Fitness Studio Review: The Handle Bar Indoor Cycling – South Boston

handle bar logo

Chillin' w/my mom in Beantown a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving
Chillin’ w/my mom in Beantown a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving

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.
handle bar cycling insiide
Inside the cycling room at the The Handle Bar South Boston


  • 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:


Happy Cycling!  xoxo, Brit

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CRANK it up with Nick Oram: NYC’s Hottest Cycling Studio and Hottest Instructor

Nick Oram fitness

Just when I thought I’d discovered them all, I found another NYC Fitness GEM!  Ladies and gentlemen I HIGHLY recommend you check out CRANK Cycling Studio on the Upper East Side.  You guys know that I always keep it real and very seldom do I give raving reviews of fitness studios.  But CRANK has some serious GRIT.  So, I decided to put together a top 10 list of what I love about it!

crank cycling NYC

Here’s why I LOVE IT…

  1. Insane Intensity. The workout is a 45 minute studio cycling ride. As a spin instructor, I’m super critical of other spin instructors, but I have to say that the instructors at Crank are legit. All of them incorporate a solid amount of variety, intervals and resistance training into the workout to ensure the class is pushed.
  2. Reasonably priced. Only $23 per ride – woo hoo! Those are Texas prices right there y’all. Soul Cycle is $34 per 45 minute class (to give you a relative comparison). You guys know that I’m all about accessibility. We don’t have to be wealthy to be healthy.
  3. Cardio + Choreography. I think having rhythm is a prerequisite for all of the instructors (as it should be). I love that the class is set to music, we move to the beat of the music and the BASS had me bumpin’ the whole ride. This workout incorporates the most dance and movement that I’ve ever experienced. We were out of the saddle for about 80% of the classes and bobbin’ to the left, to right, to the front to the back – heyyy!
  4. Cool Vibe and Decor. The studio is completely dark and lit only by small red lights. Red and black are the official studio colors. I love red because it’s strong and intense. During the class, we ride very close to each other generating lots of HEAT! By the end of the class, all of the mirrors are completely covered with sweaty fog (sounds gross, but it’s really awesome!)
  5. Excellent Equipment. The bikes are comfortable and ride well. Each one has a magnetic charge in the wheel that helps ease each pedal stroke and ensure a smooth ride. I can tell the bikes they are well maintained. There is nothing worse than cycling on a rickety old bike. Not to mention, poor equipment increases injury risk.
  6. Straight to the point, No fluff – Unlike some high-end fitness studios, all of the students in the class seemed like athletes. They came to work out. Not to see and be seen.
  7. Chill Culture. On that same note, the students I interacted with were also very cool and welcoming. No snobs allowed.
  8. New and Different. CRANK hit NYC only a few months ago, so it’s a nice fitness routine change-up. With so many fitness boutiques in Manhattan, it can be hard to keep up. But rest assured, Crank is new and it’s legit.
  9. Super Sweet Staff. The staffed is incredibly knowledgeable about both fitness and about cycling. The manager spent some time telling me why he chose the specific bikes in the studio and about how Crank got started and continues to the grow.
  10. HOT instructors (Exhibit A: My Ultimate Fitness Crush – Nick Oram). If you recall, we became obsessed with Nick when we discovered him at Soul Cycle a few months ago. He even topped out charts when we put out the “Official NYC Soul Cycle Instructor Ranking.” I’ve gotten to know Nick pretty well over the past few months and not only is he smokin’ hot and the fiercest fitness instructor in NYC, he’s also a very genuine accountability partner and sincerely cares about every person in his class (I’m taking regular text messages to check on his students – awe). So, while I wrote this blog post to spread my love for CRANK, I also want spread my love for NICK!  You can follow Nick on Twitter @OramNick or check out his website

Nick Oram Cycle

And now that I’ve told you all about Crank Cycling Studio and about my awesome instructor, Nick Oram, it’s time for you to hear from the man himself.  I asked Nick a few key questions, and here’s what he had to say…

Nick Oram

Why did you become a fitness instructor?

I loved spinning in college and it was through the love of it that I became an instructor.

