A spin class combines three seemingly unrelated things – cycling, nightclubs, and affirmations – to offer a cardio workout in the dark with loud music and words of encouragement (also loud).

I learn this one Wednesday lunchtime at a Cyclebar studio in Sydney. Cyclebar is the largest indoor cycling franchise in the world, and the feelgood vibes began immediately with the uptown funk of Mark Ronson playing in the locker area. Shannon, a cheerful team member, fits me with white, futuristic shoes. They have a dial on the side to tighten the fit, and the soles are designed to lock to your bike’s pedals. Thinking about the obsolescence of shoe-laces, I clip-clop my way to the spin studio and choose a bike at the front.

That’s where I meet Hannah: a lawyer and cycle instructor who has been spinning for almost seven years. When she finds out it’s my first time at spin cycle, she is delighted. “I promise you’ll want to come back!”

Today’s class is a “classic ride”: 45 minutes of interval training to 12 tracks of rap, pop, and even Disney. Some classes have a music theme, which means you can do your entire low-impact and high-intensity workout to, say, the Spice Girls, or Rihanna, or the Ministry of Sound CD from the 2000s.

‘Thinking about the obsolescence of shoe-laces, I clip-clop my way to the spin studio and choose a bike at the front.’ Photograph: Lin Jie Kong

Our session begins with 50 Cent’s In Da Club pounding through the speakers. We start pedalling, and between 50 Cent announcing “It’s your birthday!”, Hannah explains a few basics: the RPM displayed on our personal screens is how quickly our legs are moving, the dial on our bike allows us to increase resistance by spinning it to the right, and interval training means there are moments for recovery.

“Lift your chest!” says Hannah, her voice rising to compete with the music. “Breathe! It’s your chance to disconnect from whatever is going on outside those walls!”

Everyone cycles with seeming ease. I, meanwhile, trudge one leg after another with great effort, thinking only of Hannah’s promise of “recovery”, because I am already experiencing quite a lot of discomfort. There’s no other way to put this: being on the bike hurts my bottom.

“Can you hit 100 RPM?” asks Hannah. “Yeah, you can!”

I cannot. I can barely hit 20 RPM.

As the music moves to upbeat electronic, then rock, I continue to pedal slowly while standing – anything to avoid sitting on the saddle. Others, however, have no problem following Hannah’s instructions to alternate between riding while sitting and standing. They even incorporate some basic choreography to occasionally lunge their upper body towards the handlebars.

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Past the halfway mark, Hannah’s words of encouragement reach a peak: “Take a look in that mirror … You’re doing something for your body. There’s no ‘I can’t’. I can! I WILL!”

At this point, my legs are burning and I have no choice but to sit and pedal, which hurts elsewhere. I’m alternating between two uncomfortable situations and unable to escape either because my feet are locked to the bike. It is literally a vicious cycle.

At track 10, Hannah announces it’s time for our legs to have a break – and reveals that it’s now time for our arms. It turns out the front of each bike has a container with two weighted rods: one is 2kg and the other is 3kg. To the beat of a breathy electronica version of Can You Feel the Love Tonight?, I repeatedly lift a rod, as if presenting a newborn Simba.

‘I … trudge one leg after another with great effort, thinking only of Hannah’s promise of “recovery”.’ Photograph: Lin Jie Kong

Finally, it’s time for the last track. “This is a celebration of the work you’ve just done. You should be so proud of yourself!” Hannah cheers. As the Chemical Brothers’ Hey Boy Hey Girl comes to an end, a staff member walks in holding a tray with rolls of cold, wet towels, which I automatically associate with the start of a 12-course Chinese banquet. I decline her offer as my consistently low RPM has not been enough to work up a sweat. But who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll work up a legitimate, towel-worthy sweat. I can. I WILL!

  • There are Cyclebar studios in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

  • Jennifer Wong is touring her standup show The Sweet and Sour of Power, at Adelaide Fringe, Melbourne International comedy festival, Sydney comedy festival, Perth comedy festival, Brisbane and Canberra.

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