It is an unlikely place to seek solace from city life, this 30-by-30-foot, dimly lit cubicle on the corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica boulevards.
But I've rushed here from work all the same, anticipating 45 minutes of grueling exercise with 20 other cycling fanatics, engaged in a communal sweat while each of us retreats into the universe of our own thoughts at Voight Fitness and Dance Center.
Variously known as "RPMs," "spinning," or "bikercise," it is an all-out assault on the cardiovascular system, nearly an hour of frenetic riding on stationary bikes to pulsating music and orders barked out by the instructor.
About 20 clunky yellow machines--built vaguely in the manner of racing bikes--are squeezed helter-skelter into the room. They all point Mecca-like toward a small platform where our teacher, Doug Blasdell, rides herd with a microphone amid a bank of audio equipment. Mirrors cover mostof two walls; several small windows let in a muted wash of the day's fading light.
It certainly isn't everyone's idea of paradise. But for me, it is an urban sanctuary, a place where I can fall silently into my thoughts while my body goes on automatic pilot.
One by one, riders click their cycling shoes into the pedals. Soon the world is reduced to the up-and-down strokes of locomotion, my singular physical vocation blending mystically into a shared ritual. Like a giant turbine slowly gaining speed, the bikes take on a unified revving sound.
"Let yourself get lost in the music," Doug yells out.
I do just that. My concentration is complete, letting the music seep in as I focus on my breathing, my stroke, my thoughts.
"Bring it up," Doug yells at his pedaling acolytes. We oblige him, tightening the tension on the flywheel and increasing the pace. The turbine roars.
The perspiration comes pouring off my forehead in steady streams now; my T-shirt is drenched through. The mirrors are thoroughly fogged, the air damp. I glance around at the other riders. They are in the same sweaty trance.
Doug leads us up imaginary hills, through lung-busting sprints and seemingly endless rounds of standing in the saddle, forcing us to use our thighs and glutes where quadriceps and calves just won't hack it.
We move past exhaustion, the mere repetition of pedaling now its own end. At long last, the music slows to a New Age drone. We begin to let up our pace. Slowly I disengage from the bike. It is dark outside as we file from the studio.
I glance back and, deserted, it looks like any other drab room. The still-foggy mirrors, however, bear witness to the strange calm I now feel. And walking into the cool environs of early evening, I steel myself to take on the world once again.