Indoor cycling has legions of devotees in Los Angeles, who flock to it for the intensity of the exercise and compelling group vibe. But sometimes it's not enough to just do a class; some spinners want to know exactly how they did, how fast they cycled, how hard they worked.
And they want the bike to tell them.
The studio opened its fifth Los Angeles location in early August in the tech-focused area of Playa Vista, home to the Southern Californian outposts of Facebook, YouTube and Microsoft.
All the bikes within the brand -- it opened in 2010 and has 37 studios in the U.S. and one in Dubai -- have a proprietary technology that helps keep riders on track, literally.
The new Playa Vista location has the most updated version of those capabilities, said Victor Self, Flywheel's West Coast creative director: "These are tech people. They're driven by wanting to understand their performance, and use those numbers to do better next time."
First-timers are encouraged to set up an account and download the Flywheel app. Each time a class is completed, the specific metrics of their performance -- how fast they went, how many calories were burned -- upload to their account, allowing them to compare performance and identify improvements.
Each bike is also equipped with a small digital screen that allows riders to adjust their "torq" number -- how much resistance they are putting on themselves -- and to see exactly how fast they're going at any given second.
Adding to the competitive-tech feel to it all: Classes also feature a large "torq board" behind the instructor that lists riders by real name or pseudonym ("Magic Bike," "Lucious Lyon," etc.), allowing them to "race" against others in the class.
"It takes all the subjectivity out of riding," Self said. "A lot of places you go, you have no idea where you are in the ride, how fast you're supposed to go, how much resistance you're meant to have. We've taken all the guesswork out of it. The information is designed to amplify your riding experience."
(And, let's face it: It's also designed to keep you coming back again and again.)
On a recent Saturday morning, the 55-cycle stadium-style studio was almost full. The instructor, Lauren, had just the right mix of focus and cheerfulness. She called out directions to increase or lower resistance and speed, and the digital screen on each bike made that a cinch. Every so often, she'd pit spinners against one another in a fun, no-pressure "race," the results changing swiftly on the screen behind her. She also added hand weights for a portion of the workout.
Self said the sophisticated technology is almost a necessity for those who are determined to see if they are making progress.
"What we're doing here mirrors what's happening in our culture," he said. "People want to have access to information and use it to drive their lives. That's what this technology does. It takes something people enjoy, and helps them to get more fit and see if they are improving more or less than they thought. It makes the best use of their time in this activity."