If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember my underwhelming experience trying Soulcycle a few months back. Several readers suggested that perhaps I would prefer Flywheel, the city’s other major boutique cycling studio. But I never made it to Flywheel… until I was deep in the heart of Texas.
Flywheel Dallas opened on Sunday, and I’ve been lucky enough to get to go to three different classes already (one preview and two actual classes). And the verdict? I. Love. It. I’ve been going to the 6am classes to get my workout done before heading into the office, and so far, every day that I’ve started with Flywheel has been a great day. After all, who doesn’t want to start their day listening to awesome power songs like Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger”?
My experience at the Upper West Side SoulCycle studio in New York did not leave me with a good impression – it was teeny tiny, had lockers jammed into a 5’x5′ area, and everyone was just generally standing on top of each other before the studio doors opened and we stampeded in. In total contrast, Flywheel Dallas has a big, airy, beautiful space – and they even have couches at the front where you can lounge around and relax before it’s time to get to work!
As far as the actual studio, again, I much preferred Flywheel Dallas to SoulCycle NYC. The NYC studio I went to had a bunch of poles throughout, blocking the view of the instructors and the rest of the class. My friends even warned me when signing up to make sure I picked “a good bike!” At Flywheel Dallas, in contrast, there didn’t seem to be a bad bike in the house. There were no poles blocking the view, huge mirrors allowing you to see your own form well (plus the rest of the class), and even though I accidentally chose a bike directly under one of the speakers, the music was a bumping-but-still-reasonable volume. Granny that I am, SoulCycle made me feel like I was going to go deaf by the end of the class, but Flywheel kept the music at a perfect volume.
Each time I walked into Flywheel Dallas, I was pleasantly greeted by not just one but multiple staff members. I don’t know if that’s just because it’s opening week and they’re staffing extra heavy, or if it will always be like that, but it made me feel so incredibly welcome! Unlike SoulCycle, where the staff seemed shocked that I had never taken a class before and just left me to fend for themselves, the staff here goes out of their way to make sure each person understands how it works – so you end up feeling totally in sync with everyone else even if you’re a total newbie.
Checking in really couldn’t be easier. You always have the choice of going to the front desk and checking in with a staff member, but there are also four computer kiosks along the wall that allow you to check yourself in, which is kind of nice. It takes about thirty seconds: you just type in your email address, click the check in button, and that’s it! You’ll also find little cubbies underneat the kiosks, each one numbered to correspond to a bike. Assuming that you’ve put your shoe size in the system ahead of time, the proper size will be waiting in your cubby – so there’s no wait and no announcing your shoe size to the world.
After changing shoes and securing your stuff in a locker (there are way more than enough!), grab a towel outside the studio door and head on in. For each class I’ve taken, there were multiple Flywheel staff members running around the room – and they didn’t wait for you to ask for help, they proactively offered to help set you up. While someone had helped me to do that at SoulCycle, they didn’t explain to me exactly what they were doing, and I would have never been able to reproduce it (okay, so maybe I’m a bit slow). At Flywheel, the staff member showed me how to line up the seat with my hip as well as the angle my body should be at for proper form. Helpful! It did take me a few tries to master clipping in and out, but by my third visit, I’d figured it out – and my buddy Blake stopped to congratulate me for finally getting it right 🙂 Yippee!
The Class / Instructor
But what about the class itself? In a word: awesome! One thing unique about Flywheel is how there is a little computer attached to the bike that shows you “torq” (resistance), speed, and “power” (some calculation of torq and speed). So instead of just having the instructor tell you to turn the resistance knob “a few turns to the right” or “a quarter turn to the left,” they can tell you exactly what level you should be at. Since I am a pretty novice biker and don’t have a feel for exactly how hard I ought to be pushing myself at different points, this was extremely helpful and helped me get a lot more out of the class.
Also, there are “Torqboards” at the front of the room that display the class ranking for total power. The board is divided into males and females, so you’re only comparing against your own gender. (After seeing the high numbers on the men’s side, I was very grateful for that!) The Torqboard isn’t visible for the whole class, as I had initially thought; instead, the instructors turn it on every song or two. This way, you can see how you’re doing and push yourself to beat the person just ahead of you, but you aren’t spending your class staring up at the screen and missing out on the fun. On occasion I wished I could have seen a glimpse of the standings more, but it was probably good for me to only see them periodically and not be so focused on the numbers.
