Riding Stationary. Going Places.


Whitney Veazey | Staff Photographer

Cass Thilman inside her cycle studio, One Ride Cycle.

Kelley Peters, Staff Writer


In Muscle Shoals, around ten minutes from the University of North Alabama, there is a fitness studio called One Ride Cycle. The lobby area is bright and open, and the walls are covered in encouraging and uplifting affirmations. Owner Cass Thilman works hard to make sure One Ride lives up to the standard she built the business on: it is a place for everyone to feel welcome. 

Thilman opened One Ride in February of 2022, but the idea of owning her own cycling studio had been in the works for some time. With her background as a fifth-grade teacher and a love for group exercise classes, she knew that being a teacher was her passion, and Thilman was encouraged by family and friends to pursue her dream of being a spin instructor full-time. In November of 2021, she signed the lease for the building, and, after some renovations, One Ride Cycle was ready to open.  

The studio is open Monday through Saturday, offering three to four 45-minute classes each day. The class schedule goes live on Sunday nights at 5 P.M. Currently, the studio has 24 bikes, which results in many classes being full and some clients even being waitlisted, especially when it comes to the early morning classes, which are extremely popular.  

However, Thilman has plans in the works to purchase six additional bikes, meaning that even more members can participate in each class in the coming months. 

Each class has spin workouts timed to music. The instructors alternate between different resistances, speeds and techniques in order to target certain muscle groups and get an all-around workout. 

“Primarily, we’re using the biggest muscles of our bodies for cardio,” Thilman said. “It’s really circuit training. We’ll push speed or push gear, which is all cardio-based. Then we do an arm song where everyone has dumbbells and will do bicep curls or shoulder presses, all still going to the beat of the music. I’d say it’s lower weight training. We only have two pounds through five pounds, so it’s just enough to feel like you’re getting a little bit more sculpting than just simply cardio.” 

In addition to the various types of training that instructors implement, spin is a very personalized activity. Since every rider has their own bike, each person is able to take the guides laid out by instructors and customize their bike’s resistance or the speed that they are riding in order to get the workout that best fits them.  

One aspect that Thilman feels strongly sets cycling apart from other styles of fitness classes is the lack of impact on riders’ bodies–specifically their joints.  

While spin classes are high intensity, they do not strain riders’ knees in the same way that alternate forms of cardio, such as running, do. Cycling can be extremely beneficial to those with knee problems or previous injuries that might otherwise make attending fitness classes hard to manage. This also helps members to feel like they are welcome at One Ride, no matter their fitness level. 

Another goal of One Ride is to extinguish competition. While some cycling studios have monitors so riders can see how they are performing in relation to the rest of the class, Thilman feels that there are more benefits to having classes without them. 

“There’s so much competition in the world,” Thilman said. “This is the one place to let all of that go. It’s really an internal thing. You’re looking in the mirror. You see yourself, and it’s not about being better than you were yesterday, but about being stronger, even if you feel weaker today. It’s never about wanting to outride your neighbor. You may feel weak today, and you may need your neighbor’s energy to get you through it. That’s really the culture of our studio. There is no competition in our team.” 

Many of One Ride’s members appreciate the lack of competition in classes and the welcoming environment. This is especially true for members like Randa Hovater, who enjoys taking spin classes not only for the physical benefits but also for the mental peace they bring her.  

“My favorite part about taking classes at One Ride is the dark room,” Hovater said. “When you walk in, you have 45 minutes that you’ve given yourself to refill your cup. I think it’s so easy, especially as a woman working multiple jobs, wearing multiple hats and taking care of multiple people, to pour from an empty cup and never take time for yourself. One Ride gives me that time back. I am able to come in, connect with the bike and get into a headspace where I leave everything outside of that room. It’s therapeutic.” 

For some, starting a new exercise class can be intimidating, which is something that Thilman acknowledges. However, she maintains that everyone in class, both instructors and students, work together to create the most welcoming environment possible for new members. Stacy Fulton, another member at One Ride, was drawn in because of this sense of familial community. 

“Cass Thilman has created a space that welcomes anyone and everyone,” Fulton said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what kind of shape you’re in or what you have going on in your life. They make you feel seen and like you belong. I’ve never felt out of place or like I didn’t belong here. You go into this dark room that somehow becomes the brightest light in your day. You have instructors who challenge you and push you to your limits, but who are also cheering for you so loudly that giving them anything other than 110% of your best is not going to happen.” 

Thilman encourages anyone looking for that motivation and sense of belonging to try out a class. The first ride is free, which stems from their motto: “All it takes is One Ride.”  

“It’s crazy that a bike that goes nowhere has the ability to take you places you never thought you could go,” Fulton said. “It’s the best journey. You may be physically staying in the [same] spot for 45 minutes, but I can promise you that within that room, you go on an adventure every single time. That’s a gift, and it’s a gift that I get every single time I clip in on that bike.”