Health goth–It’s a term rampant on the internet right now, to the intrigue of outsiders and disdain of “OG” health goths. Health goth might be a reaction to the peppy, über-positive trend in fitness symbolized most notably by Lululemon and SoulCycle. Or, it could be a subset of the 90s nostalgia-influenced normcore, with it’s throwback to the all-black, morbid sub-genre of that era. In short, health goths love fashion, black, and leather–but also sweating their asses off to a Rihanna light show in an other-wise pitch black spin room.
Monster Cycle + Studio might just be this movement’s poster child, and owner Michael Macneal proves that this so-called trend has staying power. Though he doesn’t refer to his own studio using this term, it’s clear that with the Zana Bayne leather-covered spin bike, tattooed register of instructors, and life-sized bondage suit-wearing statue, health goths world-wide could call this their capitol.
In this 20to30 interview, get an inside look at a Monster Cycle class as Macneal talks about the evolution of the studio, his Lady Gaga inspiration, and the psyche of stationary cycling.
Michael Macneal came to fitness through modeling and acting in NYC. While working as a runway model on Project Runway, a perk included an Equinox membership. There, his interest in indoor cycling grew. Starting as an instructor at Equinox, Macneal was inspired to change up the typical structure of the spin room after he noticed students zoning out in class. Thus, the “Monster Cycle” was born: An hour long class showcasing Lady Gaga videos using just a little projector attached to his iPhone.
Fast-forward years later, and the Monster Cycle + Studio has moved on to include videos and music from massive pop, hip hop, and rap favorites. According to their website, The Monster Cycle is: An indoor visual cycling class located in our pitch black BASSment. The only light coming form two large TV screens surrounding your instructor. Every ride is a multimedia experience set to the beat of the latest music videos.
I came to New York for acting and modeling. And I just so happened to do a runway show for somebody for Project Runway. And one of my perks was I got a membership to a gym called Equinox in New York. And I kind of started there. Then I kind of got really inspired by fitness. So I took all these classes. And I thought, how cool would it be if I could do that myself. So I went, and I learned, and I got trained, and certified to do it for myself. And then I branched off and created this Monster Cycle vision and world that it is now.
I’m a big Lady Gaga fan. And when The Fame Monster came out…I did a special event called The Monster Cycle. And it was a 90-minute ride, all Lady Gaga, all videos the whole time. I used the little mini tiny projector with my cell phone and showcased it that way. It was such a big success that after that, all of my members, and my clients, my “Monsters” were like, “Oh, you should do that all the time.”
So I think we’re trying to bring a lifestyle to it… Instead of going to the bar or the nightclub, you’re meeting up with your coworkers and your friends, and you’re going to a group fitness class….That’s your lifestyle. You’re eating healthy. You’re living healthy. You’re actively playing healthy. So I think creating this space where you come, and you can lounge, you can work out, you can drink your juice, you can wear fun fashion clothes, and check out amazing art that’s inspired by fitness. We have a Zana Bayne bike here. There’s a spin bike covered in leather, harnessed up. That’s it.
I used to cycle outside before I moved to New York City. New York City is a very scary place to ride. I grew up in Pennsylvania. I grew up in the mountains, in the woods, lots of open roads, and riding a bike. So when I moved to New York, stationary cycling just seems like an exciting way to adapt that into city life.
I think stationary movement is really just a way for you to zone out, lose yourself, and forget what you’re doing. It just gives you an escape.
Cinematography: Danielle Calodney
Interviewed by: Laura Lehmann
Edited by: Danielle Calodney