I finally did it. I finally went to a SoulCycle class!
I really wanted to see what all the hype was about and find out for myself whether SoulCycle is worth the (in my opinion) exorbitant amount they charge for a class. For a number of reasons, SoulCycle is one of the most controversial fitness classes available. From the cost to the atmosphere to the movements done on the bike, this indoor cycling class was the first of its kind and has become one of the most popular classes ever.
I think fitness instructors have a unique perspective on fitness classes. So, I was looking forward to reviewing SoulCycle as someone who both takes and teaches classes regularly. If you’re interested in my thoughts about the SoulCycle experience, keep reading!
For first time riders in NYC, the class is $25. For everyone else, classes are $36 a pop. There’s no unlimited monthly option, but riders can purchase class packs which slightly discount the cost. The most “cost-effective” option is purchasing 30 classes at once for $900, bringing the cost down to $30 a class. They also offer a more expensive option called Super Soul, which allows you to reserve classes ahead of sign-up time, includes full concierge service, and gets you priority on waitlists. The Super Soul package is $3,500 for 50 classes, bringing your cost up to $70 per class.
Being a fitness instructor, I haven’t paid to work out in a long time. I’m also generally frugal and never saw myself paying anywhere close to SoulCycle prices for a class. $36 for one 45-minute class seems insane to me - a piece of me died just paying the $25 as a first time rider! But people do pay it, and they pay it often. There are people who live and breathe SoulCycle, paying to take classes multiple times a week - some almost daily! I wanted to find out what the big deal is, which is why I forked over the money.
I normally elect not to give my business to companies who charge seemingly ridiculous prices like this. However, there’s one thing about SoulCycle that caused me to make an exception. SoulCycle instructors are paid a living wage and receive benefits. While the cost of a class makes me cringe, I appreciate that instructors can earn a salary and have sick time/PTO. The life of a full time fitness instructor can be a struggle. I’m glad that I have a full-time day job that pays me well, but I can’t imagine trying to make it as a full time instructor. Instructors tend to be underpaid and overworked in many cases. But SoulCycle definitely got this right. The instructor hiring process is also incredibly selective, and instructors undergo an intense training program before they can begin teaching. From what I’ve seen, SoulCycle instructors seem generally happy doing what they do. Kudos to SoulCycle for recognizing the worth of instructors!
PS: This review was written prior to the recent controversy surrounding a SoulCycle investor/owner hosting a campaign fundraiser for Donald Trump. Please note that while the review is being posted in the midst of the controversy, the class was taken (and review written) several days beforehand. By posting this review, I am not expressing any particular opinion regarding the controversy - this review is strictly about the class I took last week. Now, back to the fun stuff!
Booking a bike.
Bikes for the upcoming week are open for booking at noon every Monday. SoulCycle classes are known to book up very quickly. So, I was stalking the site 10 minutes before in preparation! At 12:00 on the dot, I booked the bike I wanted and saw that many of the bikes had already been booked by 12:01! I can’t imagine the stress of being a regular and having to do this every week.
After booking and receiving confirmation, I checked out some of the content they had on their website for first-timers. If you’ve taken an indoor cycling class before, there probably isn’t much there that you haven’t seen before. Keep in mind that cycling shoes are required for all bikes! SoulCycle studios have them available for rent or purchase.
My class was at the East 83rd Street location in NYC. When I walked in, I was a little overwhelmed by how hectic it was! There were a lot of people leaving from the previous class or signing in for this one. The desk employees were very friendly, though. We got complimentary water and shoe rentals since it was our first time. I was expecting to have to pay for those, so this was a nice surprise! The studio is small and really nicely decorated. Of course, there’s plenty of SoulCycle gear for sale. There are complimentary lockers where you can store your belongings using a passcode you create.
This location has two studios. We were in Studio B, which I believe is the smaller one. Because I was expecting the room to be huge, I was surprised to find how small it was. It was comparable to the other cycling classes I had tried in the past.
After class, I hit the locker room and shower area just to see what it was like. It was probably the nicest locker room I’ve been in. They also had lots of high-end toiletries. Plus, if you forget essentials like a blow dryer attachment, a hair tie, hair spray, or q-tips, they’ve got you covered. The studio altogether was really nice.
