We Tried It: Hot Cycling at B/Spoke Studios

Held in an 86-degree room, hot cycling may be the sweatiest workout class you'll ever take.

Hot cycling

Hot cycling at B/Spoke.

“It’s not that hot in here,” I thought to myself as the lights dimmed and the music cranked up. Almost immediately, I was punished for my arrogance.

Held in a room heated to 86 degrees, B/Spoke‘s hot cycling class is one of only a handful in the country—and, the studio says, the only one on the East Coast. To accommodate the sweltering heat, the class focuses more on endurance and resistance than speed, and it’s mercifully short at 45 minutes. B/Spoke’s high-tech lighting, top-notch instructors, and fantastic music choices also help distract from the buckets of sweat escaping your every pore.

True as that may be, if you’re thinking that hot cycling sounds brutal, well, you’re not wrong. By the second song, my handlebars were slick with sweat. By the third, I was staring longingly at my water bottle like a long-lost old friend. By the fourth, I was forced to strip off my sweat-soaked tank top, in a last-ditch effort to actually live long enough to write this story.

Why would anyone subject herself to this torture, you ask? Proponents say the workout, like hot yoga and hot barre, brings benefits including increased fat burn, a higher metabolic rate, looser muscles, and removing toxins and impurities from the body. There’s also, admittedly, something intensely gratifying about leaving a workout drenched in sweat from head to toe.

“Heat increases athletic performance and also pushes your body to learn to adapt in an already stressful activity. A benefit that I also love is that your body is warm off the bat,” says senior lead instructor Aly Raymer, noting that many people come to B/Spoke just for its Hot Ride class. “The sweat has become addicting.”

That said, the actual research around hot workouts is murky. Earlier this year, Joslin Diabetes Center came out with the “Joslin Coolout,” a set of workout guidelines built upon the idea that exercising in cool temperatures actually stimulates better fat and calorie burn than hot workouts. Some experts have also noted that the benefits of hot exercise may be totally or partially offset by decreasing effort to avoid overheating—something I caught myself doing at various points during hot cycling, fearful that I would pass out, vomit, or otherwise embarrass myself if I pushed too hard.

The bottom line: If you’re a Bikram junkie looking to add cardio to your fitness routine, you’d probably love hot cycling. If you’re sensitive to heat, stay far away. And if you’re somewhere in between, bring an extra t-shirt and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

B/Spoke Studios, 100 Federal St., Boston, bspokestudios.com.