Ralph Butzin World record-breaking events, thousands donated to charity, and an appeal to instructors to leave their egos at the door. Ralph Butzin – founder of Germany’s National Cycling Academy and one of the country’s Spinning pioneers – speaks to Kate Cracknell “I used to be a professional handball player, competing in the first division in Germany,” says German cycling legend Ralph Butzin. “In 1993, I injured my knee and went to Switzerland for rehab, and it was there I first came across Spinning – the phenomenon of indoor cycling to music. “I liked the look of it so I did a class, which just happened to be with Mike Michaels – master trainer for Johnny G, the creator of Spinning. That’s a great way to do your first class! “I spoke to Mike afterwards and explained that 28
RIDE HIGH July 2019
I’d like to do these classes back home, but he told me there were no Spinner bikes in Germany – so I decided to start my own class.” He continues: “I teamed up with another master trainer, Keith Howells, to launch in the basement of a club in Bielefeld, Germany. We had a squash court space with 11 bikes and a ghetto blaster – and that was it. There was very little structure: we just played music and got people to ride the bikes as hard as they could! But it was really popular: with just 11 bikes, we had to run around eight classes a day to keep up with demand.