I took a 10:00 AM class with Maya, who was great. Her energy was very positive and she was super welcoming. I also loved her playlist! I can tell she’s been teaching for a long time by how well she handled a participant with a medical issue. Towards the end of the class, a man actually had to be walked out by several people because he was feeling faint. As with most indoor cycling classes, you do sweat a lot and often become very tired. Maya saw him having trouble standing and ran to grab help. We found out later that the man was okay, but it was great to see how well Maya and the SoulCycle team dealt with the emergency situation. Maya, like a true professional, was able to hop right back into the teaching the class after we had been stopped for a minute or two due to what happened.
This was a traditional 45-minute SoulCycle class; it had most of the same things you’d expect from any reputable indoor cycling class. Tapbacks, lots of standing, and mix of intervals. One thing that differentiates SoulCycle from other cycling classes is that they incorporate dancing on the bike. They worked in things like body rolls and clapping, which I found really fun.
SoulCycle is the third indoor cycling studio I’ve tried, and they’re the only one I’ve seen do “push-ups” on the bike. I expected this from reading other reviews, but doing it felt even weirder than I had anticipated. When we did fast push-up pulses, the fitness instructor in me wanted to scream. Moves like push-ups while on the bike, especially fast ones, are contraindicated and not very beneficial. They’re actually downright dangerous, and I wish SoulCycle would do away with them. It would be so easy for someone to hit their face on the handlebars, especially considering how sweaty and fatigued people can get during class. Your feet are also still moving and that just adds to the danger. Plus, these really aren’t doing much for your arms. It’s simply added movement. It’s totally unnecessary. There’s an arm section of class that uses light weights safely. I really wish they’d stop using moves like push-ups on the bike!
I liked that the room was dark and lit with candles. And I don’t mind the music being loud. My only issue is that in studios like SoulCycle, I find it impossible to hear what the instructor is saying. I don’t know if the mic is always too close to their mouths, but it sounds so muffled that I only catch about 30% of what they’re saying. I was expecting to hear really motivational and encouraging words from the instructor (SoulCycle is known for this). This may have been happening but I couldn’t hear it. I’ve had this issue at another studio that’s close to me. So, it’s not just a SoulCycle thing. But I’ve also been to studios where I can hear the instructor.
All in all, I got a great workout at SoulCycle. I was dripping with sweat and my legs got a good burn. Plus, some of the dance moves were really fun and the music was great. I get free classes at a local spin studio thanks to a partnership with one of the gyms where I teach. It’s very similar to SoulCycle; the room is dark and the instructor has different lighting settings to play with (one being glow in the dark, which is very cool!). Classes are 50 minutes instead of 45. And thus far, I haven’t noticed anyone doing push-ups on the bike. The movements are a little less dancey and classes here are significantly cheaper than at SoulCycle. To be honest, I enjoy those classes a little more than the class I took at SoulCycle.
I can see why people love SoulCycle. Some people call it a cult, but I get the sense that it just gives participants a really strong sense of community. The instructors are well-vetted and the experience from start to finish feels very luxe. However, the class itself didn’t wow me. In fact, I prefer the classes at my local studio that’s cheaper and offers an unlimited monthly option. I can see why people who have the money might want to splurge on SoulCycle. But I do get the sense that when you’re paying for SoulCycle, you’re paying extra for the brand name. Their brand identity is very strong, and it seems like attending SoulCycle classes is the “in” thing to do. There are other studios in NYC that are cheaper and probably similar in the quality of class they provide. Paying the premium for SoulCycle is the route a lot of people choose to take, though. Personally, I care more about the class itself; I’m not interested in paying more for the name or the glowing signs in the studio. At $36 a class and with no unlimited monthly option, it’s just not worth it for me.
I would encourage anyone who wants to try SoulCycle to test it out. But also try out other spin studios near you to see which one you like best. If money is no option for you, SoulCycle may be worth it. But you may find that another studio in your area actually fits your needs more. If you like dancey spin classes and like to be at the most popular class in town, you’ll probably love SoulCycle. If you’re looking for a more traditional spin experience, you may find a better option for you elsewhere.
PS: SoulCycle, if you’re reading this, PLEASE do away with the push-ups on the bike. It’s not effective, but more importantly, it’s not safe. Safe dance moves are fine, but dangerously thrusting your face down towards the handlebars are not.
Thanks so much for reading, and let me know if you have any other classes you’d like me to review! I’ve been thinking about trying [solidcore] or Barry’s Bootcamp and letting you know my thoughts. What are your favorite workout classes, and which ones have you been dying to try?
Check out my workouts from last week below:
Dominique Cheylise, 25 year-old engineer and group fitness instructor.