There was a time when the UAE indoor exercise scene consists of apartment building gyms, big chains like Fitness First or really exclusive and high-end gyms/clubs like the Aviation Club.
Even five years ago, it is estimated that big chains had about 50% of the gym market. That has changed, independent fitness studios now make up around 80% of the market share. This has happened for a variety of reasons. There is a big trend in different kinds of exercise, and there is real innovation happening with fitness gurus and entrepreneurs.
Often these studios are hidden away, they are independent so don't have big budgets to let people know about them, but once inside, you realise they are amazing places with great people.
This fitness summer series is designed to let people know about the best fitness studios in Dubai. We are going to do it by discipline because there are just so many.
Summer Series Part 1/4: Cycling Studios
Cycling studios are great workouts. They all following a similar format, there is an instructor with a head piece who talks through the class, giving direction, the beat and tempo is set by selected songs,for aroudn 45 minutes.
RPM is the most common format, but as I discovered, there are so many variations, that it's almost impossible to rate them against each other, you should just be aware of the different styles first and foremost, and then be aware of the studios to pick the one you like best.
Flywheel - 'The whole operation feels the most like a well-oiled machine'
Originally from New York, the Flywheel brand has continued to grow nationally and globally. In Dubai, the Flywheel studios are at Burj Views, Downtown (four years old) and Gold & Diamond Park, Al Quoz (two years old) and they are hoping to open up in either the Marina or The Springs and Abu Dhabi in the future.
RPM stands for Revolutions Per Minute. It's a trademarked brand of spinning and is the go to indoor cycling class loved by many, they do both indoor cycling and Barre classes. Flywheel definitely feels the most like a well-oiled machine, a formula and a brand that works. The whole system is professional and efficient.
I tried the studio in Gold & Diamond park, it's building 7 on the ground floor, parking is easy, this is one of the few studios that is visible from the outside and easy to access.
The measurement here is good, you can see your RMP and your Torq (a measurement of resistance), so when you turn the knob, you see what Torc you are at. In a normal gym you may not see this. There isn't much going on in the background, you have your scores on the screen and compete with others in the class. The songs and movements vary, there is a chill-out song and one where you take weights in your arms and do exercises.
I did a 7am class with Megan and thought it was great, she is energetic and there were many regulars there who swear by it as a great start to the day.
- Who is this for? The person who wants to do regular RPM classes with a big established brand in the market.
- Cost: 1 ride is AED 120, 5 = AED 550, 10 = AED 1,050, 20 = AED, 2,000. First class is free.
- Location and class times: They have two locations, Gold & Diamond Park and Burj Views, full schedule online.
Cadence Theory - Funky new studio in DIFC
A studio with the following disclaimer really sets the tone: "You may already be awesome. Pedal harder, just to be sure."
The founder Ali, put together the main things you need for a good cycle studio, great bikes, classes, and instructors. It's got funky art on the wall and a really big screen that makes you feel you are entering a virtual space while riding. They've got the latest Technogym bikes that are great to ride on. They've got a mix of hip hop and sound theory sessions (think 45 minutes of constant tunes) to our high-energy head-to-toe RPM, Sprint and even virtual workouts
He told me I was the only one who got what cadence meant. Cadence is something all cyclists know about. Which was an insight into the difference between those who cycle, and those who do spinning classes for exercise?
- Who is this for? The person who wants to do regular RPM in a new independent studio.
- Cost: 800AED per month all you can cycle. Otherwise, instructor-led classes are 120AED per class (with bulk options available) and virtual are 60AED.
- Location and class times: mezzanine floor of Sky Gardens building in DIFC, see class timetable here.
GFX - Just opened and the only studio in the Middle East offering Les Mills 'The Trip'
GFX just opened in at Executive Towers, Business Bay, Dubai and offers riders a new and exciting indoor cycling experience.
They've got 70 classes a week on their 41 Body Bike Smart Plus Bikes, the techno bikes that sync up to the Body Smart app on your phone and display the scores on the screen while you ride.
The backdrop is a curved screen and pretty impressive. Most of their classes are Les Mills RPM classes. But their USP is that they are the first in the Middle East offering The Trip by Les Mills. Which is basically like doing virtual reality cycling without the head set. Our Studio is now open at Executive Towers, Business Bay, Dubai and we offer riders a new and exciting indoor cycling experience.
