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Is The UK Ready For Exercise Classes Like Psycle?

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I have laryngitis and it’s 7.25am. Night-time. Instead of shunning reality and staying under the duvet where I definitely belong, I’m in the immaculate changing-rooms at spin studio Psycle on London's Mortimer Street. Psycle has only been open for a year and a half here, and even less time at its other branch in Canary Wharf, but it’s already considered ‘life-changing’ by its fans. As I stare at my tired reflection in the mirror and try to determine the plural for Psycle fans (Psyclotics?), the floor beneath my feet begins resonating with deep bass.

I head downstairs and struggle with cleated cycling shoes. Copying stretches from the pros warming up around me, I read a quote in painstakingly stencilled calligraphy on the white wall. It’s from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ft. Ed Sheeran’s song "Growing Up":

"Don’t try to change the world,

Find something that you love and do it everyday


Do that for the rest of your life


And eventually, the world will change."

A quick search for the hashtag #pscyle on Instagram suggests the marketing ploy has worked: people have been posting it.

At 7.30am on the dot, everyone gets up off the distressed wooden benches and moves wordlessly into the darkened studio. Inside there are 50 bikes set up in the shape of a crescent moon. At the core of the formation is the instructor’s bike. I grab some hand weights, set my bike up, and glance around. The class definitely attracts a ‘type’: 80% of the riders around me are steely-eyed blonde women in their late twenties and early thirties. I hear some American accents from the row in front and my thoughts turn to SoulCycle, the cult US spin class frequented by everyone from the Beckhams to Khloe Kardashian, and the phenomenon that seems to have inspired the cult of the Psycle studio. I wonder how well it will translate to a UK audience.

The lights fade to black and, in the least British display of enthusiasm ever, people around the room clap and whoop. Coloured strip lights on the ceiling flash, rapidly changing from pink to red to blue. As the first track begins – wait, is this dubstep? – I feel like I’m at a club night held in an Oxford Street flagship store.

It is not only the relentless EDM, audience participation and flashing lights that bring about the feeling that I am actually in a club but the moves we are instructed to perform on our bikes. I’m no stranger to spin classes but the speed of the choreography makes me acutely aware of my lack of basic coordination. The smooth transitions of ‘normal’ spin classes are replaced by a sequence of frantic thrusting, pulsing and handlebar press-ups. From my position on the second to back row, the repeated high-speed ‘tap backs’, moving the hips backwards from a standing positioning on the bike to hover millimetres from the saddle, make it look like everyone in the room is bowing to our instructor, the high priestess of this fitness cult.


The jerking is eventually replaced by a ‘gliding’ movement which works deep into the core and feels a little like ice-skating. Returning to the saddle, hand weights are incorporated in an upper body sequence. The diversity of movements involved in the class clearly adds up to the high-intensity, low-impact total body workout advertised, and I begin to see why the people surrounding me love it. But I still couldn’t get past the absence of a dial on the bikes. Without any indication of speed or resistance, it was hard to know how I was performing, which gave me little incentive to try harder.

After 43 minutes, the track comes to an end and at least half the class abruptly uncleat and rush for the studio door. The remaining cyclists, who presumably work closer by, stay for hamstring, quad and shoulder stretches soundtracked by Justin Bieber’s "Where Are Ü Now?"

As I walk out the door, an instructor asks if I’m staying for yoga. Yoga turns out to be a complimentary 15-minute vinyasa flow sequence taught in the corridor outside the studio. Concentrating on quads, hamstrings and hips, it’s the perfect contrast to the 45 minutes before. I feel great.

I wander up the stairs and into the changing rooms where I envelop myself in a cloud of freshly laundered towels, complimentary deodorant and Bumble and Bumble hair products. I fleetingly consider selling my soul and becoming a paid-up member of the Psycle sect (it’s £20 per class after all). But then I remember the dubstep.

Psycle is at 76 Mortimer Street, London, and Crossrail Place, Canary Wharf, London.
It is priced at £20 per class; multi-purchase deals are available.
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