I Look Sweet on a Bicycle For One

080706 article morgan I Look Sweet on a Bicycle For OneAlbert Sipzener puts in 60- to 70-hour weeks as vice president of Shikiar Asset Management, an investment company that controls $300 million in assets.

In the evenings, he works as a model.

He teaches, on average, eight spin classes a week. In the past eight years, he estimates, 95 percent of the women he’s dated have come from his classes.

One of those women nearly married him.

Before his classes, in the romantically dark spinning rooms of Equinox, Mr. Sipzener strolls among the 50 or so stationary bikes, doling out pecks on the cheek to the lucky. He has dimpled cheeks and a pointy nose and thick, thick black hair. He’s a bit slouchy, a mellow dude, and always has a bit of stubble.

He spends a good amount of time putting on his trademark bandana. He wears spandex shorts and encourages the packed room to push it to “the max.” Through his headset microphone, he urges his students in a somewhat nasal voice to “cum uhn,” to “focus up,” to “climb the hill.” During the class that he taught on the first day of 2006, he instructed the spinners to “work off the Cristal” and said that he’d been through three bottles himself the night before.

“My trademark is, I always wear cycling shorts, I always wear a bandana,” he said. “In terms of spin, nobody really wore bandanas. Now everybody does it. It’s like they all went out and bought the same bandana,” he said. In summer, he wears cutoff shirts; in winter, long shirts, with T-shirts over. “My alter ego on the bike is a blend of Johnny Damon and David Lee Roth.”

Mr. Sipzener said he has been recognized on the street in Beverly Hills and at an analysts’ convention in Reykjavik. People come up to him and say, “Are you Al?”

“Sometimes I take a step back and, you know, I joke around, and I say, you know, ‘I’d love to be a 50-year-old and still be the most popular spin teacher in New York City,’” he said. He is, so far, only 36. “And I doubt it. At some point, at some time, I’ll gracefully bow out.”

Back in January, on a crisp night, he stopped for a glass of California chardonnay at an Upper East Side bar. He was wearing a tailored blue corduroy suit by Etro that, along with Brioni, is all that he wears. “The wildest suit I have, which when I first got I swore I was never gonna wear, was this blue paisley suit,” Mr. Sipzener said. “And it turned out—and after I wore this—I learned shortly thereafter that there was a three-year waiting list for this suit, and Jackson Browne was on it.”

“I’ve done a lot of fashion modeling at different studios, with mostly Italian brands,” he said, “and now I’m segueing more into commercial work.”

That night, his strict Hermès-only neckwear policy was in full effect. Between Gucci and Ferragamo, on this day he had elected the former, and his toes nestled in the fine leather of weathered loafers.

Mr. Sipzener confided that he had recently gotten engaged to Alisha Farmer—early 30’s, of Indianapolis, head of public relations for Mr. Sipzener’s beloved Etro. The two had met in one of his classes a year previous. Aside from fashion and spin, the two shared interests in running and tennis.

Mr. Sipzener motivates his stationary-bicycle students from his iPod. He thinks instructors who only play what they want to hear are selfish. He said that he does his best to keep up with new stuff, though at heart he is pretty much a classic-rock guy. “While the song ‘Margaritaville’ will put a smile on my face,” he said, “there aren’t that many Parrotheads in a spin class” (using the nickname of fans of Jimmy Buffett). An average class mix might start with some U2, transition into a Kelly Clarkson remix, then perhaps something by the Goo Goo Dolls or go just a little mushy with some David Gray.

“The one song I’ll never get tired of playing,” he said, “the one thing my mom and I agreed on, was that the Doors’ ‘L.A. Woman’ is the greatest song of all time.”

“My typical day, I’ll wake up at about 5:30 in the morning. I’m a person that doesn’t need a lot of sleep,” he said. “I need about four to five hours. But I wake up at 5:30 in the morning, I teach a class usually at 6:30 a.m. to 7:15 a.m., O.K.” He grabs breakfast on the go, a bagel and coffee—skim milk, two Sweet’N Lows. After a morning class: “I shower and I’m at the office by 7:45. I’m at the office usually—and it’s usually a pretty intense day—until usually about 6:30 to 7 p.m. And then I’ll either make plans with friends, or a lot of time the modeling gigs I do are in the evening. And then go to bed. On the weekends I like to travel, I like to gamble, so I’ll go up to some Indian reservations and gamble some money.”

He bought his apartment three years ago: Upper East Side, doorman, prewar. Because he works in finance, he is resigned to living in New York, though he has also considered Los Angeles and Boston. He was born in Sharon, Mass., where his still-married parents live. His father is a gastroenterologist, his mother a psychotherapist. He played on the tennis team at Brown. He was an analyst at Lehman Brothers and at Bear Stearns. He received an M.B.A. in corporate finance from Columbia Business School in 1999. He’s run in five marathons. In the mid-90’s, his marathon time was 3:56. His marathon time in 1999 was down to 3:43. In October of 1995, he married his college sweetheart at Temple Emanu-El. They had no children.

