Photo By: Photos By Eliza Ridgeway/town Crier
On weekend mornings this summer, the driving thump-thump-thump of house music provides a surprising syncopation to one stretch of Second Street in Los Altos.
Innocent brunchers passing by can peer through the two walls of big windows to watch cyclists hammering away on their bikes, driven by the husky commands of their Argentinian leader.
Momentum Cycling Studio, now open at 149 Second St., takes participants on hourlong mental rides, climbing hills, sprinting through time trials and pulling ahead in spontaneous breakaways. Victoria Smith opened the studio this summer after teaching spinning at Equinox gyms around the Bay Area. She began cycling more than a decade ago in Buenos Aires, seeking a sport gentle on her knees, and became hooked.
A road rider who moved to this region for its hills (“I think that I live in a paradise for cyclists,” the Palo Alto resident said), Smith designed her studio to have fresh air, natural light and the physical feel of a road ride – sans the traffic lights and automobiles of the outer world. Experienced cyclists can grind out a workout to augment their on-road training, while beginners can get a feel for the body position and physical challenges of serious cycling in a safe setting.
“It’s low impact, it’s good for you, and it makes me feel amazing,” Smith said. “One of the biggest things to do to get stronger and faster on the road is to do high-intensity interval training.”
Smith, who came to know Los Altos while working at Bumble, has set up the studio as a solo venture, transforming the space, formerly a Curves gym, into a sleek white studio with a “living room” area of seating and drinks next to its rows upon rows of Schwinn Authentic Cycling Series bikes.
Pounding away on a bike at the front of the room during class, Smith offers instructions and exhortations, counts down sprints and toggles the beat-driven house and dance music meant to work participants into an athletic trance. As evidenced by rivulets of sweat pouring off her as she threw herself into a climb last week, Smith leads with her body.
“I do the class – I don’t get off the bike or jump around to cheer people up. I suffer with them,” she said.
Don’t come to Momentum expecting the rah-rah hecticness of a spin class – no hand weights, contortions or jumping, just interval training, hill workouts and a lot of sweating. At the start of a class last week, two first-timers concentrated on how to work the resistance knobs and perch on the bikes, while experienced clients of Smith’s from Equinox laid in supplies of towels to mop up during class. Despite the lack of gimmicks, triceps and biceps work as riders heave themselves into the air for high-resistance “hill climbs,” and the core stabilizes bodies suspended over the pedals.
“It’s good for most of your body,” Smith said.
Even beginners can throw themselves into the motions of a sprint without worrying about tipping off a bike onto the pavement.
“Here there’s really no danger, you can lose yourself as you ride,” Smith said. “I’m very mental – I say things that make you get into the zone. Why do you need to be strong and healthy and fit – what triggers you?”
Momentum’s Schwinn bikes mimic a sleek outdoor road bike, and riders set their own intensity levels by controlling resistance via a knob and deciding how fast to pedal.
“A person that’s never taken a class can come in, enjoy the music and still have fun. The beauty of riding indoors is that nobody gets dropped,” Smith said.
While some cyclists show up with specialized shoes to clip into the pedals, sneakers work fine. All levels of riders are accepted, and first-timers can arrive early to get a run-through of bike settings. Classes cost $25.
For more information, call 949-2453 or visit momentumcyclingstudio.com.