It was dark. I walked down a snowy alley. I was as cold as a wet mackerel pulled from icy Lake Michigan. A sign caught my eye as it clung to the back of a cinder block building. I knocked twice at a metal door. It opened and I entered.

Inside a dozen men and women threw off their winter coats revealing spandex shorts and shirts. Some bent over bikes tending to technical issues. Some stretched or filled water bottles. Others milled about in the post-industrial bike repair surroundings.

I had walked into the coolest place to be on a Wednesday night in Oak Park: Giulia Isetti’s spin class at Bikefix on the alley off 252 Lake St., between Cuyler and Harvey.

At the fitness clubs, you have cyclist wannabes taking spin classes to a thumping disco beat led by a multi-talented aerobics teacher yelling into a wireless microphone.

“Sit down. Stand up. Sit down. Stand up.” For these instructors, it is Pilates at 6 p.m., spin class at 7 p.m. and fit flex (whatever that is) at 8 p.m. They will get your heart racing, but club classes are typically too short and frenetic for the cyclist trying to build base for next spring.

Isetti does not run your ordinary spin class and is not your ordinary instructor. She is certified as a USA cycling coach. She also holds a Ph.D. in chemistry and teaches sports nutrition at Dominican University. Her post-doctoral research involved designing an FXa selective Antithrombin at the Department of Molecular Genetics and Structural Biology-I have no idea what that means.

But Isetti comes from good cycling genes. Her father was a professional cyclist in Italy. And she combines her passion for cycling with science. She knows a lot about the interaction between exertion, nutrition and hydration.

In addition to a bike and trainer, Isetti asks people who attend her class to bring a heart-rate monitor so that she can find your maximum heart rate and design a training program. She set one target heart rate for me to maintain during 20-minute sets of pedaling at 75 rpm and a higher heart rate for pedaling at 85 rpm.

During the class, she gave mini-lectures on what was happening to our bodies. She reminded us to loosen up those tight shoulder muscles. She turned an hour and a half training ride into the equivalent of a two and a half hour ride outside.

This left puddles of sweat underneath my bike. By the end of the first class I felt a bit wobbly, but it was a good wobbly. The stretching afterwards helped.

With class finished, I threw my trainer over my shoulder and walked out into the black inky night. The cold hit my sweaty face like a slap of Aqua Velva aftershave, but it felt good.

In addition to the Wednesday night class, Isetti runs another one Sunday mornings at Holmes School. If you would like to join her spin class you can contact her at

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