I looove my indoor cycling time. It’s 45-60 minutes of high intensity, full-body fitness with the right balance of consistency and challenge. Unlike circuit training classes (which I also love for a tough workout), I know exactly what I’m getting when I head to a cycling class. Show up, get on your bike, bumping music, a mix of hills and sprints, upper body, quick stretch, and boom – you’re out. Some days I just want to stay in my lane, you know? No thinking about the workout, just get on the bike and do it.
We’re lucky that Chicago has a lot of great indoor cycling studios to choose from. This is not a comprehensive list, but these are (to me) the best of the best and the cycling studios I visit on a regular basis.
Old Town, Southport, The Loop, North Shore
Low – no leaderboards!
Pros & Cons
SoulCycle is the cult favorite indoor cycling class. It’s a feel-good, music-driven workout with inspirational instructors that occasionally spend more time dancing next to the bike than riding on it. It’s kind of like sweaty therapy.
Most classes have you riding out of the saddle for a good portion of the class and doing some simple choreography on the bike. The front row is unofficially reserved for devotees who can keep up with choreography and lead the class. At first I rolled my eyes at this one, but it is actually seriously distracting to have someone riding off beat directly in front of you! No big deal if you’re a beginner – just maybe select a bike towards the back until you get comfortable with 30 or so people staring at your butt during a workout.
Unlike the other indoor cycling studios, SoulCycle doesn’t use numbers for resistance or speed. You ride on the beat and focus more on how your body feels. The arm portion of class uses small (and on-brand bright yellow) hand weights.
The studios are consistently bright and cheery with well-stocked locker rooms and trendy SoulCycle merchandise. Some studios charge you to borrow shoes, others don’t. Mash up classes and special events are pretty common, with instructors getting creative with Britney vs. Justin classes and lots of throwback fun.
In Chicago, your first three SoulCycle classes are $60, or $20 for one. After that, a single class is $30.
Old Town, Gold Coast
High – your leaderboard (called the TorqBoard) ranking is shown on your own screen as well as flashed up on the main screens for the entire class throughout class. In some classes, you may also race for short intervals and see your race ranking at the end. You can opt-out of the TorqBoard if you want.
Pros & Cons
FlyWheel is often compared to SoulCycle, but there are some key differences. For one, FlyWheel instructors cue your exertion level by calling out target numbers for resistance (torq) and RPM (your speed). This information determines your ranking in each class, and is available to you in an online portal so you can track your progress over time. I love this aspect of FlyWheel. I’m super competitive and have pushed myself to the point of thinking I’m actually going to die in order to get that #1 position. Pain fades, but glory lasts all the way through the cool-down?
In my experience, FlyWheel classes also incorporate less choreography and focus more on riding in various positions and tackling hills and sprints. The arm portion of classes uses weighted bars – 2 lbs or 4 lbs, or both at once if you’re a badass. If you think those sound like little baby weights, just wait – your arms will be burning during class. Some FlyWheel studios also offer barre classes (FlyBarre), which is a fun way to round out your workout routine.
Shoes are complimentary, and the studios are well-maintained and conveniently located next to healthy post-cycle food. Pro tip: Old Town is larger than Gold Coast and the layout makes a big difference in navigating post-class traffic trying to get to your locker.
Your first class at Chicago FlyWheel studios is $15. After that, each class is $28. FlyWheel is also on ClassPass! Get $30 off your first month of ClassPass here. I’m a big fan of ClassPass for mixing up my workout routine and trying new studios.
Studio Three (Peloton)
Just one – River North
Medium – the leaderboard is available on your own screen, but not shown to entire class. You can also choose to hide it from your screen at any time during class if you’d rather just focus on your own ride.
Pros & Cons
Studio Three offers – you guessed it – three types of workouts. In addition to interval training and yoga, they have an amazing indoor cycling studio featuring Peloton bikes and instructors. This is the only Peloton studio outside of NYC! I’ve talked about Studio Three on the blog before, and that’s because they deliver such a great workout experience every. single. time.
I personally love that they offer a 60 minute class option. I’ve noticed a big difference in my endurance after including these. Those extra 15 minutes are tough but so worth it.
Your tech comes in the form of an individual iPad-like screen on every bike. Instructors will cue you for resistance and RPMs, and sometimes power output as well. The bikes are incredibly well-maintained, meaning you always have a smooth ride with no weird shaky seat or handlebars. The arm portion of class uses small hand weights, just like SoulCycle.
Shoes are always complimentary, and they have separate lockers by the cycling studio (street level) and upstairs in the locker rooms, so traffic flow is never an issue. Bonus: Studio Three has the cutest little cafe where you can get a pretty wide variety of healthy food. And cold brew on tap. Love.
Your first class is $13. After that, a drop in class will run you $26. Unlimited cycling for a month is $175. Studio Three is also on ClassPass! Get $30 off your first month of ClassPass here. It’s great for trying out different studios all around the country!
Just one in Chicago – Lincoln Park.
High – you can compete as an individual and in teams.
Pros & Cons
I don’t get to Full Psycle as much as I’d like (because it’s a little further from my apartment), but I do enjoy the studio so much. The sound and lighting systems are top-notch, and the chilled eucalyptus towels they bring you after class are bliss.
I’d honestly go just to be handed a chilled eucalyptus towel after a disgustingly sweaty workout, but my favorite part about Full Psycle is all the tech and competition. The leaderboard is intense, with tons of data to make you push yourself during class and enabling you to track performance over time. If you’re used to any other indoor cycling class in Chicago, you just need to go experience it for yourself.
Full Psycle offers a variety of different cycling classes like Power Hour and Detox to keep things fresh and fun. They use hand weights for the arm portion to get that full-body workout.
You can also feel extra good about your workout with Full Psycle’s charity partnership. For each Full Psycle ride you take, they donate one meal to a person in need via a partnership with Feeding America.
I was shocked by how affordable Full Psycle is in comparison to other indoor cycling studios: $17 for a single class, and $119 for a month of unlimited rides! They also run various new member specials, so look into those if it’s your first visit.
So now you know my favorite indoor cycling studios…what are yours? Tell me in the comments, whether I mentioned them here or if there’s somewhere else I need to try!