As a long-time spinning enthusiast and certified instructor, I’ve been curious, albeit slightly skeptical, about the explosion of new trends in indoor cycling. Boutique studios across Long Island have sprouted up over the last year or so, each claiming to offer the best stationary bike class around. I heard about Real Ryder bikes, a new type of bike that moves side to side, and wanted to see if the ride lived up to the hype.
Proponents of Real Ryder bikes promise a more authentic and challenging stationary bike experience for cycling enthusiasts and indoor fitness junkies alike. According to the manufacturer, the bikes “engage more muscles than you would on a traditional indoor bike, work your core more than you would on a regular indoor bike, burn more calories” and offer a more dynamic and fun indoor ride.
Ellen Weinstein, who manages an East Islip gym that offers Real Ryder classes, believes so much in the Real Ryder bike concept that two years ago, after teaching spin classes for over 15 years at local gyms, she was inspired to finally strike out on her own with the product and open her own space, Cycle Evolution.
“This is the future of indoor cycling,” Ellen said. “When I got on these bikes, I knew I could never go back. This is what will replace all indoor stationary bikes eventually.”
I was somewhat unconvinced of the claims that simply riding on a different brand of stationary bike could offer any unique benefits above and beyond the quality of an instructor, or the effort of the person taking a class, but I came to a 9:30am class at Cycle Evolution with an open mind.
I brought along Liz, who regularly uses spin classes to supplement her marathon running training. She ended up converted enough to schedule another class at the East Islip studio. “I was surprised by how much I liked it, actually. I’m definitely going to come back.”
The Labor Day morning class was energetic and challenging, a testament to the skill of the two instructors, Ellen and Chuck Schneider, who split the hour-long class. Their instruction brought a serious yet fun vibe to what might otherwise have felt like a sleepy holiday morning. The storefront studio on Main Street in East Islip has a large, airy main room with sunny windows onto the street, but when the music starts and the lights dim, the space takes on a focused feel. The class reminded me of an indoor bike trainer ride, when outdoor cyclists get together and place their road bikes on trainers to sweat through an hour or more of heart rate and training zone-specific hardcore riding.
But Ellen stressed that although the bikes are designed to give you a challenging workout, the classes can be tailored to anyone’s fitness level. “People are sometimes intimidated, but you can go at your own pace. I’ve had riders with chronic injuries coming out of physical therapy who have been successful on these bikes. I recommend a beginner try two or three classes to get used to the bike and the movement and then if they come regularly they will reap the training benefits.”
The first thing you notice when you sit on a Real Ryder bike, especially if you’re used to standard stationary bikes, is the movement. The entire bike frame moves laterally, letting riders simulate “turns,” by leaning side to side, and the back and forth motion of a bike as it climbs a hill. Liz and I found the sensation took some getting used to, and my instinct was to try to steady the bike’s motion, but Chuck explained that you should try to move with the bike while gently stabilizing it with your core and legs.
The class attendees, evenly split between men and women, were a diverse mix, with some triathletes training for upcoming races mixed in with fitness enthusiasts of varying ages who are loyal followers of Ellen’s teaching. Chuck, one of Cycle Evolution’s most veteran instructors, also competes in Ironman triathlons and teaches standard spin at other gyms.
The class featured a lot of interval training with demanding stretches of intense sprints and hill climbs. Optional Polar heart rate monitors were available, transmitting riders’ target heart rate zones to a screen above the instructor’s head, allowing users to closely monitor their individual workouts.
Coming out of the saddle into second and third position on the bikes (riding while standing on the pedals) felt much more challenging than the equivalent movements in standard spinning. The effort to hold ourselves up and pedal while the bike went side to side seemed to recruit more muscles than we were used to in a cycling class.
“My quads were killing me,” Liz said after Chuck finished off the ride with five minutes of “jumps on a hill,” an advanced move as riders quickly stand up and sit down while loading the bike with a heavy gear. Turns, when we were instructed to lean to the left or right, demanded core strength that promised—and delivered—sore abs the next day.
Overall, the bikes felt surprisingly comfortable, although the seat took some getting used to. “I don’t even want to hear about how your butt hurts,” Ellen joked. “You have to try it a few classes to get used to it.”
At Cycle Evolution you can buy packages of classes ($20 per class, 10 for $140, or 25 for $325) or unlimited monthly passes for $125. Similar to many cycling-specific gyms, scheduling or reserving your bike in advance is a smart idea. The studio offers around 20 classes per week, morning and evening, and takes online reservations.
At 360° Cycle Studio in Rockville Centre, the 18 to 22 Real Ryder classes per week regularly fill up, according to owner Michael Mannarino. Michael, an avid outdoor cyclist, switched his facility over to the Real Ryder bikes last year after trying out the bike. “It’s just a superior product,” he said. “It’s the Bentley of stationary bikes. It’s the most refreshing thing to come out in indoor cycling in twenty years.”
He describes the classes at 360° Studio as something you either love or hate, because the way the bikes function “takes cheating out of the equation.” Although classes are appropriate for all fitness levels from beginner to advanced, Real Ryders don’t allow riders to hang onto the bike frame, and they require them to hold up their full body weight.
“We’re not really here for the fluff…if you come to a Real Ryder class, you’re here to train.”