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The wheels on this bus go round and round, but only some make you go

The other day on my lunch break, I stepped out of the office to get some exercise. As I rode my bike through the streets of Boston, I hit 55 mph, a personal record. I wasn’t even wearing a helmet.

No, I’m not an Olympic cyclist, nor do I have a death wish. I was just doing my job. And on this particular day, that meant riding a stationary bike on a moving bus.

BikeBus, a company co-founded by Northeastern School of Law graduate Seema Brodie, is a group fitness class and a city tour all in one. As the name suggests, customers ride stationary bikes that have been installed inside a bus, which drives through Boston while they work out.

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

“People need to exercise more. They sit on their way to work, and then they sit all day once they get to work, so we thought, what if BikeBus was your commute?” Brodie said.

Riders can’t commute on the bus yet, but that’s the ultimate goal for Brodie and her husband and BikeBus co-founder, Eric Brodie. Right now the experience is more of a novelty group experience.

So I persuaded three of my co-workers to skip lunch and join me for a workout. We boarded the bus outside our office, but before we could mount our bikes, we had to complete some liability procedures.

“We’re lawyers, after all,” Brodie said, referring to herself and her husband, who used to be an attorney for a bus company. We signed the waivers, and she strapped us into specially-designed harnesses to prevent us from flying off the bikes in case the bus stopped short.  

We were ready to go. Brodie adjusted her microphone, plugged the aux cord into her phone, and strapped into her bike. Eric eased the break, and we were off.

Photos by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

In terms of fitness, a BikeBus class is generally the same as any other cycling class. We followed Brodie as she demonstrated exercises and shouted instructions, intermittently ramping up the speed at which we pedaled and the tension on the bike. The music was loud. Lights were flashing.

But of course, we were on a bus, and with that came an element of public display.

We stopped at our first red light, and Brodie pointed to a group of construction workers on the sidewalk. “They can hear us,” she yelled. Speakers on exterior of the bus blast music and anything Brodie says at unsuspecting passersby.

The workers’ expressions went from confused to amused as Brodie joked with them from inside the bus. “We’re biking on this bus! Motivate these guys,” she yelled. One man gave us a thumbs up. Then the light turned green, and we sped off, wheels spinning.

If you don’t like to work out in public, this experience is probably not for you. But if you’re the kind of person who likes unconventional forms of exercise or gets a kick out of messing with strangers, BikeBus is an absolute blast.

Halfway through the trip, we were all a little short of breath, but that didn’t stop Brodie’s constant flow of motivational quotes. “This bus is powered by positive energy,” she yelled. That, and a little bit of gasoline. In the future, though, she said she wants the bus to run on the electricity generated by the bikers inside.

The bus, which some Bostonians might recognize from its former life as a Boston Logan Airport Shuttle, is highway-legal, and for the final stretch of our journey, we rode the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Photos by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Brodie started chanting, “bike the Pike, bike the Pike.” The early-2000s pump up anthem, “Sandstorm,” played over the speakers. “I love listening to this song when we’re on the highway,” she said. We ducked into the Prudential Tunnel, and the party lights had a moment of glory in the dark underpass.

On the way back to our office, Brodie pointed out old restaurants and bars she used to frequent near Northeastern’s campus. She graduated in 2001, but Northeastern is still very much a part of her life.

She works with Northeastern’s business accelerator, IDEA, where she receives mentoring and business advice for BikeBus. “I basically feel like I got my MBA from the IDEA lab. They’ve taught me everything I know about running a business,” she said. “The community really comes together and supports alums in a way I’ve never seen before.”