuits in his life- in retirement, he took up spinning. I recall enjoying it somewhat, being impressed by his skill, but not quite getting what the big deal was about.

I then went through a long, long non-fitness period, and made a turn during Covid quarantine. I bought a Peloton, met Jess King and Sam Yo, blah blah blah, happily ever after. Gyms haven’t really entered my orbit, probably for reasons of convenience and location. (Also, I haven’t yet made it to Peloton Studios… someday.)


Bucket list item. I’ll get there eventually.

So last week, a professional contact from my day job (who I happen to know is also a Pelotoner) told me about a new spin place in our area. Again, not normally my scene, but I needed something different to mix it up.  My 14-year-old workout partner and I are pretty faithful about our strength classes, and I hop on for some cardio here or there, but I miss the hype of really getting into a playlist or an atmosphere.

I’ve just been so crazy busy, but also unusually introspective and up in my own brain so much recently that I’ve gotten stuck in a rut. (This doesn’t make me special- all of you have done this and you know it.)

So I say to the 14-year-old (who we call the Bunny), “want to get out and go try a spin class?” And the Bunny, having the best attitude ever, is like “Sure!” So hey, why not, I got us two spots in a Tuesday night class.

It Was Even on a Weeknight

Listen. LISTEN. (Read this in the tone of my 15-year-old, please.) We all know that Christine D’Ercole is right about literally everything in life to the point where sometimes it’s all a bit too much for you (and by you, of course, I mean me.) I found out this was true about one more thing tonight. (That’s foreshadowing.) Our visit was to Cyclepath Fitness in Newport News, Virginia.

We were signed up for a 45 min class, set to be steady pace with some light weights worked in. The Bunny hasn’t ridden my Peloton a lot- but they lift all the time and the class was for all levels (and also, they’re 14, and 14-year-olds have stamina.) I can handle a 45 minute ride, though I was mildly concerned about different controls and metrics- their Schwinn bikes use what’s called a Zone console.

I might add here that once we rolled in, it turned out we were the only ones signed up for the session, and and our instructor/studio owner Bonnie offered to push us a bit. Being the Terri that I am, I was like, “Yeah, let’s go!” Came for Emma Lovewell, got a dose of Tunde Oyeneyin thrown in for free. Bonus.

I’m also a sucker for cool lighting and disco balls, and we got both. (I WILL have a disco ball in my home gym someday.)

Skip This Section if You Dislike Math

I like math. In fact, I’ve spent the last several days at the aforementioned day job looking at nothing but numbers on a screen and actually quite enjoying that.

So Peloton bikes have a resistance range that is, in theory, from 1-100. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a call-out for a resistance below 20, and usually you don’t see over about 55 unless someone’s feeling extra saucy (I’m looking at you, Jess King on New Years’ Eve, speaking of disco balls.)

Schwinn console

I’m not sure it had quite this many numbers, but there were a lot.

I got on the Schwinn bike and while it adjusted to my size just fine and the cadence and output had the same numbers…. the resistance numbers made me go hmmmm. Quite honestly, as I rode, I had no idea what the Schwinn numbers translated to in Peloton language, so I just sort of guessed. Because of that, I definitely was riding at a higher resistence than I normally would for any given cadence, but couldn’t quite prove that to myself.

The output numbers confirmed it, though (I saw 200+ quite a bit more than I usually do), and my legs are definitely confirming it now. I went quite a bit harder than I would for a 45 min, maybe equivalent to 30 min pace, even with “breaks” for some quick but pretty tiring weight training.

I found out later that these bikes have resistance from 1-25. I believe that, but also I’m not sure the correspondence was exact, because it occurred to me around the end of class that I needed to be at 8 to stand comfortably, so 8 was about the equivalent of a Peloton 40. And we stood up a LOT. But it worked out just fine.

And What Did I Learn?

Sigh. It’s almost like Christine D’Ercole was right again. If you’re riding blind (Christine likes us to close our eyes, but I’m saying unknown resistance and disco ball sparkles are more fun), you get some pretty impressive output. I don’t have numbers, but if I’m honest with myself it was more than I’ve pushed on the bike in a while, and I’m feeling kind of inspired. The Bunny hung right in there with me, but when we finished, we were both considering the workout mats as a good nap spot.

Lindsey and Alex spin

The author and previously-mentioned Bunny trying to stand upright post-class under the aspirational disco ball. (Photo courtesy of spin instructor Bonnie.)

Also, if I’m honest with myself, there was one more difference: I go harder when people can see me. I’m usually alone in a room when riding at home, but even in this tiny class I was conscious of people there and making sure I looked competent. Ridiculous, because it was a fairly dark room, AND Bunny and our instructor Bonnie were both riding themselves, so why would they even be looking?

I spent some time debating which Peloton instructor to compare Bonnie to- I finally landed on a cross between Olivia Amato and Jenn Sherman (very calm voice, even while she’s like “hey, more resistance in our third minute out of the saddle” and you’re like “say what?”), with Tunde-level programming…. maybe a dash of Alex Toussaint as well, though I did not actually see her start aggressively smacking her handlebars. She also had cool glasses. Why don’t we have any Peloton instructors who wear glasses during a ride?

Anyway, the lesson here? While nothing will ever match the convenience of my Peloton in my own house, I had a really good time and I think it’ll be a place we visit again, especially if I need a little bit of a change-up in the routine. I definitely recommend the experience, as long as you’re smarter than me and remember that at a spin studio, your own shower isn’t ten steps away. Pro tip: Bring a towel for the car if you sweat. (And you probably will.)

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