My first class was a preview, held before the official opening, and was taught by an instructor who was visiting from the New York studios – Kate Hickl. Since it was free, the class was completely packed, and everyone seemed to be really advanced. Furthermore, since none of us were registered in the system, the board was divided by odd-numbered and even-numbered bikes rather than by gender. I have to say, I hated the Torqboard that visit. I was pretty much in dead last place on my side of the board, and instead of motivating me to do better, it made me want to give up! I tried to reassure myself that perhaps all the guys happened to be on odd-numbered bikes, but I honestly knew it was most likely that I just sucked. Furthermore, I could not keep up with the directions we were being given – I just wasn’t strong enough. So when the instructor would tell us to turn the torq up to 35 and then pedal at 80 rpms, my legs just couldn’t handle it! I wasn’t sure whether it was better to stick with the resistance and go slower, or lower the resistance and go faster, so I ended up going a little lighter and a little slower. However, I felt like I was back at square one with not knowing quite how much to push myself. Not so fun!
My second class, on Tuesday morning, was taught by one of the actual Dallas instructors – Mark Shipman. He was phenomenal! Instead of feeling way behind the rest of the class, I found that I could just about hit the targets he’d set – which encouraged me to push as hard as I could since they were almost within reach. It’s a lot easier to go for a goal you know is possible than something you think is completely impossible! Though I suppose “easy” isn’t the right word to use there – I was dripping in sweat throughout the workout, so much that I hoped I wasn’t flinging it onto Blake when I bobbed my head back and forth to the songs I got really into. I loved every single song that Mark picked for us to spin to, and I also appreciated that he seemed to match the beat of the song to the pace we were supposed to hit. In the first class, the pace seemed completely random; here, I just had to listen to the music and I’d be doing exactly what I was supposed to. Again, so much easier than the other class, especially since my natural inclination is to ride to the beat anyway.
By my third class this morning, I felt like an old pro. I knew exactly how to adjust the bike myself, and I even clipped in without looking like a complete bumbling idiot for two minutes first. The class was a little tougher than my Tuesday class, but still pretty close to doable. The instructor was Johnny de Triquet, a guest instructor from NYC, and I really liked the songs he chose as well. The best part? Ending the class with Michael Buble’s “Home,” which really gave me a “flyer’s high” since I was going to get to fly home to NYC that evening 🙂 I couldn’t think of a better song to cool down with and be excited for my day!
Post-Class: The Showers
While you would think that showers would barely be mentioned in a review, they are actually one of my favorite parts of the Flywheel Dallas experience 🙂 The shower rooms are simple but completely comfortable, with two shower heads and Bliss spa products! The lemon sage scent is so yummy and delicious that it makes me want to go sweat through another class just to get to use them. (Okay, maybe I ought to just pony up the $20 and buy them for myself.) In addition to the standard shampoo, conditioner, body wash, moisturizer, towels, and hairdryer, the Flywheel staff have also thoughtfully provided a jar of ouchless hair elastics, some dry shampoo, and hairspray (you know, a Texas necessity). The studio has three shower rooms, which I was worried about being too few, but it seemed to be more than adequate since most people seem to prefer going home to shower rather than cleaning up at the studio. (Not an option for me given when I have to be at work.)
The only thing that I don’t love about Flywheel is the price – at $25 a pop, it can really add up quickly! But they run specials all the time – I particularly love the 20 class pack option, which brings the price down to a very reasonable $20 each. They also have a monthly unlimited option for $180 – and now that I’m hitting more than ten classes a month at Flywheel, I’m probably going to move over to that soon. They also have a pretty nice referral program: if you refer someone, you get a $50 credit once they have bought two classes! So if you haven’t signed up yet, maybe you’ll use this link and let me get the credit for telling you all about this awesome spot? 🙂
So overall? I love Flywheel! (Consider me a convert who now understands what everyone was raving about.) And if you are in the Dallas area and ever want to drop by a class, come to the Tuesday or Thursday 6ams and look for me on bike #11. I’ve decided to become a regular!