SoulCycle, Flywheel, Zengo, OffRoadDC—Washington has its fair share of indoor cycling studios. And with this week’s grand opening of CycleBar in NoMa, we’ve added another chain to the mix in the District. With so many options all preaching virtually the same exercise, it can be tough to choose between them. But though there’s a fault line between the SoulCycle people—the chill, good-vibes-only crowd—and the Flywheel people—the competitive, in-it-to-win-it types—CycleBar lands somewhere in the middle.
When we spoke with co-owner Daniel Lorenz prior to the studio’s opening, he described the workout as being in-between SoulCycle and Flywheel, and now, having tried it, we have to agree. CycleBar overlaps with Flywheel in that each bike is equipped with a screen displaying the RPM (rotations per minute) and resistance, so riders have some numbers to tell them how hard they’re working.
Additionally, there’s a leader board—two flat screen televisions hanging in the front of the class that show a ranking of who is pedaling hardest—like you’d find in Flywheel. While the leader boards aren’t running the whole time, the instructor began 20 and 30-second sprint races at multiple intervals throughout the class. During the races, she turned on the leader board, counted down, and sent everyone pedaling as hard as they could. Once the race ended, the leader boards noted the riders who’d landed in first, second, and third place.
While this may all sound pretty competitive and Flywheel-esque, there were also some SoulCycle elements. For one, the instructor never called out specific number ranges for the resistance, but as in SoulCycle, just told riders to give the resistance knob a turn or two. This similarity is something that SoulCycle fans might like about CycleBar, as it means that everyone can change their resistance relative to what feels challenging to them.
Then there are some things that are pretty universal to indoor cycling studios—stadium seating, club-like lighting, loud music—that you’ll also find at CycleBar. Two differences I noted, however, upon starting the class: the room was actually cool when we began and it never got I’m-going-to-pass-out hot even when we started sweating. Secondly, because there are spotlights along the back wall, it never got quite as dark as I’ve experienced at other studios—meaning that if you like hiding in the shadows, that will be a little more difficult to do here.
Like most boutique fitness studios, the gym is heavily branded with CycleBar’s red color scheme, it’s bright, it’s clean, and it’s got the little perks and amenities that make it feel fancy. If you’re used to Flywheel’s luxurious shower rooms, you’ll find that these aren’t quite as nice—the women’s bathroom is compact (read: hot), but there are two showers, towels, toiletries, and bags for your sweaty clothes, which you won’t find at every boutique gym.
The good news is if you’re eager to give CycleBar a try, there’s still nine days left of their Blast promotion, during which all classes are free. To sign up for a free class, visit CycleBar NoMa’s website.