Any new workout has a high intimidation factor, but a dance-based workout can be especially scary -- particularly when your feet are clipped into bike pedals and you're expected to keep a beat for 45 minutes. RIDE Indoor Cycling on West 19th Street in the Heights keeps that intimidation factor low with a highly trained hands-on staff, low-lit classes and an unbeatable introductory class offer -- your first visit, including shoe rental, is completely free.
"It's really hard trying anything new, because you're putting yourself out there, taking a risk," said RIDE founder Kimberly Dowling. "Just have fun and don't be too hard on yourself. Like a dance class, it's choreographed, and so it's a skill you'll develop with practice."
Born and raised in Houston, Kim Dowling fell in love with spin classes during her time in another city -- New York. The spin craze that seized the East and West coasts (thanks to celeb-favorite SoulCycle) took indoor cycling to new levels, setting classes to a beat and adding upper-body and abdominal exercises to an already-intense cardio regime. After her family relocated to Austin, Dowling had a hard time finding a workout that lived up to the rhythm-based cycling workout she loved in New York. She partnered with her husband to open RIDE Indoor in Austin, the success of which led to the opening of a studio here in her old hometown with her local partner, Taryn Burt.
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"We were off to a bang here in Austin, but we've been even more successful since launching in Houston," said Dowling. "We've been open for two months, and we're training more instructors and adding class times -- many of our classes are selling out, especially at night." Dowling credits her partner, Taryn, with much of the new studio's success. "I couldn't do it in Houston without her! She's the most amazing person," said Kim. "She's so positive and independent -- she just has really incredible energy."
If it's your first time at RIDE, Kim suggests asking a staffer to help set you up on the bike. "Some folks say no thanks, but go ahead and let them help. Having the correct settings will give you more confidence once class starts." When the lights go down, the music goes up -- way up -- and an instructor begins coaching you through 45 minutes of sweaty, heart-pumping choreography that includes a lot of abdominal work, plus upper-body using a combination of one-pound weights (you can ask for a heavier set) and "push-ups" performed on the handlebars.
The cost of a single class at RIDE is $22, plus $1 for shoe rental if you don't have your own spin-compatible footwear. Class packages are available at a discount rate, and the expiration periods are relatively generous (30 days for a single class, four months for ten classes, nine months for 20), and that initial free class is a great incentive to try RIDE. You can take an "original flavor" ride, or check out themed rides -- Christina vs. Britney, Selena Gomez vs. Justin Bieber -- that give riders the opportunity to choose a workout based on music they know. And the right music can make or break a workout, as many of us know.
"When you play the right song, with the right message, with the right instructor -- when everything comes together, it gets bigger and becomes more than just a workout," said Dowling. "It's a party!"