My Journey – Part 1: Where it All Began

Note: Karen Maxwell (Kmax), Founder of Kinisi Performance, serves as Manager of CycleStar Talent at CycleBar where she oversees the education of over 2000 instructors and 200 CycleBar franchises. The following series chronicles her experience from novice to fitness professional. 

2012, Easton Gym, Hollywood. This wasn’t some fancy Equinox meat-market. This was an independently owned unassuming brick building with no AC. But it was charming. There were 12 bikes in the corner of the room. It wasn’t a cycling room, you see. It was a multi-purpose workout room. The class would wheel their own bikes out for our 45 minute slot, then wheel them back into the corner when it was done. The TRX people would be waiting impatiently for us to exit. One of the bikes squeaked so loudly, you thought the pedals were going to fall off. Three of the bikes were connected with duct tape. There was rust. A rogue tapback could mean a tetanus shot. It was downright unsafe, the Average Joe’s (Dodgeball, anyone?) of indoor cycling. Every once in awhile, someone famous would literally walk through our room during class to get to the balcony. Beat it, Garrett Hedlund, I’m teaching. Damnit, I’m getting off track…

I had been taking classes for years all throughout LA. I rode with my friend Nick Pratley, who has since developed Kinrgy with Julianne Hough; with Lacey Stone, a celebrity trainer, my eventual colleague at Flywheel and Carbon38-retreat roommate; with Tevia Celli, the mother fucking OG queen of indoor cycling, a goddamn legend who would eventually become my mentor. You see, out in LA, there was a world of fitness gods and goddesses that were the epicenter of an international culture, all teaching within 5 square miles in West Hollywood. On any Saturday morning, you could have a front row seat for whatever the drop-in rate was back then and sweat with the greats. More about that later. So, the bikes had duct tape…

At Easton, I found my first cycling mentor, Monica. She was a walking contradiction – drank like a fish, cursed like a sailor, and on occasion, smoked like a chimney. She was passionate and hilarious and erratic, and sometimes would flip out and scream at the gym owner or manager and come into class crying like a goddamn psycho. But damn if she couldn’t teach the hell out of a cycling class. Once she clipped in, she was a deity. I always thought that transformation was sublime. The bike stripped her frailness, magnetized her strength. It was magic. She built this community, and it was beautiful. I rode with Monica for about a year before I got the nerve to ask her to train me. 

And she agreed.