CYC Review: Group Cycling at a Whole New Level

Get CYC'd!

cyc fitness studio. CYC Fitness

If it's been 10 or 15 years since you last tried group cycling, I'm here to tell you, things have changed. I vividly remember my first ride. It was probably around 2001 or 2002, and I excited to try out this new trend that I was convinced I'd love.

I hated it. I hated it with an undying passion.

I thought it was boring, tedious, and, well, hard. I was no stranger to tough workouts, but it was tough in a way that I didn't enjoy.

I had no reference for what I should be feeling or experiencing throughout the workout, so I slogged through as the time slowly ticked by.

It took me 10 years to bother trying it again. And when I finally decided to give it a whirl, it was at the CYC fitness studio in Austin, TX.

What is CYC?

CYC is a style of group cycling developed by Keoni Hudoba, an Under Armour-sponsored athlete. CYC currently has three studios - one in New York City, one in Austin, and one in Madison, Wisconsin.

Unlike traditional group cycling, which focuses largely on rotations per minute (RPM), rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and time spent at various intervals, CYC is a "beat based" workout where you adjust your speed and resistance based on the beat of the music. Each class is 45 minutes long, and incorporates sport-specific movements and weights into the ride, fully activating all muscle groups.

Pros of CYC

Given my first group cycling experience, I didn't have high hopes for CYC, but I have to say the absolute best part about it was how much fun I had.

I found myself working hard through each song because the beat of the music helped keep me going, and I knew that the end of the song would trigger a rest period, even if it was brief.

Other benefits include:

  • Proper incorporation of weights. I've seen group cycling classes where the instructors had their students lift dumbbells while actively pedaling the bike. Not only does this not make sense from a functional standpoint (who's going to lift weights while riding a bike in the real world?), but it distracts from both forms of exercise - cycling and strength training - reducing the benefits of both. Not to mention, it's a lot easier to forget about weight training form while trying to ride a bike - this opens you up to injury. CYC instructors instruct you to crank up the resistance of the bike's flywheel during the weight training songs so that you're barely moving your legs. During these songs, they're not encouraging you to cycle and lift, they're just encouraging you to focus your attention on the upper body strength training movements. This ensures that you're maximizing strength training benefits while minimizing the likelihood of injury due to improper form.
  • Use of cycling shoes. The best way to get the most from a group cycling workout is to use actual cycling shoes that clip onto the bike. This activates both the push and the pull motion of your legs as you pedal. In other words, as one leg presses down, pushing against the pedal's resistance, the other leg is pulling up against the resistance because the foot is attached to the pedal. This push-pull method activates more muscle groups, resulting in a better burn. CYC classes have bikes that require clip-in shoes. If you don't have your own shoes, you can rent or purchase shoes from the studio.
  • Strong focus on community. CYC's goal is to create a community of cyclists. They do this by providing special rides, free rides, and party rides, all designed to make the experience fun and bring more people in. They also work with community organizations to raise money for charitable causes. For instance, the CYC in Austin donates a portion of proceeds from each ride to Marathon Kids, an Austin-based charity that works to get kids active.

    Cons of CYC

    So far, there's just three of them! CYC is working to open more studios, so don't hesitate to let them know you'd like one in your area.

    Beyond that, the fact still remains that even a party atmosphere won't make group cycling fun for everyone. In fact, the loud music and dark studio might turn some riders off. For instance, I arranged for a special group ride for my friends and family, and while most people enjoyed the event, my mom found it unpleasant.

    Finally, the price isn't for everyone. A single ride costs between $19.50 and $25, depending on location, a high price to pay when compared to standard gym fees. There are special rates available for Happy Hour Rides and special events, so definitely check those out, and if you've never been before, ask about trying your first ride free.

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