SoulCycle. It’s a workout, a lifestyle, a brand, and a mental state. #Ad

Just kidding. But seriously, this class is a workout, a stress reliever, and a pep talk all in one. I’m not even a huge fan of spin classes, and I love it here.

The Studio

I’ve taken classes at the SoulCycle studios in West Village, 19th Street, and NoMad. West Village and 19th Street are definitely the nicest locations, as they also hold some of SoulCycle’s corporate offices. These locations have multiple studios, too, which is both great for peak class times yet confusing when I walk into an empty room five minutes before class, unaware the class is downstairs.

Anyway, I digress. All SoulCycle locations have a colorful white and yellow theme, a boutique, and locker rooms stocked with towels and shower products. All I’m saying is that if you go every day and use their Keihl’s lotion and disposable razors, you might just find the $35/class price tag justified.

Also, let’s talk about the NEW BIKES. NYC studios have recently updated their bikes to a new model with a smoother ride, similar to those at Peloton. The only catch is that the resistance knob is much more sensitive, so when you previously needed to add two turns, now you’ll add ~200 turns. It’s an adjustment, but the smooth ride is worth it.

The Instructors

Soul is known for hiring top-notch talent–not only should teachers instruct a fitness class, they should perform, keep the energy up, and lead the “pack.” Instructors often have a theater background and can really work a crowd. I’ve taken a practice class with Valentina, as well as classes with Jera (of insta fit-fame, @jera.bean) and Mantas (of SurfYogaBeer fame). All of the instructors were excellent. They played killer soundtracks (a selling point of Soul), motivated the class through ebbs and flows, and overall just created a positive yet challenging atmosphere. I specifically remember going to Mantas’ class in a terrible mood and leaving class feeling like a new person. *sips Kool-Aid*

The Class

SoulCycle is known as a “party on a bike” – you ride to the beat (sometimes in the saddle at a quick pace, sometimes up a “hill” at half time, and sometimes out of the saddle) and also incorporate choreography (jumps out of the saddle, arm presses, etc.). It can feel confusing to pedal AND add in choreography at the same time at first. Since I’m relatively new, sometimes I had to leave the arm work out in order to stay on the beat. But, it gets easier. When you finally nail the jumps (I say “you” literally because y’all know I don’t have those down yet) or the arm presses/taps, you feel energized and alive, man! (I’ll chill, sorry).

Anyway, class warms up into a mix of heavier songs out of the saddle and faster songs in the saddle. About 3/4 of the way through, you’ll stop pedaling and move onto arm work using light weights located in a caddy on your bike. Class finishes off with a couple more cardio songs, then you stretch and carry on with your day feeling like a new person.

Obviously, I’m super into this class–I love the choreography-based approach, the manageable but challenging 45 minute classes, and the inspirational instructors. That said, there are a few downsides to this studio. Unlike at Flywheel, shoe rental and water bottles are not included (though you can buy them there). Showers are in short supply, so  if you’re in a rush to get to work after class, you may want to skip the stretch and get in line. Lastly, if you’re into metrics, you’re out of luck here–there’s no measurement of how far/fast/hard you’re pedaling. This can be nice because you can just zone out and focus on how you feel, but it also might be a detractor for more competitive riders who want to track their progress.

The Vibe

Despite the $35 price tag and cult following, the crowd at SoulCycle wasn’t as pretentious as I’d expected. Granted, I went at an off peak time, and then to a guest ride and a community ride, but even given others in the studio, there’s a good mix of people. Most of the riders I saw were in their 20s or 30s, and they looked like a mix of regulars and newbies. Of course, if you go during peak times and follow top instructors (ahem, #AkinsArmy), you’ll see the die hard yuppies who book their front-and-center bikes every week and will need to channel their chakras if they don’t get their coveted spot. But, overall, if you’re paying for a bike and chat with an instructor before or after class, you’ll likely be welcome. For newbies who are scared of the die-hards, try an off-peak time (i.e., weekend late afternoon) or an instructor with less of a cult following (the instructors are all great!).

The Damage

Here’s the bad news. As noted, rides are pricy – $35 each for a 45 min ride. That’s almost a dollar a minute. UGH, NYC fitness, why are you the worst!?

On top of that, you also have to pay $3 for shoes every time you ride, unless you own your own pair of cycling shoes. Classes also never go on sale, to my knowledge, so it’s definitely an expensive habit. Keep an eye out for community rides, though–the studios offer free rides for trainees’ practice classes. You need to book them RIGHT when classes open, though, as they fill up instantly, and they’re typically at off peak times (2pm on a weekday, not the most convenient). That said, classes are definitely a fun splurge and a fun friend-date alternative to brunch or a night out!