Best of 2023

The Nine Circles of Helloton

No pain, no gain. At least that’s what the sign on the door says.

First Circle: Limbo

Welcome to Helloton Studios! Everything is glossy, sexy, and hot, hot, hot. As you approach your stationary bike, Reaper Arzón calls you “honey,” and asks if you “misplaced your swagger?” The question singes you a little bit — but then you look down at your metallic Helloton tank / cheetah-print Helloton shorts, and realize that you have plenty of swagger to spare. So you dust yourself off and clip in. Besides, it looks like fun! Apart from all the flames — the flames are a little off-putting. But no pain, no gain, right?! At least that’s what the sign on the door says. Wonder where that doorknob went — it was there a second ago.

Second Circle: Lust

You start to pedal, slow at first, gradually gaining speed. It briefly occurs to you that you’re pedaling a bike to nowhere, but all the other hot people around you are doing it, so you keep going. Evilivia Amato shouts from behind, “you look great today!” Glancing down at your tank and shorts (both a little bit charred at this point), you think,huh, I wonder if she says that to everybody? But then you catch a glimpse of yourself in the 360-degree mirror — you’re practically on fire! You conclude that you are obviously irresistible and ignore your self-doubt, as you tighten your grip on those handlebars and scoot your booty to the widest part of that saddle.

Third Circle: Gluttony

Your output is soaring, you’ve never felt so amazing! Suddenly, Kendall Sharp-Tooles appears in a cloud of smoke, and screeches that “they can knock you down, but they can’t knock you out!” You wobble a little at the thought of someone swinging at you. And you wobble because of the flames — the huge, burning flames that are creeping closer and closer to your bike. You’re basically a marshmallow in a campfire right now, but no matter. You will honor your #lookgoodfeelgood hashtag if it’s the last thing you do.

Fourth Circle: Greed

You’re closing in on a PR, and you’re absolutely crushing Brenda from Sheboygan, WI in the back row! You’re not sure if she’s real or a heat mirage, but who cares? Satannah Franskon creeps up next to your bike and starts chanting “push, push, push!” You move your flaming legs up and down, pedaling faster, faster, faster, but it’s not good enough, Satannah wants more, more, more, she wants you to keep pushing, and suddenly your hashtag has morphed into #pushpushcrew before your very eyes, and suddenly, you have no eyes, because they’re also on fire.

Fifth Circle: Anger

Your feet are welded to the bike now, so you just keep pedaling your way into the long, dark night. Between smoky heaves, the familiar voice of Jen “Lake of Fire” Sherman whispers, “just fucking do it.” Anger courses through your empty veins and appears as molten beads of sweat on your Helloton headband. Luckily, you also have a Helloton towel and a Helloton bandana for just such occasions, or you’d really be fuming —

Sixth Circle: Heresy

As you mop your crispy brow, Jess King-of-the-Underworld reminds you that “no one can take your soul.” Except for Jess King-of-the-Underword, obviously. Because she has taken your soul and tucked it into her crimson french braids where it will stay for the rest of eternity.

Seventh Circle: Violence

Just when you think you’ve finally had enough, Tunde Demonyin reminds you that “your mind is your strongest muscle!” What the hell does she know?! On cue, whatever’s left of your mind flies from your body and disappears into a 3 lb. bike weight, never to be seen or heard from again. But not your legs, oh no, no, no. Your legs are still pedaling, pedaling, PEDALING —

Eighth Circle: Fraud

The heat is too much. THE SELF-TALK IS TOO MUCH. You dissolve into a putrid lake of ash and pool around the bike’s USB port, empty shoes still clipped in. But right before reality as you know it implodes, Alex Ghoulssant stands over what’s left of you and whispers into the void, “I love you, Mama. Real talk.”

Flames engulf Helloton Studios as he cackles, gold chain shimmering in the darkness.

Ninth Circle: Treachery

Dusting the soot from your work-out gear, you blink, and shake your head from side to side. But, how — ? The music starts, and the studio crowd goes wild! Is that you, Brenda?! Suddenly you’re back on your bike, clipped in, and there’s a 20-minute 80’s Ride starting in 3–2–1 —