Gymbox member Genevieve Teevan went to Connect to learn how to hack the bafflingly-named techno cycling class.
“Could you vague that up for me?” replied someone at Gymbox HQ to their colleague with a tendency towards the literal who’d said, “Let’s call it Indoor Cycling With Live Data Tracking.”
And that is the gist of Connect. The studio bikes are numbered and connected to a big screen so you can see your effort in relation to the rest of the room and the instructor divides you into teams to race against each other. It’s a power-focused interval spin class. The combination of public shaming/glory and collective camaraderie means fitness gains, whether you’re a shady bitch spurred on by arbitrary competition or quite the little joiner who emits encouraging woot-woots to your compadres.
Your effort is shown on a glowing colour-coded panel at the front of your bike. What it takes to get you into the right effort zone at each stage is individualised based on your age, weight, fitness level and FTP (that’s Functional Threshold Power, the maximum power you can sustain for a set time period). There’s a five-minute FTP test option on the bikes and you can slip in to an empty studio to test yourself any time.
I hadn’t bothered, until I happened to hit Connect on a Monday evening at Farringdon when the charming and dedicated Ryan Lovett was in the coaching saddle and class kicked off with a quick FTP test. He does them roughly once a month; you then have a baseline to improve on and can set up your bike properly so you don’t fly into the red zone too easily.
The Coach By Colour® scale goes like this:
White like 7.09 Monday morning when you’ve already hit snooze twice
Blue like maiden aunts cycling to evensong
Green like nipping the wrong way down a one-way street hoping not to get caught
Yellow like pedalling harder will make the difference between being late-late for work and breezy, we’re-professionals-above-petty-clocking-in late
Red like foaming in agony IF you’ve got your settings right
Ryan gets you in the red with panniers of encouragement and expert coaching, plus there’s a free ICG Training app you can download from the App Store. You can do the class without it; it simply links your phone to whichever bike you choose and tracks your progress over time, an improvement on my previous system of taking a snapshot of the bike’s summary screen at the end of class.
But you don’t care about all being in the red zone together – you want to know how you rank for real? No one will tell you this officially and the instructors are taught to encourage you not to measure yourself against others, but my interrogation and snooping reveals that Gymbox trainers – fit guys in their twenties weighing 80-90 kilos – are getting FTPs in the high 200s. A good, solid FTP for that demographic would be 180–200. The intense woman on the bike next to me hit 172 – which I’ll grudgingly admit was a smidgeon above my score.