In New York and Los Angeles, there are indoor cycling classes that are all about rhythm, metrics-based classes where you track your power, team competition classes, and classes where you watch music videos.
But The Pursuit by Equinox, which the luxe gym chain will roll out in both cities this January, is the first program to integrate interactive gaming technology into group cycling in a big way.
“We thought about how we could use measurement as motivation, but also make it incredibly interactive and fun and make it a little competitive, knowing that competition brings out the best in all of us,” says national group fitness senior manager of cycling Jeffrey Scott.
To do that, the team worked with a programming company to come up with ways to turn the data from each spin bike into visuals. So, in a Pursuit class, instead of staring at the instructor, the whole front of the room is transformed into a projection screen, where each bike is represented by a circle with a bike number in the middle (so you can track yourself), and the circles are like mini avatars used in different “games” designed to make you push yourself.
In the test class I was in, for example, we played three games. In the first, each of our circles sat at the top of a bar on what looked like a bar graph, and as we pedaled, the bars rose higher and higher, racing to the top of the screen (pictured, above). In the second game, the room was divided into two teams, and we had to compete to build a pyramid. The harder each bike worked, the more circles with your bike’s number would appear in the pyramid. And the third resembled a race track, with the room divided into three teams racing against each other as groups. Between games, there were regular cycling intervals, too, some of which included cool, trippy graphics filling the screen.
Scott says the main benefit of the games is that they introduce a new level of motivation, since you’re either inspired to not be the worst one in class, if it’s an individual game, or to not let your team down, if it’s a group game. “It definitely elevates the level of intensity,” he says. It’s a feeling I experienced, and the team aspect also lead to a fun sense of camaraderie in the room.
Of course, for those who like to close their eyes and get lost in the music in a loud, dark room, all of the technology might feel a little overstimulating. Scott says he would recommend mixing it into a cycling routine that includes other classes, and signing up for The Pursuit on days when you’re feeling like you really want to kill it. “In a dark spin class, it’s easy for you to not work at your personal best,” he reasons. Wait, has he been checking our stats? —Lisa Elaine Held
Launching at Soho and Columbus Circle in NYC and Santa Monica in LA, January 2015. For more information, visit www.equinox.com