"Are you with me!?!" shouts the instructor. We give a rasping cheer, grabbing a breather before we hit the next run of hills, riding through a landscape peppered with psychedelic geometric mountains.
The road is like glass, reflecting the alternate reality we find ourselves in, coloured spikes protruding from the verges providing the backdrop to the latest thing in fitness: the fully immersive exercise studio.
The spin bike between our thighs might be familiar, but the scene isn't: it's dark. The ceiling above is peppered with LEDs like a starry sky, as we ride into a huge curved alternate reality projected against the wall, transporting us from David Lloyd in Raynes Park, just off the A298, and into a world like Tron.
This David Lloyd club is one of the first in the UK to install a Les Mills Immersive Studio. It uses that full screen projection to transport you to another world during your spin class, rather than having you staring at a blank wall, or worse, your mirror image.
The instructor is slotted into the centre of the front row, like a Centurion leading the charge into battle, bellowing instructions, keeping up morale, making us laugh. The instructor is quite literally leading the pack in this futuristic spin on fitness.
We're riding a class that's appropriately called The Trip. The up-beat dance music will be all too familiar to spin fans, but in this immersive experience the visuals and the music are coordinated. It makes it easy to get into the rhythm and to fully engage with the class.
you can open the hurt box and throw yourself in
With spin you only get out what you put in and with the instructor's back to you, you're not going to get castigated for not putting in the effort. You could slack off in the dark, or you can open the hurt box and throw yourself in. Which is what we did.
The climbs become dizzying highs, with welcome relief breaking over you like a wave as you hit the summit and drop back into the saddle, gasping for breath. You're controlling the resistance, with the instructor guiding you through the high-intensity sprints and climbs, but the visuals give you a sensation of doing something more than peddling hard on a stationary bike.
We find ourselves bobbing around with the undulations of the track through our computer game-like world, leaning into corners, ducking on sprints, quickly out of the saddle on the climbs. We're not sure if it's the euphoria from the music or mild hypoxia from the intensity, but we can feel the rhythm of our imaginary track.
That's exactly what this Immersive Studio is designed to do, to take you away from that sweaty room off the A298, and into a place where you can give it your all. For those who have been reluctant to participate, there may be solace in the darker conditions; for those who want something different, it certainly provides it.
The Trip isn't all that this studio will provide: it can also give you a virtual workout with a virtual instructor on the display, meaning that cycle classes can be scheduled when there's no actual human being available to lead it. There will also be a variety of different types of classes, with regular changes to the music and visuals to keep things fresh.
Suddenly we're cycling across the ocean, a picture of serenity wrapped around us having reached the end of this otherworldly cycle class. The instructor is talking to a couple of geese flying off to the right-hand side as we begin the cool down. We step off the bike, drenched in sweat and jelly-legged, wildly grinning and wanting more. That was The Trip and it really was out of this world.
The Les Mills Immersive Studio is now open at David Lloyd in Raynes Park for those looking for a futuristic spin on cycle classes.