A Cycling Class Without the Bike

Our writer finds out if a local cycling class that forgoes the bikes can still work up a sweat.

You’ll do a lot of bicycle abs at this spin class without the bike, but you may not be as cheerful as this lady afterwards. Photograph courtesy of iStock.

When I heard about a local spin class with no bikes, I was confused. Excited to try it out, certainly, but confused. I mean, isn’t the main ingredient in a cycling class a stationary bicycle?

Traditionally, yes. But Corey Belin’s program—Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5 to 6 PM at the YWCA National Capitol—is anything but. Each movement in the class either mimics bike-riding motions in some way or works the same muscles that we use to pedal, but it was unlike any class I’d tried before.

Belin’s class began with a warmup that combined simple stretches with jumps and twisting motions to get the blood flowing. I should have cherished those few easy minutes, because it only got harder—and forget about any water breaks.

Various core- and leg-strengthening movements, most of which were new to me, made up the bulk of the class. Some highlights were:

Situps, done with the legs extended on the ground and the arms at eye level making a pedaling motion.

Bicycle abs, where participants lie on their backs with one knee bent, touching the opposite elbow. The other leg is extended, then you switch sides repeatedly. Beware when Belin orders you to “put on your brakes,” as this means you’ll be holding a muscles-engaged position for at least ten seconds—longer if anyone gets caught cheating.

Hopping on your bike, which means quickly getting into a pushup position with your feet on cloths on the hardwood floor. The fun begins from there, as you slide your feet back and forth, one at a time, from nearly touching your hands to completely extended. We did this first for 30 seconds, then one minute, then for so painfully long that I lost track.

These movements, mixed with others, were all set to Michael Jackson, Madonna, and other upbeat, throwback tunes, making for an hour of sweaty, difficult, yet rewarding fun.

We did the class arranged in a circle, which Belin says prompts people to hold one another accountable, encourage one another, and work as though their individual effort makes the whole group more fit. He says his programs are successful because participants work as hard as they can the whole time, regardless of their fitness level. And if you don’t find the class a success, he doesn’t expect you to pay or return.

“If you pay to get your hair done,” he explains, “you get your hair done. If you pay to lose weight, you should lose weight.”

Difficulty Rating: 8
Fun Rating: 8.5
Creativity Rating: 10

YWCA. 2303 14th St., NW; 202-626-0700.