For some time, I've been hearing rumours of Flywheel coming to Dubai, an apparently extreme form of spinning or RPM but with a twist. So when it finally landed this month, I was intrigued to give it a try.
I'm not really a fan of indoor cycling for the simple fact that I find it fairly boring, much like running on a treadmill, but I have to admit this class has a unique twist. Unlike your bog-standard class, participants can enter a name onto the computer which shows up on a board indicating where you are in terms of the other class members while riding. It spurs competition that RPM cannot usually do. In addition, a small computer on the bike shows the RPMs (rotations per minute) for speed and torque, the power you are using, which gives you a far better idea of what the round knob controlling the resistance levels is actually doing, rather than spending the class just turning it from left to right. When the teacher tells you where you should be, such as going up to 90 RPMs or bringing it down to just 50 doing an uphill, it makes much more sense.
Proper cycling shoes come with the class, which means you click comfortably into the pedals and can get better speeds. Plus, you can choose what music you're in the mood for, classes offering anything from hip-hop, 1980s or techno.
Flywheel was conceived in 2010 with its first studio in New York. The brainchild of the indoor cycling guru Ruth Zukerman, it has built up quite a following, and the Dubai club is its first to open outside the US.
The atmosphere when I arrived at the club was buzzing - people's enthusiasm was palpable in the air. Like many forms of exercise, it has real fans and Flywheel is no different, almost cult-like, people booking their particular bike before they arrive.
With the music pumping and the screens showing people's changing scores and positions, you could certainly feel the excitement as people pushed themselves harder, much more motivated than the usual spinning class.
For a novice, the class could feel a little intimidating among the hard-core RPM crew but once the lights go down and the music starts blaring, everyone is far too interested in their own workout to look around at anyone else. There's nothing like a dark room to make you feel you can disappear.
For one track, you pick up light weights to do a little upper body work - a token few minutes to give the legs a rest and acknowledge there's another half of the body, but certainly not meant as an alternative to an upper body workout.
Kerrie Alder, the owner of Lorna Jane sports clothing in Dubai, was among the first to try out the class when it opened this month. "The big draw for me is the technology they have that gives me the ability to compete on screen with other riders in the class, a winner for anyone with even the smallest competitive streak or the will to get better and better."
Amira Amro, the co-owner of Flywheel Dubai, says it has revolutionised indoor cycling by adapting technology to an already very athletic ride. "The riders achieve results, which they can track and the competitive nature of the torq board is so addictive."
Amro admits it can be daunting. "There are many who are afraid of trying it, as they mistakenly believe they aren't fit enough for it. What they should understand is that with the lights out, our positive reinforcement style of teaching and the fun nature of the sport, we don't expect one level of fitness to walk through the door."
It's good to see something coming up in Downtown Dubai where there are few offerings in the way of clubs and classes. However, at Dh110 a class, when many gyms incorporate spin classes for free, it is at the high end of the scale, though the more classes you buy, the cheaper it becomes. What is worth a try is the Flybarre class, a full body-sculpting, low-impact cardio workout using high repetitions of light weights, combining elements of Pilates and ballet barre, using tools such as resistance bands, small weights and a great soundtrack. Think a cool, 2013 version of Jane Fonda and be prepared to use muscles you never thought you had. A class to get you toned indeed.
For more information go to www.dubai.flywheelsports.com