new fitness club, H2, focused on cyclists’ needs has opened in Soho. Spinning, showers, gym, dry cleaning, physio and a bike mechanic are all on site, to send commuters immaculately on to work after working out.
H2 is slap-bang in the heart of London’s media, advertising and entertainment district, and aims to provide cyclists with everything they need to make their commute better.
First, there are 230 secure bicycle parking spaces inside the club, on Josta racks – useful in cramped Soho, where offices are piled on top of each other and many people’s desks will be merely a hop, skip, croissant and cappuccino from the club. Second, there are well-appointed changing rooms, plentiful lockers (which can be hired for permanent storage) and decent showers – to cater for those that want to cycle to work but wouldn’t otherwise have the facilities to avoid all-day stinkiness. H2’s manager, Piers Slater said that in many gym chains, the changing rooms are an afterthought, but that H2 put extra work into making them fit for purpose. He recognises this will be one of the club’s key draws – and they look large enough to withstand the morning and evening rush hours.
H2’s philosophy, he also explained, is that most users will want to do their aerobic exercise – cycling or running – in a park, or out in the country. There are no treadmills or cross-training machines, but for cyclists who want more, there’s a large spin studio. And this is Spinning® – with a capital ‘S’ and an ® – denoting the club’s affiliation to the New York-based programme that guarantees serious quality workouts. The timetable tells you in advance who the instructor will be, and whether the session will be an endurance, interval, strength or race/recovery ride. It also indicates the target heart-rate zones.
Road.cc took part in a class and the Star Trac bikes were brand new (as you’d expect), and much smoother than others we’d tried when piling on the resistance. However, the spinning’s not just for masochists: Slater envisages it coming into its own during the winter, when fewer people will fancy the commute yet will still want to turn their legs over; the classes will also be a way of encouraging new cyclists to commuting, by giving them confidence in the saddle.
Aside from the spinning, there’s a ‘Core Training’ gym. Not as in abs and lower back – though there’s facilities enough to give them a right old working over – but as in concentrated and focused. There are no large racks of free weights – weight-lifters aren’t the target market – but instead kettle bells, medicine balls and a rather frightening looking ‘War machine’ system of pulleys, which is claimed to be a more holistic way of working the body’s muscles. Personal trainers are on hand, and the whole set-up is designed to fit in with the likely needs – and time constraints – of commuters.
While you’re working out, H2 can look after your laundry and dry cleaning, and the in-house workshop can take care of any bike repairs, providing stage one and two servicing. There’s also personal maintenance: osteopathy, physiotherapy, sports and remedial massage, podiatry and acupuncture.
The Soho club is the first of a projected chain: work is underway at a site at London Wall (near the City), and Slater sees eventually sees expansion further afield. If you’re commuting regularly, the concept seems to make a lot of sense – especially when juxtaposed with the alternative cost of a monthly travelcard. The club shows some nice attention to detail – for example, I’m told the women’s changing rooms provide hair straighteners, so that female cyclists can smarten up their helmet hair before the working day. They’ve also pledged not to over-fill the place, and shut the doors to new members when capacity is reached.
Peak-time membership is £27.99 a month; off-peak is £19.99, and that lets you in after 11am. This includes the bike park, gym, showers and changing, and the spin studio when no classes are on. Spin bundles bring the cost down to £3 a class, or heavy spinners can have unlimited access for an all-in price of £44.99 a month.