What’s your favorite “get hype” line to yell to your class?

My favorite thing is to say is “Are you READY!!?” I get a big rise out of my class when I say that.

What you do recommend as the right mix of weekly cardio and resistance training/toning workouts?

I believe in keeping the body guessing, alternating days and doing intense intervals with your training

What song always get you going?

Can’t Hold US (Kaskade Remix) – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

What do you tell yourself to stay motivated when your completely exhausted?

Mediocrity is never OK. Alway’s excellence!

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to work out?

Be patient Be present and Be open to CHANGE

What does GRIT mean to you?

Grrrrrrr 😉

Nick Oram

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SoulCycle: Join the cult…or maybe not?

(above) Me and my girl @marissagibbons after a ‘Sick Sunday Soul Sweat’

This past Sunday I tried out  SoulCycle  at NYC – Tribeca.  The NYC studios held  a special “Soul Service” contributing all proceeds to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.  A good sweat and a good deed made an attractive combo for Sunday Fun-day. I’m gonna get straight to the point and give you guys the “hot facts” about the “Soul Movement”…

What’s all the hype about?

  • All the COOL KIDS are doing it – Move over CrossFit!  SoulCycle is the hottest AND most expensive fitness class on the street right now!   Studios are only in New York and LA and the Soul Movement is so strong that Soul Cycle was recently acquired by Equinox.  Several “A” list celebrities have joined the “cult” including but not limited to Lady Gaga and Kelly Rippa.  Being a part of the Soul Cycle cult is definitely a status symbol in NYC and LA.
  • Spin Class + FULL BODY workout – About 30 minutes into the ride, we used light hand weights conveniently placed under our saddles and started a hardcore upper body toning circuit.  SHOULDERS ON FIRE!  Also throughout the class, the instructor led several moves to engage our core. 

Why is it so expensive?

Not just expensive, but REALLY expensive!  The classes are $32 per 45 minute session making them the most expensive group fitness classes in the United States!  Here a few reason I can justify the price (in moderation):

  • Immaculate facility – Awesome brand with the SOUL CYCLE theme AND motivations slogans consistently portrayed.
  • Unique culture and fitness experience – The bikes are really close to each other and the room is pitch black lit only by candle light.  They keep the music thumpin’ so you can truly “escape” during your workout.
  • Boring instructors are NONEXISTENT – All of the instructors are highly energetic and bring a personal enthusiasm that isn’t annoying.  Very motivating leadership.
  • Supper friendly and knowledgeable staff – The front desk staff was super helpful especially since it was my first time.  They got me a pair of spinning sneakers, set up my bike and walked me around the facility


  • INSANE ENERGY!  Many of the instructors have backgrounds in acting and music so they know how to pump up a crowd and stay on beat with the music – so necessary.
  • COMMUNITY VIBE.  During the class all students moved side to side and up in down in the same direction so we look like a synchronized music video – I loved it!    Even better, I got a sweet welcome tweet before the class.  I can appreciate any club that shows GRIT by Brit some love – ya heard?


  • As a single method gym, Soul Cycle could get boring over time.  However, if you’re already a regular spin class goer, this could be a suitable alternative.
  • With the steep price, you may be likely to skip classes when money is tight.  Consistent fitness habits are crucial!
  • As a certified indoor cycling instructor I noticed that the class does NOT uphold true cycle principles and form.  If you are a hardcore cycling enthusiast, this workout will seem very superficial.
  • Cycle shoes are required.  So you either have to bring your own or pay an additional $2 to rent a pair (whoa, couldn’t they include that in the $32?)

Ultimate verdict?

I had an awesome time at my Sunday Soul Session!  I could see myself attending a class here and there when I need to change it up – maybe once every other week.  I definitely think Soul Cycle is something you should test for yourself.  If you’re a group fitness junkie, like me, you could easily be tempted to join the cult.  Even if you aren’t, at least you’ll FIT IN with the “cool kids” and maybe snag a celebrity sighting 😉

(above) My boy @caseygib after our ‘Sunday Soul Session’

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