Growing up in the outskirts of Portland, Ore., Pelo Fitness owner Alan Roberts discovered his independence on two wheels. “I was that kid who, once school was out, I was out the door and on my bike with my best friends,” he says. “At that age, riding a bike is your freedom, and we would ride all day.” Fast-forward a few decades and through a whirlwind career trajectory (the lifelong drummer worked as a roadie for Madonna, Lenny Kravitz, Bette Midler and more), and the Bay Area transplant is helping others find liberation too, one pedal stroke at a time.
Roberts calls himself a “late-in-life racer” who started competing in his late forties and quickly experienced the positive side effects of life on the bike. “I dropped 45 pounds,” he says. “That’s when I decided to do this — anyone can ride a bike and start.”
After taking stock of the country’s most popular indoor cycling options, Roberts decided he could improve on the current models through what’s now known as the “power zone” system. Rather than turning a knob to amp up intensity based on perceived exertion, Pelo riders use sensor-fitted bikes that measure the power they generate. At the front of the class, dials corresponding to each bike display how much power each rider is exerting, ranging from zone one (warming up) to zone five (maximum heart-pounding, leg-burning effort).
Because each rider’s dial is tailored to their fitness level, Roberts says the system levels the playing field. “You can have your grandma on one side of you and a triathlete on the other, and if I tell you all to pedal on the beat of the music and move your needle into zone three, you’ll all describe the same feeling.”
Whether you’re an elite athlete or just getting your start in cycling, Roberts has a slew of motivational fitness secrets to spill.
Turn it up. Given Roberts’ impressive musical background, it’s no surprise Pelo’s energizing playlists are eclectic. His top three essential tracks: “Something from Underworld, and I really love pedaling to Freedom by George Michael and Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N’ Roses.”
Bumpy ride. Riders of all levels are welcome with open arms at Pelo, but Roberts cautions newbies to avoid one dangerous form faux pas: “Bouncing straight up and down,” he says. “This is supposed to be a non-impact event. You get a better workout if you bend at the waist and settle back in your seat.”
Unleash your inner athlete. Group fitness classes can often feel intimidating to anyone who hasn’t been a consistent gym-goer over the years. But Roberts says the customized style of Pelo’s classes ensures that any-one can get the right workout for their level. “The original tag line of the studio was ‘Lowering the threshold to fitness,’” he says. “The idea is, just walk in the door, get on a bike, you can’t tip over, anyone can pedal. We bring the class to you, and you can step up on the ladder as high as you want to go.”
Balancing act. Anyone who’s taken a cycling class knows the lower body and cardiovascular system get a lot of attention, but what does Roberts do to maintain his body off the bike? “That’s tough. I’m always cycling,” he says. “But we offer a yoga-for-athletes class to get a mind-body connection, and a bodyweight strength and conditioning class to create body balance — honestly, because I need that stuff.”
Idol worship. Cycling is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one, so athletes like Roberts look to their role models for inspiration. “I love basketball, so Steph Curry’s easy,” Roberts says. “And when I was becoming a cyclist, my idol at the time was Lance Armstrong — he really made cycling big in the U.S. But my goal always was to be a drummer so I really wanted to be Buddy Rich.”
Getting comfortable on the bike means wearing the right gear. Roberts has curated a clothing selection for Pelo that’s fun, functional and stylish. Here are a few of his favorite brands:
“Beyond Yoga uses really wonderful fabrics that feel great and that last.”
“Onzie is a California company that produces great designs at a really reasonable price.”
“Strut This is another California-based company, started by a mother-daughter team, who produce great quality designs that are one-size-fits-all.”