“What do you ride for?” That’s the question that defines Devine City Cycle (DCC). This indoor cycling studio opened in the recently redeveloped building on West Fountain Street that also houses apparel company Cleverhood and The Slow Rhode restaurant. It’s an intimate space with 20 state of the art bikes, but what really fills the room is that question. It adorns the wall above the bikes in huge letters and it’s invoked repeatedly throughout each class. “What do you ride for?”
Sisters Alexis Devine and Mona Devine Kronholm opened DCC earlier this year. Both of them had been indoor cycling enthusiasts for a number of years. Mona, a former athlete and fitness buff, brought Alexis, a dancer and kickboxing instructor, to her first spin class and the two became hooked. Alexis brings an interesting pedigree to her work as a fitness instructor: she’s a Brown grad with a background in public health, workforce development and policy, but believes her true calling is “inspiring others to be their best selves through fitness.”
To that end, DCC’s approach is mental as well as physical – think of it as spin class with a side of mindfulness. Before I arrived, I wondered if I was walking into something like Spirit Cycle, the satire of New York City’s trendy SoulCycle that appeared in the first season of the sitcom Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in which the cult leader-esque instructor shouts nonsensical inspiration like “Turn your resistance all the way up to Gandhi” and “Be like a drunk girl getting out of a cab and leave everything behind.” DCC does share some of the real life SoulCycle’s mind-body mojo, but without the cult-like vibe. Hence the big question: “What do you ride for?”
That mindfulness approach is one of the things that sets DCC apart from your average cycling class, with Alexis in the role of meditation guide as well as spin instructor. She focuses on breathing, reminding everyone to draw deep, measured breaths and avoid the overheated panting one might expect in a room full of people pedaling their butts off. She also incorporates breathing exercises and yoga-inspired stretches into the warm-up and cool-down phases to keep everyone centered. Throughout the hour she offers bits of exclamatory meditation like, “Make it matter!” “It can’t be defined, it can’t be described, it’s just yours!” and, of course, the ever-present, “What do you ride for?”
One of my pet peeves with most fitness classes of any discipline is the constant blaring of generic high-energy dance music. They usually sound like they’re being DJ’ed by a 13-year-old girl on a sugar rush. This is where Alexis’ background as a dancer serves the class well. Instead of just providing background noise with a thumping beat, she uses music as a tool, letting the speed and intensity of the workout coast on the ebbs and flows of each song. It helps keep everyone in the zone knowing that, for instance, we’re going to pick up speed when the horn fanfare comes in on Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love,” or take a moment to catch our breath in the breaks between verses on Jay Z’s “Interlude.”
The vibe at DCC is surprisingly soothing given the intensity of the sweat being worked up. The lighting is low and the mood between classes hovers around that of a yoga studio. At one point, demonstrating my knowledge of such things, I ask, “Does it smell like aromatherapy in here?” After the workout Alexis offers each person a lemon-scented towel and a clementine. You might think of Devine City Cycle as high-intensity cardio meditation.
Devine City Cycle
425 West Fountain Street