I did this workout again at 7am and it was a great start to the day. It was pretty comfortable though, much like Flywheel and Cadence Theory. But because of the impressive studio, you wouldn't be bored at all
- Who is this for? Those who want a fancy new studio with a more immersive screen in the background showing the ride, whether it's the French alps or a virtual world. You won't feel the 45 mins flying by.
- Cost: 1 ride is AED 85, 5 = AED 375, 10 = AED 650, 20 = AED 1,200, 40 = 2,000.
- Location and class times: The first studio is open in Executive Towers, on the mezzanine floor, in Business Bay. Classes run throughout the day, details here.
MOTION - Just opened and it's got the New York cool factor
This is easily the coolest studio in town. It's new. It's got the best views, looking at Burj Khalifa, their night classes have candles lit and look over Downtown Dubai.
The entrance is like a trendy New York coffee shop. They take polaroid images of all their guests and place them on the wall.
All the trainers seem like friends, it's like a team and there is a great atmosphere.
The class itself is amazing. It's the Soul Cycle concept from New York. The music is like a night club, and there is a really good vibe during the class.
They also do smaller weights during one class like Fly Wheel.
- Who is this for? I was the only guy in the class. And it's like going clubbing. I'll leave it at that.
- Cost: 1 ride is AED 120, 4 = AED 440, 10 = AED 1,000, 20 = AED 1,800.
- Location and class times: It's on the 18th floor of The Oberoi business tower in Business Bay, class timetable is here
Surge Body Studio - Another hip independent studio
Another independent studio, set up by the impressive Salome Polaki. The place itself has just been done up, see below, it's in Media City Concorde Tower, with an awesome view of Burj Al Arab.
There is a different style bike here than any of the other studios, Real Rider bikes, that bend left and right. The classes are designed around this feature.
The High-Intensity Workout is called: The Swerve, Sprint & Surge. It's a 45-minute High-Intensity Interval cycling/spinning class (HIIT) set to bespoke playlists. Their instructors, called 'Surge Angles' have also created new classes with their own playlists, they 'tap back, push up and serve the bikes left and right. You'll burn around 600 + calories in a class.
My instruction was Claire, and of all the classes I attended, this was by far the toughest class I did, largely because of the instructor. I spoke to a few of the people in the class afterward, and they are all regulars and have been since it opened a year ago. It's got a nice community feel to it, and a lot of that is driven by the passion and energy of its owner Salome.
Bespoke Ride - For actual cyclists
So this is different. It's the only one that is actually like cycling. It's a real bike fixed position indoor.
All the other studios are like fitness studios, spinning classes, and any other aerobic workout. No matter how sophisticated they become, they won't be the same as riding a real bike. Whereas Bespoke Ride is actually riding a real bike. It's indoor, but and the bike is fixed, but the gears etc is exactly the same.
The real benefit of Bespoke Ride is the measurement and training. If you have a triathlon or a race coming up, some people would like to get over 10 hours training a week, it's very hard to find the time. To get from an average point in Dubai to Al Qudra Cycling track and do a 50k loop and back, by the time you mount the bike and set off, you are talking around three hours.
I arrived in Bespoke Ride for a 7am class, and hour later I was showing in their pretty fantastic facilities after completing 45km and ready for work at 8:15. All those who are getting involved in Spinneys 92 or any of the many triathlons in Dubai in the coming season, should know what's available at Bespoke Ride.
Their measurement of your ride is about 10 times more sophisticated that any of the other studios. All the scores appearing on screen and logged on your account to track progress. They also can upload the route of any major cycling race around the world for you to do, whether it's a stage of the Tour de France or any of the Iron Man or Challenge races.
Summary - Loads of choice for you to find the right studio
Not only did this open my eyes to how advanced cycling studios have become. I was amazed by the over all quality of the facilities on over. I felt like I discovered fitness communities. There is plenty on offer for people of different tastes.
All studies give shows, towels, and water. Only GFX didn't have showers, but in all the facilities are excellent. This isn't an exhaustive list, there is Soupless Cycle in Dubai Motor City and a new one called Cycle Bar in City Walk.
They all have a pretty similar pricing model. If you are already paying a gym membership, signing up for 10 classes and using them over 3 months might be a pretty good way to do it. Of it you'd like to do it full time, Cadence Theory has a monthly fee of AED 800 or GFX offer of 40 classes for AED 2,000 is very good value.
Let us know if you have any questions on the studios. Enjoy the ride!
Summer series - up next
- Boxing gyms
- Crossfit boxes
Let us know if you've got a studio or a gym you would like us to check out of if you attend one that you think is awesome!