When the words “dripping sweat + melanin” caught my eye, I had to know more about Richmond’s Hour Cycle Studio (209 N. 3rd St.). Owner and self-proclaimed “Chief Baddie Instructor” Jenn Gray Braswell laughed when I shared that with her, since she wrote those words herself. She needs no marketing executive to help convey her message of community, positivity, and Black excellence as the genuine passion for what she has built poured out while we chatted.
This Black woman-owned business emerged on the scene as the only Hip-Hop spin studio in Virginia in September 2020, during a difficult time for our pandemic-ridden country. Cycling gyms across the nation pulled out make-it-work moments like outdoor classes, live Zoom sessions, and virtual rides. But all the COVID-free cycling in the world couldn’t come close to addressing the unrest in our country and the RVA area in particular as tensions rose, monuments fell, and opinions flew in public spaces as thick and fast as the rampant social injustice. Braswell, uncomfortable in her current cycle instructor position, envisioned a space in which people could blow off steam while being real, unfiltered, and unapologetically Black.
In November 2022, the business found their current Monroe Ward location on 3rd Street in Richmond, VA, with the help of Sperity Real Estate Ventures. Braswell highly recommends the firm, saying, “The Sperity team worked diligently with me over a year to find the perfect location for the unique needs of my business. Even though we are a small business, they still provided white-glove service and ensured I was 100% satisfied.”
Although Braswell acknowledges that an hour of cycling isn’t a magic pill curing what lies beyond those walls, she also walks the walk by standing against oppression using her voice, time, and resources outside of the studio, and challenges her clients to do the same. While fighting social injustice and inequality, she also aims to focus on and celebrate a positive depiction of Black excellence, especially as it pertains to promoting healthy body image, wellness, and physical and mental health.
So what makes this studio different? For one, it’s a fully hip-hop studio – not just a theme night, once a month hip-hop studio. Playlists also include Reggae, Afrobeat, Soca (Soul of Calypso) and more – music that makes you move even when your body is ready to quit.
Secondly, this is not the kind of studio to work on your “summer body” or to compare your upscale athleisure wear (or your body) to that of the next person. They’re here for functional fitness. For real life stuff. “Your size does not dictate your health or your ability to move,” Jenn tells me, “so we want to show people that if you’re committed, this is the place to do it.
The focus is not the screen you’re staring at, calorie count, revolutions per minute, or miles. You’re gonna be tired. You’re gonna be sore. But we want you to tap in to how you feel. Your measure of success is not hitting a certain number. The success is hitting that next goal on the next track or in the next class – whether or it’s raising resistance, hitting a sprint, or coming out of the saddle.”
Finally, Braswell considers spin an important part of her clients’ overall health, wellness, nutrition, and goals. “Have a team,” she tells me. “We hold you down on the cardio piece, but there are so many elements that go into your mental and physical health as a whole person. We are just a part of your wellness journey.”
To be real: I personally am not dripping melanin, and wanted to know if Hour Cycle Studio was for me. Braswell’s reply: “Come anyway. We are a welcoming establishment with welcoming people, and the goal of our cycle is not to be anti-anybody else.” She continued by explaining that “you can center Black people’s physical or mental health without alienating those who are not of color.” No matter your race, all are welcome to come enjoy the whole vibe that is this studio, with a focus on Black music, art, language, and culture; as well as personal authenticity and building community.
To book a session, head over to the MindBody app or visit the Hour Cycle Studio website to reserve your space in class. Show up 10-15 minutes before your session, and change in the restroom if necessary. The studio uses Schwinn AC Sport bikes, and cycle shoes aren’t necessary, although pedals are compatible with SPD clips or gym shoes. The studio offers classes, corporate events, or other private rides or themed events taught by eight (and counting!) instructors of all different body shapes and sizes. They are open 7 days a week and offer classes daily starting at 6am and going to 6:45pm. Their traditional Studio Session is 60 minutes long. New riders should check out their 45-minute introductory HCLYTE class. Experienced riders will enjoy HIIT the BEAT (High Intensity Integral Training), which is focused on heavy resistance between intervals of speed.
Hour Cycle Studio has made appearances in Richmond Times Dispatch, Richmond BizSense, Yelp’s Five Can’t-Miss Black-Owned Businesses in Richmond, Venture Richmond’s 40+ Women-Owned Businesses to Check Out, and been featured in Richmond’s inaugural BLCK Street Conference. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram to learn more, or walk through the doors like over 1,700 individuals have, and see for yourself what the hype is about.
Kari Smith is a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming. Follow Kari’s writing adventures at KariSmithWrites.com, or facebook.com/KariSmithWrites.