CITY LIFE

Published on May 20th, 2014 | by Eva Revear

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Cycle rain or shine at the Handlebar Cycling Studio

Let’s say you’re like me and love biking, but have an only somewhat irrational fear of being run over if you attempt a ride through the city. And maybe it has occurred to you that biking, like any skill, can improve with some training. Now put these two elements – safety and skill building – together in a cool space (away from the temperamental Northwest weather) and you’ve got The Handlebar Cycling Studio, Tacoma’s first indoor cycling gym.

“Indoor cycling is one of those things everyone should experience,” said Becky LeProwse, owner and instructor at The Handlebar.

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A cycle class is like an indoor bike ride. Riders can adjust the Schwinn A.C. Performance Plus stationary bikes to various difficulty levels, simulating hills and flat road as directed by the instructor. The bikes track workout stats as well; bring a USB along, and you can download things like calories burned and miles covered during the workout.

The studio offers classes for a variety of skill levels, from a 50 minute ride perfect for beginners, to a 90 minute endurance test for the seasoned biker.

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LeProwse and her husband, who runs the business with her, moved here four years ago, and felt Tacoma was the best place to start a studio. The idea evolved over last summer and fall, and
Handlebar_032 the studio opened in February. The Handlebar got it’s name from the owners’ mission to create a fun, carefree studio where people can let go for a bit.

“There’s nothing around to give you that true indoor cycling experience so I decided to bring it to Tacoma and show people what I love,” LeProwse said. “I hope they will love it too and make it a part of their everyday life.”

The beauty of indoor cycling is that people of all backgrounds and fitness levels can enjoy it and get a good workout. The bikes gauge levels of exertion in rotations per minute, and instructors guide the participants to find a comfortable level from which they can learn.

LeProwse said indoor cycling brings together participants of a variety of ages as well. Some of her regulars are older and can no longer run, others are younger and love the high energy music.

“It doesn’t’ cast anybody out, that’s why I love it,” said LeProwse. “Anybody can sit on a bike.”

The key element of a good class is a good instructor; LeProwse spent two months handpicking hers from various gyms in the area, from friends and colleagues she’s met through her 13 years of teaching, and she runs several classes herself. An energetic and enthusiastic instructor who gives clear directions will do a lot to make a class enjoyable, but a good playlist is crucial as well.

LeProwse said she wants to create an atmosphere where people can zone out and concentrate on their own effort. Dim lights and loud music let participants focus on themselves instead of competing with the people around them.

Handlebar_016As someone who occasionally feels self conscious while panting and sweating in a group of people, I enjoyed the low pressure, but still challenging experience.

“There’s one hour of their day, I want them to be able to escape everything. Feel good, burn calories,” LeProwse said.

When LeProwse and her husband chose the neighborhood for their studio (The Handlebar is directly across from the final link stop on Commerce) she was inspired by the area’s bars and other businesses where people go to relax. She wanted to both fit into the neighborhood as a place where people came to unwind, and stand out by offering a distinct alternative.

“[It’s] just another bar in the neighborhood where people can come and hang out just in a different way,” said LeProwse. The ultimate goal is to create an environment where people can come that feels relaxing.

The studio holds classes at various hours throughout the day. Riders must reserve their bike online beforehand (thereby forgoing the awkward “walk into class and find that there are no bikes left” situation that often arises is less organized cycle classes), and can either pay as they go, or buy a pass for several rides at a time.

Find schedules and more information at handlebarcyclingstudio.com.

Handlebar Cycling Studio, 971-237-3470,715 Commerce St, Tacoma, WA 98402

All photographs by Kali Raisl

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About the Author

Eva Revear is from Puyallup, but spends most of her time in Tacoma where she studies Communications and Computer Science at the University of Washington Tacoma, and works as Editor in Chief of the university’s newspaper, The Ledger.



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