In a dark basement in the South End, 17 men and women are drenched in sweat and pedaling madly on stationary bikes, the sounds of an instructor yelling at them to “CRUNCH!” blasting from speakers.
For some it may sound like torture, but for this society of spin aficionados, a visit to Recycle Studio is more of an exercise in spiritual enlightenment than a typical workout. And at $22 a ride, the experience should be more inspiring than a jog on a treadmill at the local gym.
Like SoulCycle and Flywheel — studios that have made spinning one of the hottest fitness trends going — Recycle is utterly devoted to the quest for cardio. At Greater Boston’s only spin-specific studio, Recycle riders refer to each other as “recyclists” and many snap up tank tops and headbands emblazoned with the company’s wheel logo.
But the staff at Recycle is hesitant to liken themselves to the bigger names like SoulCycle, which draws everyone from Katie Holmes to Bradley Cooper to its sweat-filled studios.
“I think it’s an amazing, amazing business, but we are not trying to be SoulCycle,” said Recycle Studio owner Cate Dwyer. “We are trying to be Recycle. We’re the little engine that could, or something. We’re taking some things we like about what they did, and bringing it to a different scale and different level.”
Dwyer moved to New York after college, but it wasn’t until she suffered a stress fracture from running that she started to look for an alternative workout. She signed up for a spin class at SoulCycle’s original West 72nd Street studio, and it turned out to be a life-changing moment for the Weston native.
“I dropped in, and I literally started crying on the bike,” said Dwyer. “So many people have this experience. You have that right song playing and the instructor says that one thing, and you say ‘This is my release.’ ”
Dissatisfied in her corporate marketing and public relations job, Dwyer and her now-husband moved back to Boston. She decided to go out on a ledge and start her own studio in 2011. She just opened her second Recycle location near Boston Common. Her tight-knit pack of instructors are rock stars in the eyes of their clients.
Instructor Meredith Dejesus spends her days working as a divorce attorney. But perched atop her bike with a microphone fastened to her head, she seems more like a spiritual life coach than a lawyer.
“You guys are here for a reason, whatever it might be,” she tells the class.
It’s true. Riders in the class included everyone from a man training to participate in a Tough Mudder endurance competition to Lisa Fleming, a cardiologist at Beth Israel who rode until two days before she gave birth.
“I rode Tuesday, and I had my son Thursday,” said Fleming, who was back on the bike within a few weeks. “It was great. . . . It made me feel like a normal person still.”
But despite the avid devotion to Recycle, instructors say they want the atmosphere to be open and welcoming.
“When I see new faces, I make a point to say hi,” Dejesus said. “I don’t think new people come in and feel like ‘Oh God!’ ”
Gil Casten is the CEO of RateYourBurn.com, a site that allows people to share their experiences at different gym classes.
“Recycle really reminds me of Soul,” said Casten, who has taken classes at both studios. “When Soul started in New York, they were in this hole-in-the-wall place in the Upper West Side. . . . It wasn’t all polished white and yellow. It was a start-uppy feel.”
Casten added that her first time at Recycle intrigued her.
“They’ve obviously spent a lot of time thinking about their logo, messaging, and strict instructor program,” she added. “It seems they’re a merger between traditional and the new acrobatic kind of cycling.”
As with all boutique gyms, pricey membership and drop-in fees are a constant point of debate. A single class at Recycle Studio will set you back $22, but most riders purchase package bundles that keep costs down. A year of unlimited classes runs $1,650. While some would balk at that price, Recyclists are more than willing to foot the bill.
“It’s expensive, but you make it work,” said frequent rider Jocelyn Sloane. The price can even be motivating. “Because you’re paying so much, you’re going to go.”
Even though riders can burn over 700 calories per hourlong spin session, the spin revolution isn’t without criticism from those who say it doesn’t provide sufficient upper-body work, stretching, or strength training.
But Dwyer says Recycle instructors are fully aware of the importance of diversifying a workout.
“We are realistic about saying this should be a part of your workout routine,” said Dwyer. “Go for a run. Go for a yoga class. If you want to come here and have it be your total workout routine, we offer different kinds of classes.”
Recycle Studio Boston Common, 9 Newbury St., 617-775-0282; Recycle Studio South End, 643A Tremont St., 617-775-0282.
Megan Johnson can be reached at megansarahjohnson@