GRIT Cycle Bad-Ass Danielle Wellbrock-Gallinger Shares Her Favorite Local Gems
There's a place in Orange County where the daughter of legendary silver screen cowboy John Wayne invites brave souls to saddle up and sweat with some of the best and most bad-ass instructors in the Southland. It's not a ranch, though. It's a leading boutique cycle studio in Costa Mesa aptly dubbed GRIT Cycle, which forces riders to grit their teeth and pedal their asses off for 45-minute power seshes. Director of Operations Danielle Wellbrock-Gallinger has called Huntington Beach home for the past decade, and we had the honor of getting to know her both in and out of the saddle.
A close friend of GRIT partners Matt Bourne, Candice Collings, and aforementioned Marisa Wayne, Dani's professional career took a turn a couple years back. The La Verne native's original path found her gaining her law degree, a future she quickly realized would never be fulfilling. Teaching spin remained in motion in the background, but when GRIT's managing trio recruited her as an instructor around the time of the August 2013 opening, the three-year cycling veteran's legal chops proved handy, landing her the role of Director of Operations—a position the pink-haired, tattooed babe basically created herself.
"I sort of gracefully weaseled my way into a full-time job," the former roller derby girl tells us, laughing.
Since then, GRIT has developed a fierce following of spinning enthusiasts looking for more than the average stationary cycling workout. Tucked away off of 17th Street on Santa Ana Avenue, the rustic modern studio pairs a warm wood exterior with a clean white and blue cycling room, housing 50 bikes arranged as stadium seating. The definition of "grit" is painted on the left wall, and a horseshoe hangs over the studio's sliding door entryway. The comfy outdoor lounge space provides a cool cool-down spot, and also doubles as a quasi doggy and kiddy daycare, where regulars curb their four-legged friends and two-legged companions while they sweat.
Classes are, as Dani describes them, akin to a performance, with instructors poised on a podium front and center and facing cyclists. Butts barely touch the seats throughout the entire class, and a reach under the saddle will find a set of free weights. Arms will either be crushing sets of push-ups or curling to the beat of "Pretty Woman," for example. Cool eucalyptus-scented towels are handed out during the cool-down, and GRIT even loans spin shoes to guests without proper gear.
A class with Dani (and certainly any of the GRIT instructors) ends with a drenched bod and well-earned sense of elation and accomplishment, setting up a day where nothing else will be as challenging as the class you just survived. It's not for the faint of heart, or the faint of ears. The music is loud, the beats are fast, the lights are constantly changing, and Dani recommends earmuffs for guests who aren't keen on curse words.
While intense, GRIT maintains a welcoming, supportive, and non-competitive environment with zero "sense of snobbery," says Dani. The studio also gives back to the local community with its monthly Karma Ride, where guests donate a minimum of $10 with all proceeds going to the ride's designated charity.
It's not hard to spot Dani and brewhound hubby Glenn Thomas, who mans DrinkingCraft.com, around town, being that they're a beautiful couple, and Dani's hair typically screams loud hues of pink, purple, blue, or green.
We recently put the brakes on Dani to get the scoop on her go-to spots in HB. Straight from the source, here are her favorites for eating, drinking, primping, and shopping.
Perfect Weekend Day
We usually wake up early. My hubs and I are early risers, so we start with a cup of coffee. If I am lucky, Glenn will make me a latte. We read The Wall Street Journal together. He reads it and relays the information to me while I am picking up the house, or feeding the dogs, or doing something generally awesome. We walk our three pups, Verona, Ouzo, and Duke, and then head to take a spin class at GRIT. I am usually teaching and Glenn is taking. We love to stop into Bagelmania in HB on our way back home to refuel. Bonus points to them for having a drive-through so we do not have to get out of the car in our sweat-soaked clothes.
Depending on the weather, we may take our cruisers for a ride downtown HB. Or we will hop on the hubs' Harley for a ride down PCH. If it is really nice, we grab an umbrella, sunscreen, our portable music player, and head to the beach, usually near the Huntington Cliffs. It is pretty quiet down that way. We might pack our lunch, or take a break from the sun to go eat at 25 Degrees. I am a sucker for a good hamburger!
We usually cap the night at home watching a movie with some delicious tacos from Las Barcas and a six-pack of craft beer from Hilltop Liquor. Las Barcas has THE BEST carnitas tacos. And I love Hilltop. They have a great selection of craft beers. Robert knows his stuff.
We like food, can you tell? A lot of our social outings revolve around eating, which is why we both work out so much!
The Corner for new American small plates and handcrafted cocktails; Capone's Cucina for delicious Italian; The Black Trumpet Bistro for Mediterranean-inspired small plates; 25 Degrees for gourmet burgers and spiked milkshakes; Watertable at the Hyatt for fresh fish (they have an amazing hamburger, plus it is sentimental because Glenn and I got married at the Hyatt); Mario's for Mexican food and killer margaritas; Hashigo for the freshest sushi in town.
Favorite Juice Bar
I love Nekter Juice Bar! The Toxin Flush and the Skinny Lemonade are my favorites.
Las Barcas for Mexican; Silk Thai for Thai, Mother's for Vegetarian; Jan's for a Surf Shop Special; Normita's for breakfast burritos; and I am anxiously waiting for the opening of Sessions Sandwiches in HB!
Johnny's is hands down my favorite bar of all time...punk rock, pool tables, and Oompa Loompas; Main Street Wine Company; Red Chair Lounge in the Hyatt; Aloha Grill for a Rainbow; Slater's 50/50 during football season (lots of TVs and craft beer on tap! Go Pack!).
Vans for shoes; Pet Supply for my pooches (Muttropolis at Fashion Island is also a favorite); Main Street Eyewear for sunnies. I do the majority of my shopping at lululemon or online since I live in spandex.