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Lights Out!

Spinning in the dark offers a bold new fitness alternative.

Zengo Cycle instructor and business partner Melissa Kullen leads classes in the dark for a more focused workout. Zengo just opened a new spinning studio near Logan Circle.

Describing anything as having a cultlike following is tough territory to tread. But when a cycling studio sells out its Saturday classes with the same swiftness as tickets to a Kanye concert, forgive us if bestowing the status seems appropriate.

Zengo Cycle (zengocycle.com), a minimalist space featuring 45 bikes and a serious sound system, opened its first location last year in Bethesda to zero hype and the requisite mind-body connection buzzwords (the name merges the Zen of meditation with the Go of a calorie-crunching workout). But it’s the cycle studio’s unexpected twist—pedaling in a nearly pitch-black room—that has its spin fans in a frenzy.

Without the benefit of a mirror or trying to keep up with the person next to you, says Zengo Cycle founder and former Wall Street financier Marc Caputo, pedalers are left to focus on the workout—and having fun.

“Every cycle class I went to in DC was efficient, but boring. There were always bright lights,” says Caputo, who was inspired after taking a similarly low-lit class in Los Angeles. “I thought, ‘Why not make it more about the individual experience?’ To be able to go in and work out at 100 percent, but also close your eyes, is empowering.”

A serendipitous meeting with Hair Cuttery impresario Dennis Ratner (whose girlfriend also happened to be a Zengo Cycle devotee) led to a new business partnership, and the cycle studio is now on the cusp of a cross-country expansion. Last month, Zengo Cycle opened its second location, in Logan Circle, and Caputo and Ratner have their eyes on Mosaic District, Kentlands and Fairfax within the next 18 months.

The expansion into trendy Logan Circle also means the studio is getting a luxury upgrade, with help from Mark Ratner (Dennis’ cousin) of the DC design firm Street Sense. “Industrial organic” is the official description for the studio, which will feature reclaimed wood and soft neon lighting.

And while Caputo is the first to admit he didn’t reinvent the wheel, he’s certainly putting his own successful spin on cycling. Classes continue to sell out online up to a week in advance (the Saturday 8:30am class has been known to sell out in less than one minute), giving Caputo the confidence to officially let his stock broker Series 7 license lapse.

“In the first six months, we exceeded our five-year projections,” he notes. “This is at full go.”