One fitness craze that has been kicking up over the past few years has been cycling (or spin) classes. While they have been around seemingly forever, it is a fairly new phenomenon where these types of classes have become branded with gyms dedicated to special classes and have developed an almost cult like following. The most popular one of the past couple of years has been SoulCycle, but there is a competitor that has been seen as more friendly for the common person, and it’s known as Flywheel Sports.

Despite being just six years old, Flywheel Sports has developed into a national brand that people are chomping at the bit to learn more about. If you want to be able to check your progress while you’re working out and get plenty of resources in both technology and coaching, then Flywheel Sports is definitely something to look into. With that said, let’s delve into the world of Flywheel Sports and see if it’s the right program for you.

What Sets Flywheel Sports Apart

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Flywheel Sports started out in 2010 with a couple of cofounders, but headed by Ruth Zukerman. Zukerman had been a dance aerobics teacher beforehand, and turned to spin classes in the late 1990’s. When her trainer moved out of the state, Zukerman joined a couple of gyms before helping to start SoulCycle. In 2009, she left the company with two other people to start Flywheel, which brings a lot of the same ideas as SoulCycle.

Zukerman also paired up with former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber to get the program off the ground, gaining quick popularity in New York City. So what is it that makes Flywheel different than SoulCycle, and is it a better fit? SoulCycle is more about getting in touch with yourself and sweating up a storm while Flywheel is a very statistics driven program where you are in a pseudo competition with other people, and the cost is much different, as well.

The Cost

Since one of the first things that turn people off from SoulCycle is the cost, Flywheel’s cost is going to be one of the first things we talk about. Although Flywheel started out as a cheaper alternative than SoulCycle, the costs have started to hover around the same. It used to be that an individual class with Flywheel would cost $30 and an unlimited monthly membership would be $180 per month, but it is now $34 per class and $375 per month (in New York City and cheaper in other places).

Some cheaper markets have reported that classes used to be around $25, but have since increased to $28 with a package where you can knock it down to $23 per class with a 20 class package. Overall, what used to be a cheaper alternative is no longer cheaper. However, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer the best spin class out there. Also, if you want to try it out, the first class is free.

The Workouts

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Instead of just one uniform workout, Flywheel offers a few different programs. Here  are the many different classes that Flywheel offers at each of their gyms:

Fly 45 – The most popular Flywheel workout is their original, which lasts for 45 minutes and focuses on intervals with an upper body workout while on your cycle. It’s the program that made Flywheel popular since you can easily fit the workout into a busy day.

Fly 60 – Essentially the same workout as the Fly 45, but obviously 15 minutes longer. If you have some extra time and are looking to burn a bit more calories, the hour-long program might be better.

Fly 90 – Those that are in great shape or are advanced in spin classes can opt for the Fly 90 program. It’s 90 minutes long and essentially doubles up the same workout that you get from the Fly 45 program. Flywheel recommends that you don’t try this one before getting through the other two first.

Power 30 – If you are short on time, then the Power 30 will be the easiest to fit into your schedule. Unlike the other workouts on the list, there are no breaks as you power through the entire 30 minutes while peaking your heart rate constantly. It’s hard, but the time seems to go faster.

Theme Rides – Music is a big part of Flywheel, but the soundtrack isn’t always for everyone. Gyms will constantly have their workouts happen with different genres of music that will fit your energy level.

FlyBeats – One part of SoulCycle is the choreographed dance moves. That idea has been adopted by Flywheel for their FlyBeats program where you work out with the rhythm of the music playing loudly through the speakers.

Statistics Driven

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We had mentioned earlier that what makes Flywheel different is how much they promote analytics while you’re working out. When you’re going to your first Flywheel class, you’ll want to make sure that you’re early because there’s a lot of technology that you’ll have to get acclimated to. Each rider gets a tech pack that keeps track of their activity, and the results are even sent to you via email after the workout.

There is also a thing known as the TorqBoard attached to each bike (even though they are the old style stationary bikes). Each of these boards measures a few different things, starting with “Torq.” Torq measures the resistance of the bike based on how tight you screw the knob, making it harder to push through the pedals.

Also on the board are the RPM and power measurements. RPM (revolutions per minute) is exactly what it sounds like. There have been some people that said the RPM stats aren’t that accurate and actually oversell your performance a bit, but not too far off where it becomes a problem. As for power, it multiplies your Torq and RPM and divides it by 100. Then there is total power that measures all of it throughout your workout.

People are certainly driven by numbers when it comes to working out. If you’ve ever had a fitness tracker where you can add friends, it seems to be a competition in steps. Also, “one more mile” or “five more minutes” seem to be mantras with runners. If you’re competitive, you’re really going to like working to get the best numbers. Your stats are displayed in what they call the Flywheel Stadium as people strive for the top spot. It’s a nice little motivation boost since competing against others can be easier than psyching yourself up.

Is Flywheel For Everyone?

There are some workouts that really shouldn’t be done by everybody as it can be inclusive and taxing, and there are aspects of Flywheel that suggest the program falls into that category. Pregnant women often take part in classes, though it would be a good idea to speak with a doctor before signing up. As for the young and old alike, it really depends on your fitness level.

The youngest age that you can sign up for a Flywheel class is 13 years old, but those that are still under 18 still need their parent or guardian to sign off. You also don’t have to be in great shape to get started, as Flywheel promotes a judgment free zone (similar to what you get from Planet Fitness). If you find yourself unable to attend a class due to an injury or other medical related problem, you can freeze your membership with a doctor’s note, which some people aren’t thrilled about since they feel you should be able to freeze it regardless.

Summing it Up

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If you are one of those people that gets motivated by seeing numbers, then Flywheel is definitely going to be a great program. Your profile will be set up at the studio and all of your results are sent through email or the app. Not only does it track your single ride session, but also every other unit of time including lifetime results.

Flywheel is certainly a good workout, as well, but the glaring negatives are the high cost and lack of locations. If you don’t live in a major city (or a larger city in states like California), then you might not be able to find a gym. Even major cities like Denver, Las Vegas, Indianapolis and more do not have a Flywheel studio yet, but it’s probably only a matter of time if their popularity continues to grow.

Basically, it’s not all that different from the SoulCycle, which is where Flywheel came from in the first place. The biggest difference of course is the statistic tracking, although Flywheel has gotten higher marks than its competitor for being more efficient in the lobby and in the locker room. Recommending one over the other is hard, but they both have a lot of pros and few cons that mainly come from cost and location.