A student-athlete alumna still combines learning and exercise

Molly Kennedy alumna

Molly Kennedy

April 14, 2022

By Kera Abraham

Dim colored lights beam through the darkness, illuminating the instructors in pink, blue, and green. People on stationary Schwinn bikes pedal to the beat of the music, sweat beading on their foreheads. 

When Molly Kennedy gets into this zone, she feels both in tune with herself and deeply connected with her cycling community.

“Sometimes being out in the world can be tough,” she says. “Coming into the studio, I know that for the next 45 minutes I have nothing to worry about – just this bike and this space and these people.”

Kennedy is a founder and co-owner of Fuel Cycling Studio in Monterey. Indoor cycling has long been a popular group exercise, and the industry is growing with the development of increasingly customized experiences – like personal performance data, dynamic class lighting and high-quality sound systems. 

What sets Fuel Cycling apart, Kennedy says, is that it’s locally owned, with experienced instructors, small class sizes, and a strong focus on community. Corporate cycling studios can be formulaic, but Fuel Cycling instructors curate their own playlists and tailor each ride to their customers’ individual needs. 

Plus, she adds, it’s a great workout: “It really feels like you’re having a party on a bike.” 

Kennedy didn’t set out to become a business owner. She enrolled at CSUMB in 2010 as an athlete, drawn by the school’s volleyball community and its proximity (close, but not too close) to her parents’ home in Oakland. 

While playing on the Women's Volleyball team, Kennedy studied to become an elementary school teacher, earning a Liberal Studies degree and a credential in Multiple Studies. She’s now in her seventh year of full-time teaching at Bayview Elementary, a charter school in Monterey. She’s also pursuing a special education credential at CSUMB.

Her volleyball career left Kennedy with chronic knee pain, so the lifelong athlete needed a new sport. She tried running and weightlifting, but they didn’t spark the joy she’d felt in volleyball. Then she found cycling, which hit all the marks: it’s low-impact, builds stamina, uplifts her mental health and creates community.

“Cycling came out of that need to feel like I’m working out with other people,” she says. “It really does feel like I’m just dancing with all of my friends.”

In 2018, Kennedy began teaching at a local cycling studio, where she connected with other instructors. Together they began exploring the idea of starting their own studio – and they were gearing up to sign a lease when the pandemic hit. For almost two years, Kennedy and her fellow instructors taught online classes out of her living room to about a dozen digital subscribers. 

In summer 2021, the partners found a space to sublease in a building shared by First City Crossfit. They opened the doors of Fuel Cycling Studio in August, and they now employ seven instructors and a management team of five, all women. 

Compliance with covid safety regulations has been a top priority. The studio follows Monterey County mandates on masking, tests instructors regularly, and issues exposure notifications as needed. To ensure healthy indoor air quality, they installed an air conditioning unit with ventilation and filtration, and added standing air purifiers.

Another early priority was building the studio’s staffing to include people experienced in finance. Kennedy is hoping to hire a business major from CSUMB in the months to come. “I’m not a business major,” she says with a laugh. “What I do all day is teach people how to be nice to each other.”

That applies not only to Kennedy’s elementary classroom, but also to Fuel Cycling, where she and her team give back to the community. The studio has raised funds to support breast cancer research and Down Syndrome awareness, held a coat drive for a local women’s shelter, and is planning a fundraiser to support ocean conservation.

They also collaborate with local small business owners. A refurbished hutch in one corner of the studio serves as the Maker’s Market, displaying handmade products for sale. Artisans rent a shelf from Fuel Cycling and keep 100 percent of their revenue. 

All around, Kennedy says, business has been good: “Every month it is growing a little bit more, which is just what we wanted.” 

The CSUMB Alumni Owned Business directory highlights successful CSUMB alumni who are business owners and entrepreneurs.