On the registration desk of the sleekly designed Studio City indoor cycling studio known as Cycle House sits a bowl of traffic-cone orange ear plugs.
This mystified me until I was 20 minutes into Nichelle Hines’ spin class, which is part motivational scream session, part fun and rowdy DJ set. At one point, Hines bumped the Childish Gambino lyrics “This is America / Don’t catch you slippin’ up / Don’t catch you slippin’ up.” I was halfheartedly pumping my legs to the beat. “Don’t catch you slippin,” Hines repeated, locking her eyes into mine. I quickly stopped lagging and upped my ride full-speed to the loud music. Should have grabbed some of those ear plugs ...
“I’m not just yelling for yelling sake,” Hines told me later. “If I feel like you’re strong enough, if I feel like you are not going as deep as you can, I’m the person who is going to confront you and bring that out.”
Hines’ instinct for identifying weakness when she sees it, and pushing her charges to what she calls their “full potential,” has led to a near-cult following, much of it documented on Instagram. Madonna — along with Jessica Alba, Mel B. and Naya Riviera, and countless other celebrities and pro athletes — drop into Hines’ spin classes in Studio City and West Hollywood regularly.
Each Hines class is like a raucous party with a lot of sweat. “There’s such a difference when you take Nichelle’s class as opposed to other people’s classes,” spin regular Todd Waks told me. Waks has been going to Hines’ classes for almost 10 years because of her feel-good energy and attention to form. “Nichelle’s classes are an out-of-body experience,” he said.
The challenging class is like a cardiovascular obstacle course: there are sprints, heavy hill runs, lightweight lifting atop the bike, jumps and more jumps — all with Hines not letting you off the hook. “My teaching style, while it can demanding — very demanding — it’s for encouragement because I believe that you can do anything, and I’m going to treat you as such,” Hines said. In other words, don’t be surprised if you’re sore the next day.
Hines mixes up the playlist. One class might be Southern hip-hop, another class might feature Beyoncé versus Nicki Minaji. Her classes quickly fill with toned women and men who range from their 20s to 60s, along with the occasional celebrity cameo. Which makes sense, in part because Cycle House’s spa-like locker rooms and post-workout eucalyptus-scented towels make everyone feel like a VIP.
One of the star instructor’s favorite students is a deeply religious mom who had never listened to hip-hop before joining Cycle House and lost over 70 pounds in part by breaking a sweat in Hines’ classes. “Given the isolated world she comes from, and the world I come from, we would have likely never met,” Hines said. “I see her six, seven times a week, and the great thing is that she will ride next to someone like [NBA MVP] James Harden … and they meet and their two different worlds collide, and that’s Cycle House.”
Where:12103 Ventura Place, Studio City
Cost: $18 for first class, $100 for five classes