I used to dread cycling of all sorts, until I tried this indoor cycling class at Absolute Cycle Singapore.
Yes, I’m a cycling coward – whether it’s outdoor cycling or indoor cycling (also known as spinning).
I didn’t learn how to cycle properly as a kid. Growing up, I thought all bicycles had four wheels, like the toy bike I had at home: two big wheels plus two small ones on the side to help you stabilise. And that cycling was as easy as running. Boy, I was wrong.
I got my first taste of proper cycling at 21, under the encouragement of my then-boyfriend now-husband, who’s a cycling enthusiast. And I was petrified. With best intentions, he told me to just keep pedalling, go fast to avoid wobbliness, and always look ahead and be confident, as if I was driving a car. With no prior experience, I did just that on a two-wheel bike, going up and down for 20 minutes in East Coast Park.
I didn’t fall, but the trauma I felt suggested that I might as well have. I didn’t know how to brake properly (I still don’t), and I had trouble steering the bike to avoid crashing into people. That was easily the most frightful 20 minutes of my life, whizzing past seasoned cyclists, joggers, skaters, playful kids and walkers with dogs at a respectable speed of 15kmh, as though I was a legit cyclist.
Though I survived my maiden cycle, deep down inside I knew I was a fraud. I couldn’t help envisioning the accidents that could have happened if I didn’t stop to let others pass. It also didn’t help that I’ve heard of horror stories of people crashing their heads (and dying) after jam braking while going downhill. Plus, cycling was literally a pain in the ass. Besides feeling sore in my wrists, my butt cheeks got so numb and sore, making me think all cyclists must be masochists.
All these led me to avoid cycling altogether – until indoor cycling became a thing.
With indoor cycling, or spinning, the bike is in a fixed position. There’s no need to worry about balance; all you have to do is pedal. To adjust the intensity, you can easily turn up or down the resistance. If you’re tired, you can even rest on the bike without pedalling. To non-cyclists like me, spinning is a perfectly safe option – or so it seems.
My job as a fitness writer leads me to various sporty events, including exercise classes. In the name of work, I’ve gone for multiple spinning classes – mostly involving loud music, strobe lights, and hyperactive instructors. Every time, my bum cried from the unforgivingly hard seat. I had no idea why I had to pedal on a stationary bike, when there were so many other great cardio exercises to do. The mindless pedalling made me wish I was running on the treadmill instead. None of those classes made me want to spin again, until I tried Absolute Cycle Singapore’s rhythm cycling class.
Touted as the first “real” rhythm cycling studio in Singapore, Absolute Cycle promises a unique indoor cycling experience where you cycle to the beat of music, with hand and body movements thrown in. Comprising 11 heart-pumping songs, the routine is supposed to switch between fat burn, endurance, metabolic conditioning and high-intensity interval training, while training different muscle groups.
Obviously, I brought my scepticism along when I went for the media class trial. But within minutes, I was sold. Instructor Ciara Williams won me over with her grooviness and infectious energy. She was lively and charismatic in the most genuine way. And she had a melodic yet commanding voice that made me sit up.
The first 15 minutes was spent adjusting the bike seat and handle. As a guide, the seat should be at hip height, in line with the top of your hip bones. The handle should be roughly at the same level as the seat, about one forearm’s length away from the seat.
Then came 45 minutes of rhythm cycling. The class kicked off with EDM tunes which required us to pedal at a moderate pace. It quickly picked up as the songs switched to house music, then hip hop. We were to match our pedalling speed with the increasing tempo. At the peak of each song, Ciara motioned for us to stand and pedal, then rock our hips back and forth to the beat while holding the handle. There were other moves too, like shoulder sways and push-ups. To enhance the mood, she even switched the lighting, from disco red to electric blue to neon green. It felt just like clubbing!
What seemed weird at first – who dances on a bike? – became quite fun as I immersed myself in the upbeat music and followed Ciara’s cues. I glanced around the room and saw that everyone was having their party moment too, moving like no one was watching.
Towards the end of the class, we were asked to pick up 1kg dumbbells that were placed around the bike seat. Ciara led us through multiple quick reps to work the biceps and triceps. In an ordinary class, I would be groaning from the monotony, and perhaps try to sneak some rest in between. Instead, I found myself getting hyped up by the catchy songs – so much that I didn’t want to stop moving my arms as long as the music was playing. Burning muscles be damned.
Forty-five minutes passed by too quickly. When the normal lights came back on, everyone was soaked in sweat, including me. Strangely, we started laughing and chattering as though we just had a team-bonding session. My first thought: That wasn’t too bad. I don’t mind doing this rhythm cycling thing again, even with a sore butt.
Absolute Cycle Singapore is located at #02-01 OUE Downtown Gallery (tel: 6220-2688). For first-timers, rates start from $45 for two classes. Visit absolutecyclesingapore.com for more info.