The wonders of the galaxy unfold before us, reaching infinitely outwards as star systems pass by. A feeling of weightlessness comes over us. Despite the building pain in our legs, Esquire feels serene, almost at peace.
Then, upbeat drums begin, sounding from the depths of the universe.
From somewhere – everywhere – in the darkness Keith Richards sings “Please allow me to introduce myself”.
Then, with all the panache of a children’s TV presenter, the spin instructor yells “Are youuuuuu ready?” and we come crashing back down to earth.
The virtual universe is then replaced by a Windows Media Player-style light show as imagined by David Guetta, and we’re reminded that we’re a long way from space. In fact, we’re in Raynes Park at in the new ‘Immersive Studio’ at David Lloyd, just a short ride on the number 134 bus from Wimbledon tube station.
We’re here to experience the new Les Mills and David Lloyd Immersive Fitness indoor cycling studio, the UK's first workout (and one of only a handful in the world) to attempt to transport you to space, snowy mountains and video-game style environs as you cycle.
The set up is simple: the class and instructor face a concaved screen that covers the far wall, on which are displayed a succession of fantasy environments designed to make your work out more interesting, and make you sweat a little bit harder.
After Esquire’s crash down to Earth, and after we’ve left space behind, our instructor leads us through a Tron-like environment in which we have to “race” Tron-like light bikes through a blue-lit, Tron-like dystopian city (seriously, we were expecting Jeff Bridges to pop up at any moment).
After that, we’re led up a snowy mountain and down the other side into an area dubbed “Candy Land”, but try as we might, it’s difficult to immerse ourselves in each new vista, especially with the instructor paraphrasing Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” over his headset at every opportunity (“You’ve got one chance! Don’t let it go!”).
Neither were the special effects particularly special, with the whole thing resembling a sort of wide-screen Guitar Hero that forces you to cycle slightly faster than comfortable on a static bike, rather than mash buttons on a plastic guitar.
It’s a shame really, as although we left feeling like walking without pain was something to look forward to next week, the environments never really felt overly impressive, with roller-coaster drops through the candy landscape failing to make your stomach leap (as our instructor vigorously suggested).
Tech-wise, the Immersive Fitness studio is an experience full of possibilities, but one that might work better on an individual level - something which Virtual Reality app companies like Runtastic are attempting to explore by bringing workout environments to the Oculus Rift - as opposed to in a slightly distracting class environment.
The visuals might also have benefitted from taking us to real-life places (a forest trail, a real mountain pass) as the photo-real final scene of a sunset was actually the most engaging of all the "fantasy" locations (although this may have been because our sweat-drenched body knew the end was in sight).
Workout-wise, it’s an interesting take on the meeting of tech and fitness and if spinning is already your thing, a 35, 45 or 55 minute class may not be the worst way to freshen up your routine, assuming you’re open to cycling up vertical, virtual mountains, sound-tracked by thumping house beats.
At present the Immersive studio is an interesting concept, but one that may benefit from a few more years of visual development. But then, this is a gym and not your local IMAX.
Fancy giving it a go?