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CEDAR FALLS — When University of Northern Iowa grad Jess McDowell returned to Cedar Falls for a friend’s wedding in 2017, she looked for a cycling class during her stay. She didn’t find one.

So early this year, McDowell shifted gears and rolled back into Iowa with a plan. On Dec. 10, she opened Joywheel Cycling Studio in Cedar Falls. The boutique fitness studio offers specialty indoor cycling classes.

“I wasn’t looking to do this,” she said. “I was looking for a way to get back to Iowa. Joywheel was born out of problem. I saw a need.”

The new studio is a mash-up of features from cycling studios and classes McDowell visited when she lived and worked in Chicago.

Joywheel is an immersive experience. Classes feel like a party, with upbeat music and low light. Twenty-three stationary bikes are arranged theater-seating style so riders can see the instructor and wall-mounted big screens that display workout data. A fun, challenging experience is the goal, McDowell said.

McDowell, 28, grew up in Steamboat Rock. She was a standout forward on the UNI women’s basketball team, graduating in 2014 with degrees in marketing and graphic communications. She moved to Los Angeles after graduation, and then to Chicago in 2017. Her background in marketing and design were the perfect backdrop to conceptualize, design and market her own business.

“I initially looked into franchising, but it didn’t appeal to me,” McDowell said. “I wanted to have more control.”

From the studio’s name to its design, she did. Joywheel, located at 4505 Algonquin and facing Greenhill Road, is sleek and sophisticated. It’s interior is bathed in sunny yellow and adorned with mural illustrations of familiar Cedar Falls sights — the UNI-Dome and the UNI Campanile.

“I had so much fun collaborating with marketing and design friends,” McDowell said.

Joywheel offers classes at various times of day and in varying degrees of intensity. Riders reserve a specific bike online in the class of their choice.

“There’s no mad rush to get your favorite spot,” McDowell said. “You just reserve it.”

When riders arrive, they check in at a kiosk and retrieve the clip-in shoes provided by Joywheel. For those new to cycling, an instructor will help them adjust their bike to the right fit. Personal workout data is emailed after each class.

“You can see yourself getting stronger with actual data,” McDowell noted.

Joywheel has 11 instructors, including McDowell.

“I wanted people with fitness backgrounds and good personalities who could motivate people to work their tails off,” she said.

A wall of lockers is programmed with a digital, one-time access code that’s resent after each use. A locker room is filled with amenities, including hair products from Mod Salon a few doors down.

“It is a premium experience,” McDowell said. “Convenience is one of our major draws.”

In addition to Mod Salon, McDowell partners with Bike Tech for cleat installation on the clip-in shoes and her next-door business neighbor, Freshii, which gives discounts to Joywheel participants.

“Partnership was a big part of what I wanted to do,” she said.

Business is booming since Joywheel opened, McDowell noted, but there’s room for everyone.

“’Tell us how often you want to ride and we’ll find the package for you,” said.

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Lifestyles and Features Editor

Lifestyles Editor for The Courier

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