Fit City

Portland’s Revocycle Is Quietly Revolutionizing Spin Class

One Pearl District exercise studio trades dance parties for flow states, feminism, and freewheel bikes.

By Tuck Woodstock February 6, 2017

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Revocycle uses freewheel bikes, which replicate the feeling of outdoor cycling much more closely than traditional fixed-gear bikes.

Image: Kyle Ledeboer

When you ask Portlander Michael Hosking what inspired him to open a spin studio five years ago, he doesn’t point to a single aha moment. Instead, he tells a meandering tale of teaching biology at Davidson College, dating a woman recovering from an eating disorder, and suffering a “massive” depression.

Similarly, when asked how his company Revocycle differs from other spin studios, Hosking declines to pinpoint a single defining factor. “The only similarity between us and other spin studios is that we have bikes and speakers in the room,” Hosking says. “After that, there’s nothing the same.”

The Brain

“In 2008,” Hosking explains, “I got hit with a depression that was the worst my psychiatrist had ever seen.” After trying nearly every antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and antipsychotic drug on the market, Hosking found that the only cure for his mental distress was exercise—specifically, cycling. Thrilled and fascinated by this discovery, Hosking—who has a PhD in evolutionary biology—began studying exercise’s effects on the brain.

The results? Physical exercise is scientifically proven to have a host of mental and emotional benefits, including reducing stress and depression. Motivated by his findings, Hosking, a former competitive cyclist, began working to open his own spin studio.

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Revocycle devotees pose before a December class.

The Bikes

After testing every stationary bike he could get his hands on, Hosking became the first spin class founder in the nation to equip his studio with freewheel bicycles. These innovative machines replicate the feeling of outdoor cycling much more closely than traditional fixed-gear bikes. For example, if you stop pedaling, your feet won’t keep flying in circles from the momentum of a heavy flywheel. Because of this, proponents claim that the freewheel system delivers more muscle engagement and a more intense workout than traditional spin classes

The Ethos

Inspired by a former girlfriend who opened his eyes to diet culture in the fitness industry, Hosking has taken pains to avoid body shaming at Revocycle. “I just will not shame women into buying my services,” Hosking explains. He’s banned the phrases “hot summer body,” “bikini season,” and “problem area,” and instructs his staff to avoid any talk of weight loss or aesthetic appearances. He also forbids any music that includes profanity or misogyny. As he puts it, “I will not have men calling women ‘bitches’ over my sound system.’” 

Also notably absent are the free weights, push-ups, and flashy dance moves ubiquitous in most modern spin studios. Instead of cultivating a high-energy, party-like environment, Hosking and his staff encourage students to seek a meditative flow state.

We’re not trying to be fun,” Hosking says. “Is your yoga fun? Is your barre class fun? Is your best 5k fun?” 

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