Until she tried this indoor cycling class at Absolute Cycle Singapore Estelle Low used to dread cycling of any kind.
Ciara Williams is one of the US’s leading rhythm cycling instructors.
I’m a cycling coward – whether it’s cycling outdoors or indoors. You see, I didn’t learn how to cycle properly as a kid. Growing up, I thought all bicycles had four wheels, like the toy bike I had at home with two big wheels plus two small ones on the side to help you stabilise. And that cycling was as easy as running. Boy, I was wrong.
Encouraged by my then boyfriend and now husband, who’s a cycling enthusiast, I got my ﬁrst taste of proper cycling at 21. And I was petriﬁed. With the best intentions, he told me to just keep pedalling, go fast to avoid wobbliness, and always look ahead and be conﬁdent, as if I was driving a car.
With no prior experience, I did just that on a two-wheeler, going up and down for 20 minutes in East Coast Park. I didn’t fall, but the trauma I felt suggested that I might as well have. I didn’t know how to brake properly (I still don’t!), and I had trouble steering the bike to avoid crashing into people.
Whizzing past seasoned cyclists, joggers, skaters, playful kids and walkers with dogs at a respectable speed of 15kmh, as if I was a legit cyclist... That was easily the most frightful 20 minutes of my life!
Though I survived my maiden cycle, deep down inside I knew I was a fraud. I couldn’t help envisioning the accidents that could have happened if I hadn’t stopped to let others pass. It also didn’t help that
I’d heard horror stories about people crashing their heads (and dying) after jam-braking while going downhill. Plus, cycling was literally a pain in the ass. Besides feeling sore in my wrists, my butt cheeks got so numb and achy, that I kept thinking that all cyclists must be masochists.
All this led me to avoid cycling altogether – until indoor cycling or spinning became a thing. The bike is in a ﬁxed position and there’s no need to worry about balance; all you have to do is pedal. To adjust the intensity, you turn up or down the resistance. If you’re tired, you can even rest on the bike without pedalling.
To a non-cyclist like me, spinning seemed like a perfectly safe option. After all, being at Shape has me trying out one ﬁtness activity after another. In the name of work, I’ve gone for multiple spinning classes with mostly loud music, strobe lights, and hyperactive instructors.
Every time, my bum hurt from the unforgivingly hard seat, and I couldn’t understand why I had to pedal on a stationary bike when there were so many other great cardio exercises to do. The mindless pedalling made me wish I was running on the treadmill instead.
Estelle and Zarelda (right) from Shape took a sweaty picture with instructor Ciara after the class.
But this class was different.
None of those classes made me want to spin again, until I tried Absolute Cycle Singapore’s rhythm cycling class. Touted as the ﬁrst “real” rhythm cycling studio here, Absolute Cycle promised a unique indoor cycling experience where you cycle to the beat of music, with hand and body movements thrown in. Comprising 11 heart-pumping songs, the routine switches between fat burn, endurance, metabolic conditioning and high-intensity interval training, while working different muscle groups.
Obviously, I brought my scepticism along when I went for the media class trial. But within minutes, I was sold. Instructor Ciara Williams won me over with her grooviness and infectious energy. She was lively and charismatic in the most genuine way. And she had a melodic yet commanding voice that made me sit up.
The ﬁrst 15 minutes was spent adjusting the bike seat and handlebar. As a guide, the seat should be at hip height, in line with the top of your hip bones. And the handlebar should be roughly at the same level as the seat, about one forearm’s length away from the seat.
Then came 45 minutes of rhythm cycling. The class kicked off with EDM tunes which required us to pedal at a moderate pace. As the songs switched to house music and then hip hop, we had to match our pedalling speed with the increasing tempo.
The club-like atmosphere will make you forget you’re on a stationary bike.
Who dances on a bike, right?
At the peak of each track, Ciara had us standing and pedalling, and then rocking our hips back and forth to the beat while holding onto the handlebar. There were other moves too, like shoulder sways and push-ups. To enhance the mood, she even switched the lighting, from disco red to electric blue to neon green. It felt just like clubbing!
What seemed weird at ﬁrst – who dances on a bike? – became fun as I immersed myself in the music and followed Ciara’s cues. I glanced around and saw that everyone else was having their party moment too, moving like no one was watching.
Towards the end of the class, we were asked to pick up the 1kg dumbbells nearby and then Ciara led us through multiple quick reps to work the biceps and triceps.
In an ordinary class, I would have been groaning from the monotony, and perhaps trying to sneak some rest in. Instead, I found myself getting hyped up by the catchy songs – so much that I didn’t want to stop moving my arms as long as the music was playing. Burning muscles, be damned!
Forty-ﬁve minutes passed by too quickly. When the normal lights came back on, everyone, including Shape editor Zarelda was soaked in sweat. Strangely, we all started laughing and chattering as though we’d just had a team-bonding session. My ﬁrst thought: That wasn’t too bad. I don’t mind doing this rhythm cycling thing again, even with a sore butt.
Absolute Cycle Singapore is located at #02-01 OUE Downtown Gallery (tel: 6220-2688). For ﬁrst-timers, rates start from $45 for two classes. Visit absolutecyclesingapore.com for more info.
PHOTOS ABSOLUTE CYCLE SINGAPORE