Getting caught out in the snow...
Last weekend, I decided to cycle from Blackpool to Southport. These are two popular seaside towns in the North West, but even though they are very close geographically, the lack of a bridge over the River Ribble estuary means that it is a 40 mile cycle along the National Cycle Network 62 into Preston and back out again along the A49.
All was going well until I reached the Guild Wheel cycle path that circles Preston and heavy snow (which was which not forecast) started to fall. This got me thinking.
What can I do to carry on cycling through the winter, but gives me the enjoyment of cycling in the open air and a proper cycling specific workout rather than just digging out my running shoes?
Winter cycling in Manchester is best indoors...
I do try to go to at least one spinning class at my local gym per week, however I thought that I would give the new MCRSpinFactory a go on Chapel Street near Salford Central station. This type of indoor cycling station is a big hit in London and offers much more than just a standard class with a Spinning bike, an instructor shouting instructions to you with a heavy dance music soundtrack banging away in the background. This studio is the first of its type in Manchester City Centre and is the sister facility to the one located near Wilmslow/Manchester Airport.
On these sessions, you can train like the professionals and use Wattbikes that accurately measure your pedalling technique, distance and calorie burn.
The class I took part in was part of the Sufferfest series. This is an online cyclist training tool that simulates a segment of a professional cycle race and encourages you to push yourself whilst following pro riders and the efforts they make.
Our Sufferfest video featured a part of the Belgian cobbled classics and the Strade Bianche in Italy providing a real immersive experience. Having the Wattbikes also helped to motivate you further as you try to regulate your efforts against what is required of you on the 'shouty' information screen.
The Sufferfest begins...
After a steady start to a Sufferfest video, the efforts that are required ramp up and this turns the session into a really tough workout. You can tell when you are really going for it as you try and hit even higher watt targets on your bike display screen. It also helps following an LCD TV screen rather than an instructor for this kind of ride as the 'leader in the room' is used to motivate you through checking your screen, adding resistance and also encouraging you to push yourself further.
In my class there were 6 other riders on the Sufferfest Wattbike session, however the MCRSpinFactory is actually quite cavernous due to its location in a converted railway arch. There are over 50 bikes in the studio and classes run throughout the day. Most of the sessions use an Instructor to deliver the class and take place on standard spin bikes with LCD displays.
After the 45 minute class, we were fairly tired, but also exhilarated.
Steam was rising off of our bodies...
There was a definite sense of euphoria in the Wattbike room as we stepped off the bikes and completed our cool down exercises. There was also steam coming off a couple of us due to the cold air circulated in the studio mixing with our hot body heat.
In conclusion, if you are keen to cycle over winter and are put off by the risk of ice, snow and freezing rain showers, then indoor cycling is definitely for you. I have always been reluctant to visit this studio despite passing the front door of MCRSpinFactory everyday on the way to work. This is the reason why...
I can go to 3 spin classes at my local gym a week and I didn't want to spend the extra. However, I think the different that going to a place like a dedicated studio compared to just going to your inclusive gym membership class is that it is cycling specific. I am often the only one wearing SPD shoes in my usual class and at ProSpin, this was almost mandatory.
I find the spinning classes to be very fitness focused at my gym rather actually helping me with improving my cycling technique. They can also make me feel like I am missing out on outdoor riding time if I go during the day or at the weekend.
Joining up to a studio like this is a great solution for days when it is not possible to go out on the bike and more importantly simulates a great post-work ride if you cannot get out to the countryside which is a real problem if you live in the city centre.
I covered 36km on my Wattbike that I would not have been able to do easily on the roads around Manchester at rush hour.
Best for a cycling specific workout...
At £36 for unlimited 'rides', this is probably the best value option MCRSpinFactory offer and I would go again especially for the cycling specific workouts combined with excellent analytical training facilities. I think it would also be good if they organised 'challenge nights', spinathons and offered classes on Sundays for when the weather is bad outside.
Ross (the lead Instructor) and his team were really welcoming with everyone in the class also good natured and spirited.
I would go back for another class as I really enjoyed being there and training indoors in a safe, yet accurately simulated cycling environment.
You can find out more about the MCRSpinFactory here >>
'You could call this a city centre amusement arcade with cycling as the game...'