Which Charlotte Cycling Studio is Right for You?

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Whether you've just moved to a new city or just decided to get off the couch, finding your go-to gym can be a very intimidating process. Let's be real, no one actually enjoys being the new kid in a class full of nickname-basis regulars. But good news, guys! I already took the bullet on this one for ya: over the last few months, I threw myself out there and did a little investigating. That's right, I went super undercover, got my sweat on, and compiled a rundown of the hottest players in the Charlotte cycling game.

Image via Cyclebar

CycleBar

If you really hate being the new kid in class, then this is the cycling studio for you. Cyclebar is brand-spankin' new as well, since they just opened their doors back in August. I stopped by this gym about three times over a span of four weeks and I saw new faces every time I came in. So the good news is that everyone is a newbie here.

But just because the faces are fresh, doesn't mean that Cyclebar doesn't have repeat cyclers. In fact, this cycling experience was one of the most memorable I've had at any cycling studio before. When I walked into my first class here, I was almost worried that I was underdressed for the seemingly wild nightclub event I was about to attend. In this dimly-lit room, the accent lighting is constantly changing colors, the eclectic music is bumpin', and energetic music videos are playing on huge televisions at the front. The bikes are positioned in stacked arena-like seating, my absolute favorite (because you're not constantly in a staring match with the sweaty tush in front of you). This also means you can sneak a twerk or two in when your favorite jam comes on. 😉

But for all of my straitlaced cyclers who like to get down to business, Cyclebar isn't just about fist-pumping to some Top 40 hits, because the equipment is pretty perfect for competitive riders. The tracking devices are some of the fanciest that I've come across: they track your RPM, the power you generate, your resistance, your calories burned, and (for you over-achievers) give you the option to compete on the electronic leaderboard at the front of the room.

The only con I have to note for Cyclebar is that in some areas of the room, the bikes are positioned pretty close to each other. If you're anything like me and take your personal bubble way too seriously, this can be especially problematic during the arm workout portion of the class (I think I played unintentional elbow-footsie with my neighbor about 5 times during bike pushups). But then when I left the class and discovered that the team had complimentary branded water bottles, fruit, and lemon-scented wipes waiting for us, that minor peeve floated out of my memory in no time.

Ready to hop into the arena? Sign up for a free class here and be sure to use the code "bloggerbar" at checkout.

Image via CycleSouth

CycleSouth

I got my first dose of CycleSouth when I attended a Royal Change bootcamp that was half circuit training, half cycling. I took the circuit training portion first, so when I heard all of the kids who took the cycling class come out ranting about how incredible "Anthony" was, I couldn't wait to hop in the saddle and see what he had up his sleeve.

The cycling room is glorious in its no-frills kind of way. They keep the lights completely off, with spotlights focused solely on the class instructor (super ideal when you feel like flying under the radar). But if you're a front-row soldier, giant mirrors at the front of the room allow you to keep an eye on your form. The seats are situated in what I like to call a "classroom" setting: one in front of the other, with no elevation between the front and the back of the room. They are spaced very generously, so you don't have to think twice about letting your body go crazy during bike jumps or dance breaks.

Well, now that I think about it, the dance breaks weren't so spontaneous. More like, the whole class was a dance party, because it was structured in 4-count circuits, with the goal being to stay on that fast-paced beat. And Anthony was the perfect emcee for this wild bash. He was all about making his rounds and cheering on each of us individually. He frequently dismounted his bike and started shakin' it like we had the best tickets in the house for his sold out show.

But it wouldn't be a proper review if I didn't give you at least one downside: so the only flaw of CycleSouth is that there are no tracking devices on the bikes. For me, that wasn't even an issue because it really allowed me to be more in the moment and enjoy the workout for the amount of fun I was having. However, I could see how some people would like to know exactly how hard they are working. But for what it's worth, I have no doubt in my mind that all of the head bobbing and arm waving, on top of the intense cycling, yielded an incredible workout.

Ready for some zumba-meets-cycle fun? Sign up for a class here.

Image via First Wind Cycling

First Wind Cycling

Nestled in the Design Center in SouthEnd, First Wind Cycling Studio's location seems a bit unexpected. But when I walked inside, I immediately realized that it just adds to this studio's ultra-hip underground, secret-society vibe.

The studio is split into two rooms to accommodate the unconventional format of the classes: a room for cycling and a room for barre/strength training. The classes here are split into two segments: first you cycle your butt off, and then you wipe out any energy you have left with either barre or circuit training. The barre room is very bright and clean, with large mirrors on both sides of the room and exposed brick filling the other two walls. And then there's the cycling room, which will stop you in your tracks. The entire room is painted with wall-to-wall graffiti, full of eclectic imagery and motivating phrases. It is the perfect eye candy to keep your mind off of the ass-kickin' you're about to get.

So we kicked off the 50-minute class with the 30-minute cycling portion. I located my bike, locked one shoe into the pedal, and as I was swinging my leg over to mount the other foot, the bike came alive underneath me. It began moving side to side, kinda as if I was riding an untamed bull. See, these Real Ryder stationary bikes are completely unstationary. They are built to lean, tilt, and even eject if you're slacking (kidding). The goal with this extra mobility is to force you to engage your core muscles. And I don't know if it is completely in my head, but I was huffing and puffing harder than I ever have before on any other spinning bike. (Trust me, if you're looking to step up your cycling game, you have to give one a spin.)

After 5 or 6 heart-pumping songs, it was time to switch over to the barre room. Our instructor separated us into 4 stations around the room and explained that we were to knock out the two different exercises listed at that station for two minutes each, and then we would rotate. I did some quick math and decided that 16 minutes was no sweat. This workout was going to be a breeze.

Well, fast-forward through 10 minutes of nonstop burpees, hopscotch, overhead tricep extensions, bicep curl curtsy lunges, and wall ball squats, and I was ready to throw in the towel. I struggled through two more ab exercises and admitted that 16 minutes of non-stop circuits are a bit of a death wish.

And now for the only downside of my experience (that I had to rack my brain to find): the cycle routine wasn't as dance-oriented as what I'm used to. See, I'm the farthest thing from a true cycler: I do it to burn some extra calories and to steal some jams for my personal workout playlist. So if I'm in a class where I'm not being distracted with complex 4-count routines, I start focusing more on the burning sensation in my legs. But due to the fact that these bikes aren't the easiest to control, I have a funny feeling that the instructors format the class keeping this mind (probs because they don't want their riders flying across the room)

So in conclusion, if you're up for a challenge (and down to laugh at yourself for the first 5 minutes or so), this studio has to be the next stop on your list.

Ready for a wild ride? Sign up for a class here.

Photo Credits (in order): Cyclebar, CycleSouth, First Wind Cycling.