Crash Course: Ride DC is one of the newer spin studio additions to the U Street corridor, and the first in DC to offer live performance tracking technology – a feature that lets students monitor their progress throughout the class. Each bike is hooked up to a system that projects speed, power, and other handy stats onto a screen at the front of the room. Throughout the class, students are racked and stacked according to their output and overall performance. In other words, if you are a competitive person, this class will either fulfill your every raging desire or drive you raging mad as you watch yourself rise and fall within the pack. Accumulated performance stats are kept on the Ride DC website, so students can monitor their personal progress and overall standing in the pool of other studio spinsters. This technology is, of course, optional – but why not take your spin session to the next level and give it a whirl? A full list of class times can be found on the Ride DC website.
where: 2217 14th Street/U Street Metro
bring: yourself, SPD clip bike shoes optional
perks: boutique feel, ride tracking technology
sweat score: 8 out of 10
wear: recommend spandex bottoms
cost: $22 drop in rate
Ride DC is located on the busy fitness intersection of 14th Street and Florida, smack dab in the middle of Praxis Crossfit and the new Anthony Bowen YMCA on W Street. The space was formerly occupied by Peloton Cycling, and many of the same decorations (like the fantastic old-school cycling photo covering the front wall) are still being used in the new studio. It’s a very tiny nook without much fanfare, and would have a spartan feel if not for the beautifully-appointed lobby. Think rich mahogany and leather furniture, vintage lightbulbs, and a plush sitting area.
Even the tiny bathroom – which doubles as a changing room – has a Restoration Hardware feel. While the boutique attention to detail is lovely, having to use the bathroom to change while others are anxiously waiting to use it is a bit of a stresser. I came directly from work and had to bite the bullet, but if you can manage, I recommend coming ready to ride and save yourself the trouble.
The studio is dimly lit and tall candles illuminate the base of each bike. I’ve seen these battery-powered votives at other spin studios around town and even out in Portland, so I’m guessing this little detail is en vogue. The instructor sits on a raised platform with the interactive scoreboard behind them, and each bike has a fresh towel curled up in the handle bar.
One thing I really liked about Ride DC is that you can pick which bike you want to use when you go online to sign up for class. I tend to enjoy being toward the back, so I picked a spot in the third row. Truth is, I kind of like to pretend I’m chasing down everyone in front of me, so being in the back is a little trick to help motivate me through class.
Our instructor Rachel introduced herself and went from bike to bike making sure we were all adjusted and comfortable on the stationary Schwinn. She demonstrated how to activate the monitor on our own bikes, which in turn activated the sensor to animate the live stats on the screen. The music started pumping, the screen flickered on, and next thing I knew we were off and running.
The class was a 45 minute blast of sprints and hills, sprinkled with dumbbell arm exercises and pushups on the bike. I am personally not a fan of the bike push ups – mostly because I think they mess with my form, distract me from what’s going on with my legs, and really don’t ever leave me with a good upper body workout. I think they’re more of a dance than anything else and I feel awkward and clumsy doing them. But a lot of studios incorporate the bike pushups as part of their “full body” spin workout, so if nothing else, it’s a popular trend. Just know before you go and be prepared for some arm dancing.
As someone who tends to be
a bit chronically competitive, having a screen in front of me with live feedback regarding my rank in the class was absolutely addictive. It was motivating, maddening, and pushed me to pedal my hardest throughout every song.
I felt my eyes darting about the room, searching for the bikes who were ranked ahead of me, wondering what I could do to eek past them on the board. More resistance? More speed? More enthusiasm? I see you over there on bike four…I will catch you! Oh wait, we’re on stationary bikes. This is a farce. But holy cow, is it making me hustle.
While other spin classes sometimes allow for a huge range of effort (turn that spin dial how many turns to the right? riiiiiight), the real-time feedback regarding my power output and speed allowed me to keep my effort in check throughout the entire workout.
That said, the class is paced in a way that allows for all speeds and ability levels, so don’t feel like this class is for Tour de France hopefuls only. I decided to hammer through the whole thing because I have a tendency (ahem) to be a tad competitive and raced bikes in a past life. Others may have a totally different outlook. If you’re a beginner, or just don’t want the pressure of having your stats broadcast for the entire class to see, you can opt out of being on the board. No questions asked.
I want to give a shout out to our instructor Rachel, who bopped around the room from time to time during the class to give individual motivational pick-me-ups, cheer us on during sprints, or just check in. It was a nice surprise to have her come off of the instructor platform and give us encouragement in person. There’s something about having the instructor in your face that really lights a spark to get moving. I’m not sure if every instructor does this, but it’s fun to see someone try something a little unorthodox in an effort to add a bit of spunk to the class.
All in all, I enjoyed my class and testing out the interactive tracking system. It sets Ride DC apart from the other spins studios in the city and really brings something neat to the experience. I left a sweaty mess and chomping at the bit for another chance to race, er, workout with another class full of cyclists soon.
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