How indoor cycling gave this trans fitness instructor a ‘second shot’ at life

One of the first places Max Rigano could introduce himself as “Max,” was at CycleBar. The then-29-year-old was only two months into taking testosterone at the time, and he was looking for a way to help him adjust to his changing body.

Now 31, Rigano credits CycleBar’s environment for helping him transition. It was a fresh start, a community that embraced him and a physical and mental outlet.

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“It was new and continued to be like an amazing feeling to be embraced and to be becoming better,” Rigano told In The Know. “It was [also] the first public space that I started to experimenting with taking my shirt off.”

It didn’t “click” for Rigano that he was trans until he was almost 30. He had experimented with his sexuality throughout his twenties, but for a huge portion of his life, he was suppressing himself. He studied philosophy and education in college, then attended a seminary for four years — which only added to the guilt and confusion he was feeling.

“My denial about my trans identity was pretty intense for a really long time,” he explained. “I just went really down deep, and I just thought, I think I would be much happier if I looked how I felt.”

Rigano started hormones in the fall of 2018 and got top surgery in December of that year. He jokes that it was his Aries zodiac sign that made him start his transition process so quickly.

“I had suppressed what I knew about myself for so long that, once I realized it, I was just like absolutely zero to 100 with my transition,” Rigano said. “The other like, super significant part of my transition is that is [also] when I started my fitness journey.”

Enter CycleBar. Rigano describes these months of his transition as giving him a “second shot at life.”

“It was one of the first places I kind of started fresh and got to introduce myself like without people having known me, which was kind of great,” he said. “It was the first public space that I started experimenting with taking my shirt off. And it was also, it felt safe because it was really dark.”

Taking off his shirt was a major milestone for Rigano and to him, it represents a larger message of encouragement for trans bodies.

“When I ride, I just like the liberation of just taking up space and being in a public space and being like a trans-masculine person,” he said. “A lot of that part of my journey, even just like taking my shirt off in general, is just taking up space in the world as a trans man and sort of having people confront their own thoughts about that.”

For the last six months, Rigano has been teaching his own classes. Even though the spotlight is on him, he doesn’t shy away from being open to his students.

“I think that being an instructor has just given me sort of a platform to share what’s worked for me and what has helped me and healed me,” he explained. “Different seat, different perspective.”

For the last two years, working out hasn’t only served as a means for Rigano to masculinize his body — it’s much deeper than that.

“I want to live forever,” he said. “I just, like, now that I know who I am and I’ve found myself, I just — I really like living.”

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If you enjoyed reading this interview, check out In The Know’s conversation with singer Mila Jam and how she embraced her identity through a genderless shopping experience.

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