‘Clip in, check out, let’s ride!” is the mantra of StarCycle, the first indoor cycling gym in Santa Barbara that opened earlier this month in a 2,300-square-foot state-of-the-art studio at La Cumbre Plaza.
” ‘Clip in’ refers to putting your feet in the pedals, ‘check out’ refers to our technology-free zone — no cellphones or iPads — and ‘let’s ride’ means 45 minutes of low-impact, high-intensity exercise that is carefully choreographed to work every muscle group in the body and push riders to their edge,” said Kayla Johnson-Neal, one of four owners of StarCycle. The others are Dani Stone, Lara Mack and George Tharakan.
“Dani, Lara and I are instructors for the classes that are held in candlelight, which allows riders to listen to their bodies, relying on red faces, sweat puddles and shortness of breath to measure performance,” said Mrs. Johnson-Neal, 43, who has been a fitness fanatic ever since she graduated from Golden West High School in Visalia in 1993.
“My career in fitness began when I was 18. I taught group exercises at Gold’s Gym in Visalia to get a free gym membership, and I continued to teach for 24-Hour Fitness while earning my bachelor’s degree in communications at San Jose State,” said Mrs. Johnson-Neal.
In 2007, she moved to Santa Barbara to work with Spectrum Gym and start her own brand, Kayla Johnson Fitness, as a personal trainer, which is still her day job. She also had her own business, Sweat Outdoors, for six years.
During this time, she was married to her first husband, Steve Johnson, and raising their three children, Lauren, now 21, Tommy, 19, and Bella, 16.
“It was because of our children that Dani and I became friends. Her son, Quinn, and my Tommy were best friends, and last Christmas, while our families were together on a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Dani asked if I thought about opening up a spin studio in Santa Barbara. I had been teaching spinning for 20 years and loved it,” said Mrs. Johnson-Neal, now married to Mike Neal.
The couple flew up to Portland, Ore., where the first StarCycle was co-founded by Erin Moore, a sorority sister of Dani Stone when both were students at UCSB.
“Erin and I were best friends as members of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority,” said Mrs. Stone, who was an NCAA gymnast at UCSB, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1994. Now married to Bret Stone, a local attorney, she has a career in fashion as a stylist for television shows and dressing celebrities for red carpet events and other occasions.
The couple have a son, Quinn, now 19, and daughter, Simone, 17.
“Fitness has always been a part of my life, like reading, but I felt the joy and fun aspects were missing. That’s why I was intrigued with StarCycle. It looked like I could have a social life around people with similar values,” said Mrs. Stone, 46.
Added Mrs. Johnson-Neal, “Not only did Dani and I love the idea of a spin studio, but we saw an opportunity to open one in Santa Barbara. The response has been amazing, insane. Classes are full, and we’re adding classes every day to meet the demand of excited Santa Barbarans, from high school students to retirees. Troy Aikman, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback who lives in Santa Barbara when he isn’t announcing National Football League games for Fox News, was spinning all week.”
Unlimited memberships at StarCycle start at $149 per month, and other pricing options are available, Mrs. Johnson-Neal said.
Sharing instructor duties with Mrs. Stone and Mrs. Johnson-Neal is Lara Mack, a lifelong athlete who graduated from UCSB, where she honed her interest in a healthy lifestyle and physical fitness, and went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling psychology/health promotion.
While raising her three children — Karlie, now 23, Sarah, 20, and Eric, 17 — Mrs. Mack, the wife of Brian Mack, continued to compete as an athlete locally in both competitive and philanthropic events. As her kids have become independent, she has been able to fulfill her dream of coaching others to reach their wellness goals.
Mr. Tharakan’s role at the studio is overseeing the operations.
To make working out easy and realistic for riders, especially moms, the studio offers on-site child care through the brand’s StarKids program for just $5 per class, a 10-pack for $45 and a 20-pack for $80.
“We believe fitness is the cornerstone to happiness, for both mind and body. In our classes, clients unplug from our tech-heavy lives to connect with themselves and the beat of the music, leading to a more effective workout,” said Mrs. Stone.
StarCycle is located at 121 S. Hope Ave., Suite D115, at La Cumbre Plaza across from Williams Sonoma. For information about scheduling and pricing for classes, call 837-0074 or email email@example.com.