This week I tried out Battersea’s brand new Urban Cycle Club and it’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I quickly realised (just by walking through the door) was that it most definitely wasn’t a spin class. I love a spin class, I really do, but spin is a general fitness class on sturdy, built-for-purpose bikes, rather than an actual cycling workout.
What Urban Cycling Club offer is a realistic cycling experience, on real road bikes, with real gearing systems that allow you to push yourself and hone your cycling specific fitness, without worrying about the London traffic and pollution and being sensible and stuff. I know this because the workout left me with the same tired feeling I get after going out on my bike rather than a gym class… ie. ready for a long nap.
The bikes themselves are fully adjustable and there are even some slightly smaller ones if you’re a bit shorter. As the shortest member of our group I was on the smallest bike near the door, I wasn’t too keen on this at first but the cool night air turned out to be a winner because it got very sweaty very quickly.
The back wheel is attached to a turbo with some kind of top of the range computer system (very high techy-techy) that links to a computer screen directly in front of you. You can monitor your effort, RPM and heart rate (if you’re wearing a monitor) as well as watching your progress on the route. It also allows you to see everyone elses stats so you can compare your performance.
The first thing we did was establish what our ‘Functional Threshold Power’ (FTP) was which we did by participating in a 15 minute race. Your FTP is the highest average power you can sustain for an hour, measured in watts, and finding out what it is allows UCC to tailor the intensity of the ride to your individual bike based on your cycling level. This means that, whilst everyone in the session is doing the same workout, the resistance on the bike is automatically programmed to your fitness level so everyone gets an equal workout.
The races are fun! Well, they probably would be if you didn’t come last (ahem) but the other people I was racing with were all super speedy professional-looking Chaser cyclists whilst I turned up post run in my running clothes (note: this was an error, padded shorts, ALWAYS wear padded shorts!) so I’m OK with finishing in a solid 7th place…
Anyway, during the races everyone is on equal ground, you cover the same course and control your own gears in the same way you would on the road, the idea is to simply get to the end first. We then did a 25 minute interval session where the bikes were programmed to our personal FTP, we were all doing the same workout but the bike would adjust itself based on your fitness. For example, if we went uphill, my bike would make it easier than Jack’s bike (race winner, didn’t like him) with the view that we were both putting in the same effort. The screen infront of you told you what RPM you were aiming for and all you had to do was stick to it. If you did you got a bloody good workout!
What’s awesome about UCC?
- There are only 8 bikes so it’s a small group that allows you to get a lot of personal attention from the instructors
- They will help you establish your FTP
- You will create your own personal profile with your height, weight, FTP and a history of your rides
- You can literally race your friends
- All the gory details of each session are emailed to you as soon as you finish
- They use real road bikes with real gears
- You don’t have to worry about falling off or getting into an argument with an idiot driver/other cyclist/small child/excitable puppy
- It really is some top of the range technology
- They play some banging tunes
- There’s lockers, showers, sweat towels and even cycling shoes to hire if you don’t have your own
- They’re super friendly and go out of their way to help you (useful if, like me, you’re not an experienced cyclist and have lots of questions)
What’s not so awesome about UCC?
- There are only 8 bikes – I imagine sessions will get booked up very quickly
- The seats! At least the seats on a non-padded bum. Don’t be a fool and rock up in your running compression tights like I did, it will hurt!
If you’re a keen cyclist I really think you’re going to love it. However, don’t be scared if you’re not a super speedy ‘pro’ cyclist, I’m definitely not, but one of the things I loved most about this was that it allowed me to train on a real bike in a safe environment which I think is really important to help newer cyclists build their confidence. Go along and give it ago, it’s a really unique set-up and a lot of fun!