Interested in getting back into a workout regimen and uninspired my school’s on-campus gym, I began to seek out the best fitness classes in Boston. I had passed by The Handle Bar, an indoor cycling studio, a few times and heard good things from a few friends that had tried it. As someone who is always fond of a short commute, I opted to sign up for the first month rider’s special and go to the classes at the Fenway location, which was about a five minute walk away from my apartment. For Bostonians outside the Fenway, the Handle Bar also has locations in Harvard Square and Southie.
The first month rider’s special that I purchased is an unlimited membership that last for 30 days and costs $100 compared to the $175 that their monthly package usually costs. After, the 30 days the package expires you can choose to sign up for a new package if you want. If you’ve never gone to the Handle Bar before, you can also attend your first class for $10. Other options include buying single classes at $24 or packages of 5, 10, 20, or 40 classes with increasing prices that includes bike shoes and a towel every session. The best deal is the first month rider’s special or the student discount, which is $15 for a walk-in single class.
Although it may be a little pricey for a college student, The Handle Bar experience is definitely effective and motivating. They boast an “intoxicating environment that has proven addicting and transformative,” and I experienced this first-hand. Upon starting the class, you adjust your bike and “clip in” to the pedals with the special bike shoes you’re given while the instructor explains the positions 1-4. Then you’re off. The space is almost pitch black with alternating lighting that mimics the vibe of a club. Sometimes, they keep all the lights off, which is always great because it’s harder for the people next to you see you if you mess up.
Eventually they switch between red lighting and the red and blue lighting. The red and blue lighting is my favorite, usually coming at the peak of the song or the drop, it really makes you want to go all out. Also, the music is awesome. Your instructor makes up a playlist every class that’s going to pump you up whether it’s a Top 40 hit, an EDM mix, or a throwback.
Some of the best classes to attend are the themed classes, which are special classes that follow a certain music genre or artist. My favorite class was by far the JT vs JB ride, but I also attended and enjoyed the boy band ride and the 90’s ride. Between the lighting, the music, the instructor who’s always working to inspire you not to stop, and the people next to you who don’t stop, it really makes you push through the classes and keep going, even when you feel like you might die.
You will sweat, and you’ll sweat a lot. I’ve sweated more in some of those classes that I ever thought I was capable of, so you really do come out feeling like you had a great workout. Spin is meant to be a high intensity interval workout and is mostly considered cardio, but the positions are used to work specific areas of your body so that you aren’t just sitting on a bike the entire time. In fact, two of the four positions are standing positions, and you’re off the saddle for more than half the class.
They also will instruct crunches, tap backs, and isolations to target specific areas such as your abs, arms, butt, and legs. Near the end of the class, they’ll instruct you to take out your handle bar from the right side of your bike and do one song of arm excersizes.
Throughout the workout, you also are changing the resistance of your bike via a red knob at the front that’s based on a scale of 1-10, though you don’t go beneath the “flat road” at 5. These are used to control different paces to the beat of the music and increase resistance to resemble biking up a hill or decrease resistance for sprints. The the positions and resistance are choreographed by the instructor to follow the beat of the music. It’s really cool to watch everyone doing the same moves and seems as if you’re in a dance class, a club, and a fitness class all at once.
You might get half way through the class and feel like you really hate your instructor because they don’t seem to understand that you aren’t physically capable of turning up the resistance one more notch. However, the classes last for a very doable 45 minutes, and there’s really no better feeling than the end of the class where you are dripping with sweat after an amazing workout.
The few times I woke up for the 8 am sessions (I’m more of a night owl), I would even treat myself to a bagel sandwich at Pavement next door because what’s better than a kick ass workout followed by a bagel? I can usually justify this because one class burns anywhere from 400 – 600 calories.
Although the Handle Bar seems like a costly option, it really isn’t that expensive especially compared to other fitness classes and cycling classes in the city, such as SoulCycle. I’m definitely glad that I did the first time rider unlimited month special, but as a poor college student with limited funds, paying $175 every month just isn’t going to happen. I do, however, plan to do drop in rides for the student discount rate once a week.
The one thing that I wished I did while I did the unlimited month was incorporate more time at the gym in throughout the week. I was very intent on getting my $100 worth, so I signed up for classes anywhere from 3-5 times a week. Although it is a great full body workout, it still mostly is a cardio workout, and I think it would have been more effective to add a weight lifting regimen in at least twice a week, as much as I was trying to avoid the gym.
Also, since it’s such a high intensity workout, I think that it’s better to not go multiple days in a row because you do get very tired, and it’s easier to make the most of your workouts when you rest in between sessions.
My end advice: save up, try it out, sweat it up, and love it. There’s no denying it’s a fun time and a great workout. I really began to look forward to going to my spin classes and seeing what music would be picked. Plus, the fast pace and high intensity is a good way to get out stress and focus on something besides all the end of the year school work you have. Just don’t go overboard on the post-workout bagels.