What is SoulCycle

A whole lot of clapping going on. What makes the Equinox of spin classes so popular.
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Do you follow any of those quote pages on Instagram? The kind where they post inspirational proverbs that aren’t quite Chinese but are arguably proverbs, nevertheless? Imagine that one of these Instagram quote pages started a spinning studio…that’s basically what SoulCycle is.

Thrust into a chamber of cyclists who believe soul searching is best done while sweaty, SoulCycle can be intimidating or just downright confusing to the passerby who isn’t terribly familiar with what all the fuss is about.

I’m a certified personal trainer who has experimented with pretty much every form of group fitness class imaginable, including SoulCycle. Here’s what you should know about SoulCycle … in 5 minutes.

What makes SoulCycle unique?

SoulCycle has successfully injected life and emotion into the relatively boring and static act of riding a stationary bike. This feat is no accident considering SoulCycle’s parent company—Equinox—has accomplished as much for the entire gym industry, adding style, personality, and luxury to building a sweat and burning calories.

In my experience, there are two things that make SoulCycle stand out from other cycling studios:

  1. Ambiance and Atmosphere
    SoulCycle is a cross between a church with a pastor in their mid-30s and a cursory Yoga class. Sprinkle in some Taylor Swift and an instructor who is either from Queensland or dating someone who is, and you get the gist.
  2. Difficulty
    You get out what you put in with whatever fitness class you take, and SoulCycle is no exception. That said, SoulCycle does put more emphasis on “discovering who you are” than other fitness communities and thus is more demanding than most cycling classes.
An actual ad for Equinox gym in 2008. Equinox is the parent company for SoulCycle.

How much does SoulCycle cost?

SoulCycle doesn’t do memberships and only offers packages on a per-class basis. You can spend anywhere from $26 to $70 for a SoulCycle class. The cost of a class is based on the following:

Did you bring your own shoes?

Shoe rental is $3, which can be paid in cash or on the credit card you used to reserve and book your bike

Where are you looking to use the classes?

Buying classes that will be used in The Hamptons or Las Vegas are more expensive than classes that will be used in Los Angeles or Denver. 

How many SoulCycle classes are you looking to buy?

Buying 10 classes will get you around a 4% discount, while the real cost savings start at 20 classes when a 10% discount kicks in.

Do you want to sign up in advance of everyone else?

SoulCycle’s “SuperSoul” package is a flat $3,500 for 50 classes and gives you the advantage of signing up for classes before everyone else.

Is It Soul Cycle or SoulCycle

SuperSoul. SoulConnect. SuperSoul. SoulOutside. SoulCycle is very much one word, even though this is their site: soul-cycle.com and not this soulcycle.com

Do you Need to Bring Your Own Shoes to SoulCycle?

No. SoulCycle will rent you shoes for $3 (or sell you a pair for $215) This is my experience with the outdoor classes, as well. Note that in no way will tennis shoes or any other sneaker work on a spinning cycle—you need to be locked into the bike using cycling shoes to participate in the class.

Is SoulCycle a good workout?

This depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a good workout and not an added dose of affirmation, SoulCycle might have too much fluff for you.

I’ve done hot yoga, reiki, pilates, CrossFit, and various HIIT classes and they all offer something different. If anything, SoulCycle feels like an infusion of these workout classes and health sessions:

  1. The positive energy, “soul” approach is similar to what reiki aims to provide. A reiki master practices attunement and transfers that positive energy to you, similar to how a SoulCycle instructor displays incredible amounts of positive energy, encouraging you to channel the same.
  2. SoulCycle is 90% cycling, 10% weights, so roughly the same amount of resistance training that a moderate Yoga class might offer.
  3. Cycling inherently requires core stability and good posture. While core stability is not the focus of a SoulCycle class, this is something you’d practice and be mindful of while doing Pilates or Yoga.
  4. The structure of the class pushes you in intervals, so you’re not going as hard as you can for 45 minutes straight. This is a similar approach to HIIT or interval cardio training.

Where SoulCycle could improve

SoulCycle instructors, again in my experience in just one region, aren’t terribly technical with teaching you proper technique or making sure you get into the flow of the class. A Pilates or yoga instructor exists to make sure you’re performing the movements properly.

With SoulCycle, the bell will ring, Dua Lipa or someone who I think might be him/her starts cranking, and then people start bouncing, making it kind of feel like you’re at another team’s last practice before the big game.

A couple of things that stood out specifically that just aren’t for me:

Photo Courtesy Santa Monica Place

There’s a lot of clapping going on

Not that that’s a bad thing, just for those who are introverted and aren’t looking to cross over, SoulCycle might not be your speed.

SoulCycle seems to have an exorbitant amount of dancing

SoulCycle is kind of like Zumba’s cool daughter all grown up. You do sort of pushups on the handlebars and what feels like hip hop dance moves on your bike, meanwhile it’s difficult to keep track of what resistance your bike should be on and your overall progress.

Is SoulCycle like Peloton?

SoulCycle’s strengths are atmosphere, community, and transcendentalism. The ability to Instagram yourself after a sweaty morning cycle is as fulfilling as a quality workout for many.

Peloton was moderately successful prior to a pandemic—except for creating one of the weirdest advertisements of the past ten years—but exploded when people became relegated to working out at home. From a pure workout perspective, both do the same thing in that an instructor pushes you to try and find your limit and push beyond said limit. Both are high end, commercial quality bikes.

Peloton derives from the French word pelote—a ball of thread or material wound together. More colloquially, Peleton is the name given to the main pack trailing the leader in the Tour de France. While SoulCycle is a concubine that makes you feel better about yourself while tuning your body, it also relies on the social bonding one feels from biking in a pack, similar to what Peleton has created. Peloton differs in that it is obviously digital and pushes you by offering an in-class leaderboard to compare your progress to the rest of the world.

SoulCycle pushes you by reminding you of your purity, power, and individualism. 

Final Minute

SoulCycle has recently come under scrutiny for allegedly allowing some of their instructors to engage in sexual impropriety: from sleeping with a number of their instructors to criticizing the appearance of employees. It wouldn’t be fair to apply these incidents, if true, to all of SoulCycle. That said, SoulCycle has gone out of its way to create a culture that’s about more than just cycling—its classes are something of a nebulous spiritual journey that has something to do with a bike and more to do with an instructor you hope will let you be you best friend. It can be a great workout, but like its parent company Equinox, SoulCycle is meant to do more than make your sweat. SoulCycle is meant to make you feel like you belong.

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