A few weeks again I traveled to Boston, MA for a weekend of shopping and quality time with my mom (pictured right). While, I was there I took class at the The Handle Bar Indoor Cycling Studio in South Boston. I heard about the studio from one of my colleagues who has incorporated regular Handle Bar cycling classes into her pre-wedding, shape up regimen. She is in LOVE with the format. After personally experiencing the class, I must stay, I like it too…
Before I get started, let me temper this review by confessing that Soul Cycle and Fly Wheel have completely raised the bar in terms of my expectations for indoor cycling classes. So while I try to review classes with an unbiased mind, I inevitably make comparisons to these two indoor cycling front-runners.
The Handle Bar Basics
- Price: $20 for a 45 minute class; not bad considering many boutique studios are in $30-$35 range.
- Ambiance: Very modern and hip. Positive affirmations are posted throughout. It has somewhat of an outdoor, beachy feel with lots of yellow, white and orange. The studio is very small, but very clean. The cycling room itself is dark lit only by small red lights. (Red doesn’t really go with the overall brand/color scheme, so I was a little thrown off by it – see pic below). Also, the bikes are really close together and positioned in a “U” shape around the instructor. Overall, the studio has a cool vibe.
- Format: The entire workout is on the bike. You start out with a ~5 minute warm up ride, then do several speed intervals and climbs all choreographed to the beat of the music . The last 10 minutes has a short arm circuit during which you use light dumbbells (identical to Soul Cycle). Finally, you bring it home with a 5 minute cool down and stretch.
- Great customer service. The girls at the front desk were super friendly. Also, they gave out free towels and the cycling shoe rental was cheap, like $2.
- Technically Sound. Some cycling studios get so caught up in the music and being cool that they forget to preach about safety and good form. I appreciated that the instructor and staff spent time ensuring the our bikes were properly set up and consistently gave feedback during the class on our riding technique.
- Lots of Base. The music was super loud and there’s was lots of Eminem on the playlist – me likey.
- Nothing distinctive. Overall, I found The Handle Bar to be a smaller, Soul Cycle. It provides exactly the same workout, exactly the same branding (even the colors), just a different name.
- Class lacked energy (i.e. no cheering, excitement from the riders). However, it was 6am so that may have had something to do with it.
- Now before I make these statement, let me first say that since I became a fitness instructor 2 years ago, I am WAY LESS harsh on fitness instructors – it’s not an easy job. However, my Handle Bar instructor could have done more in the way of choreography. Pretty sure we did tap backs for 75% of the class. (Tap Backs are movement done while riding when you shift booty back over the saddle and then raise back up to a climbing position – “tapping” back and forth)
Overall Rating (scale of 1-10)
7.0 – I give the Handle Bar a pretty solid score because it was good bang for my buck. The staff was friendly, the ride was sweaty, the music was loud and it was only $20. Boston crew, you officially have my “go ahead” to book a class: http://www.handlebarcycling.com/