Listen to this article
- Psycle, Marylebone
- SoulCycle, Soho
- 1Rebel, Victoria
- Another_Space, Covent Garden
- Digme Fitness, the City
Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’re after a fix. The high that only 45 minutes on a stationary bicycle can provide.
To the uninitiated, that must sound crazy — but gone are the days when gym classes meant flimsy equipment under bright, fluorescent lights, with a giant clock not ticking fast enough.
Meet the nouveau spin class, a fitness trend that cropped up in New York about a decade ago and spread around the #FitFam faster than kale, cauliflower and courgetti, and where indoor cycling becomes a dance party-cum-therapy session.
The workout is intense: sprints to get your heart rate up, high-resistance climbs to build muscle, and hand weights because they’re good for you too — all set to music and shouting from the instructor, who is part drill sergeant, part motivational speaker, with zero per cent body fat and the charisma of a cult leader.
The studio is kept dark, the sound system is loud and the energy is high, creating a nightclub-like environment, albeit with more sweat, a (presumably) sober clientele and punctuated by boy-band choreography. (Sceptics: I promise it’s actually good fun.)
Most spin classes follow roughly the same 45-minute format and are priced from £20 or so for a drop-in class. However, some studios have categorically superior equipment, facilities, instructors and overall atmosphere than others. London spin fans are spoiled for choice, but the following are some of the best places to cleat up and clip in.
76 Mortimer St, Marylebone, London W1W 7SA
- Good for: a proper sweat. Psycle is the most fast-paced and intense of all the classes listed here
- Not so good for: booking for popular classes. Psycle superfans are online, trigger-finger-ready every Monday at midday when classes for that week are released
- FYI: Psycle also offers one-hour classes a few times a week — for a serious challenge, sign up for CEO Rhian Stephenson’s Wednesday-evening session
Prepare to be won over by the warm and friendly atmosphere as soon as you pop into one of Psycle’s three studios, located in Marylebone, Shoreditch and Clapham. Newcomers are enthusiastically welcomed at each class, birthdays and fitness milestones are celebrated, and throughout the session hooting, hollering and high fiving is actively encouraged.
If that seems a bit too happy-clappy for Britain, your suspicions are correct: there’s a Canadian in charge. Under Toronto transplant Rhian Stephenson, the company’s CEO, Psycle has become one of the most popular boutique fitness set-ups in the city, and has recently expanded to offer yoga, HIIT and barre classes too.
A word of advice: don’t let the niceness fool you: Psycle is hardcore. Touted as a “full body workout on a bike”, it’s an energetic mix of strength and speed — so when pedal resistance isn’t through the roof, it’s because the sprints channel the last stage of the Tour de France.
3-4 Great Marlborough St, Soho, London W1F 7HH
- Good for: purists. SoulCycle is the original of the genre
- Not so good for: claustrophobics in a hurry. The changing rooms are small and there are often queues for the showers
- FYI: the showers are worth the wait. SoulCycle provides luxurious bath and body products from cult beauty brand Le Labo
SoulCycle, the indoor cycling class popular with celebrities, launched in New York in 2006 and now operates more than 90 studios across the US and Canada. It arrived in London’s Soho earlier this year — its first location outside North America — with more branches planned to open in the coming months.
The high-energy, 45-minute workout is billed as a “unique mind-body-soul experience”, with uplifting playlists ranging from Beyoncé to bhangra and an almost meditative studio environment. The company shipped some of its top US talent to the Soho studio and it has paid off — book a class with anyone on the roster and you will leave smiling, with a sense of accomplishment.
Pro tip: sign up for a morning class with Mantas, who spends a little more time than usual with hand weights. Shower afterwards with glorious Le Labo products and grab a liquid breakfast from the smoothie bar.
Nova South Building, 5 Allington Ave, Westminster, London SW1E 5BX
- Good for: the #FitFam. This is a very next-gen gym
- Not so good for: anyone sensitive to flashing lights — the laser system is powerful
- FYI: 1Rebel has six locations across London, each offering an assortment of classes, including spin, HIIT and boxing
If other spin classes have a nightclub quality, 1Rebel’s Victoria outpost channels full-blown Ibiza superclub. The studio — a three-level cycling amphitheatre — features a £600,000 sound system, a professional laser installation and an instructor platform that moves between each level by remote-control swizzle lift. Seriously.
It’s all part of 1Rebel’s modus operandi — fitness as entertainment — which has propelled the boutique gym brand to become a fixture on the Instagram accounts of London’s millennials. (There’s even a “selfie mirror” at some locations, with built-in lighting, to encourage “rebels” to post pre- and post-workout snaps on social media.)
The cycling class, Ride, is typically strength-focused: pedal resistance is meant to be sticky and there’s more time spent in the saddle, though of course this depends on the instructor’s proclivities.
Workout aside, it’s worth checking out just for the theatrics. This is not just a spin class — it’s a spin experience.
4-10 Tower Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9NP
- Good for: speed demons. Another_Space classes are fast-paced, with lots of sprinting
- Not so good for: beginners. The quick pace and use of choreography might be too challenging for newbies
- FYI: there is an outpost of Swedish bakery Fabrique around the corner on Earlham Street, so you can follow up a morning class with a creamy flat white and the best kanelbullar (cinnamon buns) outside Stockholm
No Londoner is likely to list Covent Garden as a favourite neighbourhood — the droves of tourists mean that most of us avoid it completely. But it does have its charming streets, dotted with cool shops, eateries and other places for visitors to take advantage of the current exchange rate.
Another_Space counts as one of the area’s hidden gems, a contemporary boutique gym tucked away on a quiet street off Shaftesbury Avenue in theatreland, ideally located for anyone staying or working in central London. (There is also an Another_Space studio at Bank.)
It offers HIIT and yoga classes, as well as its house spin class, Cycle. Sign up for a Cycle class with instructor Alison for an aerobic, sprint-heavy workout and choreography that transports you to the set of a classic Jane Fonda exercise video.
Pro tip: the bikes at Another_Space have an ultra-sensitive resistance dial and the pedals feel stickier than at other studios. Aim to arrive a few minutes early to get a feel for it before class starts.
5. Digme Fitness
Moor Place (via Moor Lane), 1 Fore St, London EC2Y 5EJ
- Good for: competitive types. Digme takes live data on your performance and digitally simulates a race, with an animated peloton displayed on large TV screens
- Not so good for: anyone hoping to hide and take it easy. Names, stats and bike numbers are also on screen
- FYI: workouts can be synced to activity app Strava or logged on the company’s website to track progress. Digme also has several locations dotted around London, such as Blackfriars, Fitzrovia and Richmond
Digme’s popular ‘Ride’ class is ideal for those with a competitive streak — and most certainly not for anyone wanting to hide in the back row. Expect a lot of corporate types (and a handful of laser-focused alpha males in head-to-toe Rapha kit).
The bikes are hooked up to a system that collects live data from each rider, giving real-time performance figures which are displayed on huge TV screens at the front of the studio. The data collected includes watts exerted, calories burnt, energy produced and RPM — revolutions per minute (a summary is emailed to each person after the class, or can be synced with Strava.)
The result is that the class simulates a race, with an animated peloton so that you can see where you fit in the pack — and, if you’re like me, shame you into working harder. Like other classes, it’s broken up into climbs, sprints and other challenges, all set to music — but it’s less dance party and more Grand Tour-meets-video game.
Get alerts on Fitness in London when a new story is published