New cycling studio impresses with instructors, sound system, philosophy

craig.hill@thenewstribune.comMarch 2, 2014 

An example of the Schwinn Authentic Cycling Performance Plus bikes used at The Handlebar Cycling Studio.


Without two crucial ingredients, few things are more boring than a one-hour indoor cycling class.

“The music and the instructor are the key,” said Becky LeProwse.

So when LeProwse decided she was going to open a cycling studio in Tacoma, those are the places where she wanted to put a little extra attention.

As a result, by the time the Handlebar Cycling Studio celebrated its grand opening Feb. 22, the studio was already creating a buzz.

LeProwse even sold out some of her 22-bike classes during a three-week soft-opening period.

“We went all out with the sound system,” LeProwse said of the Commerce Street studio. “It’s not over the top, but the music sounds great, we’ll have top-notch music and you get a great feeling in there.”

Making sure she had good instructors wasn’t as easy as ordering a state-of-the-art sound system.

Good studio cycling instructors can be hard to find.

A good one is motivational, welcoming, helps remind people of good form and keeps classes fresh just like any other fitness class. But they are also part DJ, part bike fitter and maybe even an emergency mechanic.

So to find the right instructors, LeProwse took a tour of the South Sound, dropping in at various gyms where she’d heard good things about cycling instructors.

“I went recruiting,” LeProwse said. “I wanted to know who was good and who had a big following. I went to a lot of gyms and it took a long time.

“I’m really picky.”

LeProwse already has a reputation as a popular instructor after several years teaching at a Federal Way gym. While she’ll teach many of the three or four daily classes offered initially at the Handlebar, she’ll also turn over classes to her handpicked staff.

“We’ll let the instructors be creative,” LeProwse said.

There will be some safeguards in place, LeProwse said. For example, don’t worry about accidentally dropping in on an hour of country or classical music.

“Mostly current pop music and some old tunes,” LeProwse said. “I love old-school rock.”

LeProwse outfitted her gym with 22 Schwinn Authentic Cycling Performance Plus bikes. The aluminum bikes have adjustable handlebars and seats and are designed to feel like a real bike.

Consoles on the bikes tell riders their power output, RPMs, calories and distance.

Cyclists can plug a thumb drive into the console during their ride and download workout statistics.

“They are super accurate,” LeProwse said. “... I want people to know they’re getting the best of the best here.”

But LeProwse also hopes people won’t be intimidated by her classes.

“People think, ‘Those people are diehards,’” LeProwse said of people who happen by studio cycling classes at their gyms. “But we are just here to have a good time and exercise. We are way laid back.”

One of the best things about indoor cycling is that all fitness levels can work as hard as they like without the fear of being left behind.

LeProwse said she already has classes with participants ranging in age from 14-77. Some participants are trying to get in shape, others are training for long summer bike rides.

While all of her classes are set up to accommodate a range of cyclists, she’s working with local bike shops Old Town Bicycle and Tacoma Bike to arrange classes geared toward more advanced riders wanting to improve their speed and endurance.

LeProwse also is addressing one of indoor cycling’s most notorious creatures, the bike saver. These are the cyclists who arrive at class early to stake their claim to their favorite bike.

An instructor at one South Sound gym once told me that people showed up on Sunday mornings to claim their bike, then left for church and returned in time to ride.

There’s no need for this at The Handlebar. The studio website allows people to sign up and select their favorite bike up to a week in advance.

“I want people to have that feeling they get at a boutique studio,” LeProwse said. “We’ll have a towel service, a free water bottle the first time you come in. It’s a fun environment and we want it to be a good social place for the community.”


Where: 715 Commerce St., Tacoma

Rates: $10-$16 per ride, depending on age and quantity. First class is free.

More info: handlebar

Craig Hill: 253-597-8497 @AdventureGuys

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