Rooms full of dozens of bikes packed together, music blaring, instructors shouting a mix of directions and motivational messages, and participants whooping as if they are at a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden.
That was the indoor cycling experience, and even people who weren’t regulars at spinning studios seem to be missing it.
Since it may be a while before those gyms reopen to the endorphin-hungry masses, spinning enthusiasts and newbies alike are looking for ways to replicate the experience at home.
Here’s some how to keep pedaling with a community of sweaty strangers from afar.
Ride From Home, Live
The closest you can get to a real spinning studio experience is by streaming a live class or pulling up a prerecorded session on the website of Peloton — the maker of the indoor cycling bike — which has a library full of content.
This week, the Times reported on the phenomenon of Peloton panic buying. As the severity and longevity of the coronavirus pandemic have become clear, consumers have flocked to buy at home exercise equipment, anything from a $5 jump rope to the $2,245 Peloton bike, which offers streaming classes for an extra $39 a month.
In April, Peloton reached a record when more than 23,000 people joined one of its live classes. Usually, classes see live participation of about 500 people, with thousands of riders tuning in to participate retroactively.
“The energy has been so electrifying,” said Alex Toussaint, a Peloton bike instructor. Toussaint, who usually teaches in the high-tech Peloton studio in New York City, has been leading sessions from his apartment, and says the number of riders participating in his live classes has reached an all-time high. “The community is showing up every day for their rides, 7,000 to 20,000 strong every single time.”
No Peloton bike? You can try their classes with a 30-day free trial of their content. Many local fitness companies are looking for creative ways to keep an income stream, and renting out their equipment, including spin bikes, during this time has proved successful. Many gyms ran out of equipment to rent almost immediately, but you could also purchase a bike online and get it delivered. (SoulCycle’s $2,500 home bike is on sale and expected to ship this month.)
Some popular instructors from other boutique gyms, including Akin Akman of Aarmy, are hosting their own live spin classes on Instagram, while other studios host spin classes on Zoom and require participants to sign up and pay online before class begins.
Hop on your spinning bike, prop up your computer or smartphone, squint a bit, and it may almost feel like you’re there. Kind of.
Ride From Home, on Your Own Time
If you are not wedded to the live class experience, there is a growing selection of indoor cycling equipment that can be connected to a variety of cycling apps on a tablet or your smartphone.
Most bikes are priced between $699 and $2,500, including the Diamondback 1260Sc, Bowflex C6, The Myx, NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle, Keiser M3i and the Horizon Fitness IC7.9. Some have their own integrated apps, and others allow you to connect to apps like Zwift and Rouvy that focus on road-style cycling and racing. These apps also have some live ride options but are more geared to cyclists rather than spinning enthusiasts.
Ride from Home, on Your Own Road Bike
If you’d like to ride from home on your own outdoor bike, you can do so by purchasing bike rollers or an indoor bike trainer, which secures the rear wheel and bike frame (about $100 and up). In effect, the trainer allows you to bike inside as if you were outside. And without the distractions of riding outside (potholes, people, squirrels), you may be able to get an experience closer to that of a spinning class. You can also get strategic with how you set up your bike, using speed and cadence sensors, and interactive programs. You could be at home on your own bike in a small apartment but feel like you are cycling through the Tour de Suisse on Rouvy with video from along the course.
Or to feel like you are tackling a workout in the park with a group of friends you could coordinate a session together on Zwift, where participants get their own avatar and it appears as if they are biking together.
Ride Outside, Safely
Perhaps the best, and most affordable way to keep up your cycling habit? Bike outside while taking safety precautions by following all traffic laws and social distancing guidelines.
Many spin classes are formatted around a series of intervals or speed repeats, something that’s easily replicable on your own outdoors. Tara Parsons, a cycling coach based in New York City, recommends starting with a simple timer to do your own intervals.
You could do an intense session where you go all out for 30 seconds to a minute, followed by a three minute recovery. As you improve your fitness, you can decrease that recovery time to two minutes between hard efforts, or one minute between them. Make sure you are focusing on your leg speed, or rotations per minute, Parsons said, so that your effort is pushing both your aerobic and anaerobic capacity. If you want to do longer intervals, do five or 10 minutes at a perceived effort level of seven to eight out of 10, and then break with a recovery session of the equal amount.
It’s probably best to tone down the dance moves that are popular with some instructors. Choreography and cracks in the street might not go well together.