When someone comes up with a good idea, say a boutique fitness workout that involves riding bicycles in the dark to energetic music, it’s only natural that someone else takes the idea, tweaks it, and turns it into a better product. Such is the case with Flywheel, open today in downtown San Francisco. The indoor cycling center is the 39th facility to open in the nation and the third in the Bay Area—there are already Flywheels in Walnut Creek and Sunnyvale. The SF location, at 71 Spear Street at One Market Plaza, is the largest on the west coast with 72 bikes. Flywheel was founded in 2010 by Ruth Zuckerman, a cycling enthusiast and instructor who was also a part of the founding team of SoulCycle in 2006. After four years with the popular fitness studio, Zuckerman left to start its largest competitor.
While there are similarities between SoulCycle and Flywheel, there are distinctions that make Flywheel a much more enjoyable experience. Upon arrival at the large airy studio, that has a blue and grey color palette, cyclers are met by a greeter. The friendly person guides them to a cubby where the special shoes necessary for riding a bike indoors are waiting. Unlike Soulcycle, where riders have to pay extra to rent the shoes, at Flywheel the shoes are included in the price of the workout. Inside the cycling room, the 72 bikes are arranged like an amphitheater around the instructor’s bike which sits in the center of the room under a spotlight. No matter where your bike is, you can see the instructor clearly. To ensure that you find the correct bike and are properly using the equipment, a team of people is standing by the entrance to the cycling stadium. Each rider is personally escorted to their bike. This is a relief for new riders who aren’t experienced in the clipping of shoes and correct height ratio of seat to handlebars. It also promotes a welcoming sense of community that is lacking at the SF locations of SoulCycle.
The next major difference you’ll note is Flywheel’s use of technology. A small rectangular screen is connected to each bike. This tracks your revolutions per minute (RPM), speed, torq, and distance. When the instructor tells you to raise the torq to a 35, you know exactly when you’re at 35 because the screen tells you. The tracking of one’s progress adds a competitive edge to the class. Two television screens are at the front of the room and they display other riders’s speeds and torqs. If you’re taking the class with a friend, you can see who is faster. There are also race portions of the class, when everyone is given a set time, like 45 seconds, to cycle as fast as they can. While it lacks the soul-searching spiritual aspect of SoulCycle, Flywheel keeps the pace fast with musical motivation and pumped up instructors like Stephanie Rice, who kept our ride fast and fierce. If you’re looking for a new workout to jumpstart your day, we highly recommend Flywheel Market Street.