Sometimes he gets burned out. That’s when he’ll take a long weekend and go someplace relaxing, like his parents’ house, or Las Vegas. He likes the Bellagio.

“Umm,” he said, “the only time I’ve had women stop taking my class—whether I went out on a couple dates with them and it didn’t work out or whatever, and they moved on; I guess they couldn’t bear the sight of—taking my classes anymore. While I don’t ever regret having dated women who’ve taken my class, I understood that from past relationships—that they would stop taking my class.”

“I would even use the word ‘cult’ about Al’s regulars,” said Mo Toueg, a partner at a New York headhunting firm, who said he has attended Mr. Sipzener’s spinning classes at Equinox several times a week for five years. “He’s got people who don’t know what to do with themselves when he goes out of town. They freak out.”

“It’s a little sick,” said Pam Perlman, a marketing consultant for a financial firm. She began taking classes about a few years ago. “It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or snowing—people still line up for his class. You have to be there at least 40 minutes before it starts or you might as well just stay home. I got there at 8:01 and the class was full. I thought the rain would cut me some slack. I was wrong.”

“Al’s definitely a bit of a flirt, so that can lead to a lot of chatter,” said Laura Van Orden, 33, an event planner at a big financial firm.

“There’s a landscape to his music,” said a class attendee named Maria Lopez, 45, an architect from the Canary Islands. “It brings you in very gently and then pushes you and then lets you down. He does it on purpose. His music is mood-stabilizing—it’s like one big, giant amino acid!”

“He knows people’s names and he’s very aware,” said Nancy Wishmeier, a consultant at a financial firm. “‘Focus up’ is a key phrase. He’ll say, ‘Focus up, Nancy—let’s do this.’”

“There is a common denominator of career-driven people, finance and otherwise,” said Ms. Wishmeier of her classmates. “But it’s really a very powerful network. Finance really does figure largely in the group. I mean, when Rodney changed jobs, they wrote about it Crain’s. There’s a guy who’s a major partner in a law firm that does S.E.C. litigation. There’s another guy who’s a big-time venture capitalist; there’s a V.P. from Deutsche Bank; and there are a couple big players from Merrill Lynch who are regulars.”

Mr. Sipzener was introduced to his current boss, Stuart Shikiar, through one of his spinning students. He considers Mr. Shikiar a great mentor and credits him for inspiring a “genuine passion” for finance. Mr. Shikiar reciprocated, making riding a weekly practice.

“You know,” Ms. Wishmeier said, “I think probably there are some business deals that come out of the class!”

This summer, one deal brokered in spin class fell through. Mr. Sipzener and his fiancée, Ms. Farmer, called off their engagement. Among the reasons for the breakup, she cited his constant spinning.

“Between my work schedule and between my spin schedule, I have very little time,” said Mr. Sipzener. This was last week in the bar at Sport Club/LA on East 61st Street—he teaches there as well.

“She was a person who wanted me to, you know, free up a lot of time to participate in a number of events in her professional world and that type of thing, and so we had different priorities. Some people like to work from 8 to 6 and go home and read a book or watch TV. Some people like to go to sports bars and watch every Yankees game. And, you know, some people like to book their schedule so they’re constantly busy. And that’s me.”

He paused and fumbled with the soiled bandana in his hand. “So, so now I’m a bachelor.”

Mr. Sipzener has hired an interior designer, one that he met in spin class. They have begun a massive overhaul of his apartment.

Pretty soon, he’s going to start taking guitar and voice lessons. Last month, he flew out for the annual Pajama Party at the Palms Las Vegas. He did very well on the tables.

“I’m trying to get new perspective on things,” he said. “I haven’t jumped into the dating circuit yet.”

Recently, he’s done a lot of thinking about the downside of this status that he has. “Every guy I know who takes my class—single or married—will say to me, ‘You’ve got it made, all these beautiful women take your class, blah blah blah blah.’ But I will tell you, it’s not as great as it seems, because I have no privacy whatsoever. You know, if I ever wanted to put my profile on one of these Web sites, like match.com or something, everyone in the world would find out about it.”

He said he loves his spinners and the friends he’s made in class. But at times, Mr. Sipzener wishes he could have some space. “The more I think about it, I think people should view me much in the same way as Capitol Hill or your favorite Mexican restaurant: It’s probably better not to know what happens behind the scenes.”

He’s thought a lot about relationships, too. “In life, sometimes great relationships happen when you meet someone in a very simple type of circumstance,” he said. “I don’t typically meet many people in a very ordinary way.”

Comments

  1. D Lamar says:

    This was the funniest thing that I’ve read in days, until I realized that it wasn’t a parody. Knowing that it is real, I think that it is the funniest thing that I’ve read in months.