By George Howe

George Howe tested his limits at Winnebago’s Ride or Die Spin cycling workout center.

    I was recently invited to participate in a cycling spin class at Ride or Die Spin by owner and instructor Pam Eichenberger. I arrived with a towel around my neck and water bottle in hand, not exactly knowing what was about to take place.

    Even if you happen to live in Winnebago, you might not be aware of this hidden gem located in the Winnebago Plaza building behind the First National Bank on North Elida Street that houses several businesses. The Plaza holds a handful of businesses in addition to her studio. Bill Johnson, a chiropractor, is there and owns the building as well. There is also Changes, a hair salon; A Canine Creation, dog groomer; Benefits Health & Wellness, non-surgical treatments for pain/function; Drive-Right, driver’s education; and a golf cart business.

    I was expecting a typical large “gym” type setting, with bright lights and loud music blaring overhead. Instead, I walked into a quaint “spa” type environment, with soft lights and a welcoming vibe in the reception area, and a sign that reads “Enjoy the Ride” over the door threshold.

    Once inside the training area, which is just large enough for about six students, I was greeted with a hardy handshake from Eichenberger, and exchanged pleasantries with the five other female classmates I would be joining.

    I must admit that the sign on the wall and name of the business – “Ride or Die Spin” – was a bit intimidating. Eichenberger calmed my apprehensions. “The name is a colloquial expression indicating extreme loyalty to something,” she explained. “Everyone can do this if you can ride a bike. It’s not made to scare off anyone but in a ‘cheeky’ way, I’m telling people they can either ride and live an active life or, become sedentary and die.”

    Once all of us were up on the cycles, with pedals and seats adjusted for comfort, the lights went off and we were left with only the glow from the indicators, letting us know our rpms (revolutions per minute) heart rate, mph (miles per hour), and the level of difficulty.

    Eichenberger’s many years of instructing for the park district and middle school, culminating with a certified Spin Instructor certificate from St. Louis 12 years ago, became evident as she put us through a variety of drills, including standing up as if attacking a hill and accelerating at a high speed with the level set at a challenging 7 to 10 incline, all while jazzy, R&B, and contemporary music set the pace. It also let us know that it was time to move on to the next exercise. I hadn’t done this kind of activity for quite some time. I paced myself and valiantly pushed through the first 20 minutes of a 45-minute ride, doing what we were told. My thighs started to burn, my butt hurt, but I can honestly say that I never stopped pedaling – even if I just couldn’t do the different skills that everyone else was doing. To my credit, these ladies – all in their mid-40s and/or “soccer moms” for their kids – were now in their second six-week every-Thursday session.

    “This is our second go round and it’s definitely tough,” said Barb Livingston, fellow classmate. “’Me time’ is so important and to be here with the other moms working out… it feels great.”

    Eichenberger was born and raised in Rockford. Then, along with her husband Jim, they moved to Winnebago in 2007 to put their two children through the local school system, where they graduated from Winnebago High School. One of her goals, at the time, was to someday open up her own spin studio, but as she started to look for a place that wasn’t too large, she was finding that there weren’t many choices available in town.

    “I found from previous classes that students like a small, private type setting as opposed to a large gym where everyone is watching,” she said. “I try to make it comfortable and welcoming so it’s worthwhile for everyone.”

    “This setting won all of us over,” shared Kelsey Fisher, one of my other classmates who had originally found the place after visiting her dog groomer just next door. “No one is judging or looking at us while we struggle at times,” she added with a laugh. “I’ve never done anything like this before and Pam is such a positive motivator that we keep coming back.”

    The word is slowly getting out about this special and unique class for the area. “The bikes are brand new and well-maintained, so all you have to do is show up and get on the bike,” said Eichenberger. “It’s challenging – yes – but the adrenaline rush and calorie burn gives you such a sense of satisfaction. I love and breathe it and want to share this with as many people as possible.”

    There are a variety of days and times to join in, for those that are interested in giving this unique workout a try. The first class is free. Give Ride or Die Spin a call at 815 979-9472, visit them on Facebook, or email

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