CycleBar vs. MethodRide

Which spin class is better?

For those of you that are unaware of what a spin class or indoor cycling is, just picture a room of stationary bikes led by a motivating instructor. Cycling is a great aerobic workout that is low-intensity/high-impact and it started in the 90s but has begun to take the world by large in the form of SoulCycle, CycleBar, and now Peloton. Typically catering to yoga moms and young adults that want a picture-worthy workout, spin classes found the perfect home in Charleston. In a 4 mile radius from just my own home there are two cycle businesses, so I took it upon myself to research and test them out.

Cyclebar

Cyclebar, located in Mount Pleasant Town Center, is a franchise, so they have a larger studio, more types of rides, and more instructors. Cyclebar offers six types of rides: Connect, Performance, Classic, Empower, XPress, and Cyclegives. For the purpose of this study, I only tried the XPress and Connect classes.

One aspect of CycleBar that sets it apart from MethodRide is Cyclestats, a system of measurements that you can see during your ride and get emailed a summary of later. These measurements include average/max rates per minute, calories, distance, avg/max watts, power points, and class rank. Additionally, because Cyclebar is a franchise, they have some extra features like virtually connecting to Apple Health and “Go” which is some sort of program you can get if you have a bike at home.

I decided I just needed to get into a CycleBar class on the otherwise booked New Years Eve last year, but thankfully Francis Drake’s mother, long-time CycleBar rider, was able to pull some strings to get us into the 9 AM XPRESS class. Upon arrival, we were instantly greeted by a large number of staff who showed us to a locker decorated with our names. CycleBar’s customer experience is a mixed bag, because while the member polaroid wall or decorated lockers are cute, the overwhelming greeting and marketing is a lot. Anna Benson best explains that “[Cyclebar] was a great positive environment…besides the greeting staff.” The ride itself did not leave as much of an impression that the opening experience did, but this could be because I previously had no class to compare it to.

It was super intimidating walking in and then watching everyone in front of me. I didn’t even follow any of the instructions and rode on the easiest gear and was in my own world.”

— Francis Drake, one-time CycleBar visitor

With over 40 bikes, the room was pretty large, so I took a seat in the back where I could observe. Like stated earlier, CycleBar’s bikes allow you to see some of the stats on your bike while you ride, so this can be motivating to keep pushing you. A few weeks later, I took a second ride, the Connect class, which is 45 minutes and is more about unplugging, so you don’t look at your stats. That 15 minute difference felt exhausting, and while my distance was greater, my rank fell. Ultimately, I think seeing the distance and calories in real time made me work harder, but the “rank” statistic always seemed unnecessary. At no point in time will two people have the exact same resistance and speed, so this ranking system doesn’t seem very accurate and can be disheartening after you felt accomplished.

MethodRide

While not a world renowned cycling franchise, MethodRide was voted #1 Best Cycle Studio in Charleston, so it is still making its own mark. Located in the Shoppes at Brickyard, MethodRide is surrounded by Golden Bowl and a dog groomer, but the bright white interior still seems to set it apart.

MethodRide is a bit simpler than CycleBar, as it mainly offers “The Ride,” their classic 45 minute class, in addition to “The Ride 60,” which is, you guessed it, an extra 15 minutes. I signed up for “The Ride” one afternoon, and had a much calmer customer experience greeting. I was simply welcomed, pointed in the direction of the bathroom, and sent on my way. For the ride itself, one notable difference is that MethodRide instructors get off their bikes to walk around the room and personally fix any of your mistakes or motivate you. This probably improved my form, but I also kept thinking to myself how I would rather just be in my own space. Then, I was wholly surprised when my instructor said to stop cycling and began a 7 minute arm circuit with two 5 pound weights. Honestly, this circuit was one of the most exhausting parts because it was barre-like movements with tiny shifts and pulses that are very tiring after the first minute. In addition to the arm weights, we also did a lot more movement of arms and core during the ride itself in the form of dips and pushups, so you definitely got a more all around body workout. At the end of my ride I felt exhausted, and only wished that I could have seen my distance, just because I felt like at Cyclebar that was quantitative proof of how hard you worked. Still, I returned for a second class called “Method After Dark” and saw zero difference between this and my previous ride, especially because my first ride was at night too?

An example of pricing for a membership at CycleBar.

I liked both locations, but have yet to return after my two classes at either. The main hold up for me was just pricing and making a commitment to actually pay for a membership. Cyclebar and MethodRide both offer memberships and packages. Memberships are a certain number of classes that expire at the end of each month but are auto-renewed, whereas packages are a set of classes that expire after a few months and you must manually purchase more. If neither of these sound like your cup of tea, you can also drop-in to CycleBar for $22 or MethodRide for $30, which are both technically more than the class breakdown of the other offerings. Before you even consider these prices, don’t forget that CycleBar offers a free first class and MethodRide offers a first week free, so be sure to get those complimentary classes and test for yourself whether this is a commitment you really want to be paying hundreds of dollars for. Still, I don’t think you can go wrong at either location, it just depends how competitive you are and how often you want to be riding.