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    What is spinning?

    Sophia Willmes
    Sophia Willmes
    Mar 4, 2024 7 min
    What is spinning?

    Some kind of fitness trend or a bit of real cycling after all?

    Get off your Wahoo-Kickr or your Zwift roller, today we're taking a look at the other side of indoor cycling. So get out of your pain cave in your living room or bedroom and into big, dark studios where you can sweat, dance and cycle to techno and strobe lights. That's where one of the most important and enduring fitness trends of the 21st century is at home: spinning. What exactly it is, how it differs from classic indoor cycling, what it could involve for you as a "real" cyclist and why there is no such thing as "real"... We'll take a closer look in this blog post.

    1. What is spinning?

    Spinning is first-class cardio, a full-body workout and calorie burning of the most effective kind. And a wild party to boot. You pedal and dance to loud, energetic music for 45-60 minutes on special bike trainers fixed in the studio. To train the upper body as well, barbell exercises for the arms and dance moves for the waist and upper body are added to the classic cycling movement. There is always an instructor for the group that gives instructions, encourages, motivates, pushes, sings, shouts and everyone joins in. 

    2. What is the difference to classic indoor cycling?

    Well, first of all, location, setup and accompaniment. Who at home on the roller firstly rides alone, secondly within their own four walls and thirdly on their own bike and a roller trainer, not on a specially designed, fixed spinningbike. Some of the smart roller trainers can also be connected to apps such as Zwift, Wahoo or TrainerRoad and you can cycle in virtual worlds, access colorful maps and different types of training and can also train together with other riders - virtually, of course. However, the actual riding experience is relatively realistic: after all, it's your bike and you pedal on it in exactly the same style as you would outside. Unhindered by the special resistance of the heavy spinning wheels or from the many potential distractions of a loud, energetic spinning class.

    In addition, with classic indoor cycling you can adjust and track your training more precisely and your bike is also tailored precisely to you and your riding style - from saddle height to the adjustment of your handlebars. This promises an ideal training situation, especially for those of you who want to train in a precise, concentrated and calm manner and also want to get the most out of the session. But you're also alone - which can be perfect for the type of rider just described and most closely resembles the outdoor situation where it's just you, the bike and the voice in your head. But this also means training without a motivating and encouraging coach, without a group to push you and with whom you can push through and go beyond your limits together. Without the social component which, for some other cyclists, is the whole point of this sport and the real charm of spinning parties.

    3. Where does spinning come from?

    What sounds like a new-fangled underground sport is not as new as some people think. Almost exactly 20 years ago, the professional cyclist Jonathan Goldberg was faced with the following dilemma: the famous Race Across America was imminent and he wanted to prepare himself properly, but at the same time did not want to leave his heavily pregnant wife at home alone. The solution? A device that would allow him to put his racing bike on the treadmill at home and train there. The idea of the home bike trainer quickly found favor among Jonathan and his friends, who from then on often met in his kitchen and took turns on the special training device, so great was their curiosity. As a result, Jonathan decided to exploit the potential of this special form of training, rented a small studio so that he could offer spinning classes to more people and four years after these first indoor sessions, he launched the first commercial spinningbike and registered the term "spinning" as a trademark.

    "Johnny G" and the very first spinningbike

    4. And since when is spinning cool?

    Fast forward a few years and from 2006 spinning is THE trend sport among cosmopolitan fitness elites. Madonna, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, all things glitzy and glamorous are "spinning" in the hip SoulCycle fitness centers on New York's Upper West Side. The twist to Jonathan's kind of spinning? That from "simple" cycling at different intensities, inclines and speeds is turned into the fitness party that we understand the sport to be today.

    It wasn't until Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler's SoulCycle Studios that techno and electro music came into play, and it wasn't until 2006 that spinning became a full-body workout and party at the same time - disco balls and black light included. Cycling becomes a dance, a state of emergency and an hour away from reality, a hip workout and status symbol, a disco and neon lights. It's clear that this no longer has much to do with actual cycling and nothing to do with the original idea of Jonathan's indoor training. 
    But it is also clear that it is a new cardio workout of a special kind. And that the energy in the studio is incomparable, anyway. So it's no wonder that spinning has since taken the world by storm.

    5. Spinning as a women's sport?

    Perhaps also because spinning offers many of the fitness benefits of regular cycling, but has a completely different connotation. Both types of cycling strengthen muscles and the cardiovascular system, lower blood pressure and have been proven to lift the mood. But while classic cycling and cycling in general are still male-dominated worlds, spinning studios are mainly frequented by women. For the gender cycling gap in outdoor cycling has many reasons - from expensive bikes with less income, a lack of safety for women in public spaces and time restrictions due to care work etc. And perhaps this is precisely why this parallel cycling universe of the spinning studios of SoulCycle, Flybike and the like is finally the safe space for women that is still a little way off in 'real' cycling. 

    Where you don't need an expensive bike to start cycling, just a towel, sportswear and a water bottle. Where you don't have to drive 40 minutes to get out of the city and back in again for a tour, but where you can get the whole package in 45 minutes and really train and empower yourself in the short time you have available. Where you don't have to work up the courage for a first group ride with the more experienced bike friends, but have trained instructors who push you and take you by the hand. Which, above all, benefits from its community-aspect and where it's less about competing and more about pedaling and dancing together.

    Perhaps a somewhat steep thesis to explain the gender distribution in the two sports and the great popularity of spinning, but definitely one worth thinking about. 

    6. Is this something for "real" cyclists?

    But the fact, not the thesis, is that spinning continues to have a rather feminine connotation, with instagrammable boutique studios and predominantly fit, white, young women dominating the media portrayal of the sport. And that this in turn deters many a cyclist from giving the classes a chance.

    Spinning began as an indoor training program for racing cyclists. A sport that mainly takes place outdoors. So if you're an experienced road cyclist who regularly races down hairpin bends and chases towards the horizon on asphalt highways, you might see hip spinning as an idiotic, watered-down and alienated version of your own sport. 

    But let's be honest: Which pedals you pedal, where and with whom should really be irrelevant. For your own fitness and you'll clear your head too. Whether outside, alone at home on the roller or in the spinning studio. "Real" cyclists are all those who get on the saddle and pedal, no matter what bike or level, with what power or speed, no matter how often or how long, how, with whom or where. So yes. Dancing and cycling at the same time in a completely different atmosphere is also something for real cyclists. For everyone.

    We at buycycle may not offer spinning classes now. (Not yet? Question to Business Development Team?) But we offer each and every one of you the perfect pre-owned bike. Among the more than 17,000 road, gravel and mountain bikes on our website, you are sure to find the one that suits you and your needs perfectly. If you have any questions, the buycycle team is always there for you and you can find more information about bikes on the blog - it's worth staying and browsing! As always, we wish you happy browsing, happy cycling and happy spinning too!