Class ReviewsFitness

My (Brutally Honest) Review of SoulCycle

What do you think of when you think of SoulCycle?

Intense, sweaty, fun dancing on bikes? 

That’s part of it…But there’s a lot more to it! SoulCycle surprised me in many ways, good and bad. 

Here’s my full review of the 45-minute class that I took on Saturday:

What’s the setup like?

  • There are two instructors. One of the instructors was off-bike and his job was to explain the choreography and motivate the riders. He was almost like a DJ and basically danced the whole time, which was actually super entertaining. The other “instructor” didn’t say a word, but demonstrated the choreography from a bike on a stage up in front.
  • The bikes are REALLY close together. I’m talking a couple inches apart. I had men on bikes on either side of me and we kept hitting each other in the arms and faces…Cool.
  • Lighting was pretty standard. Most studios keep the lights dimmed during class, and SoulCycle was no different. However, the off-bike DJ instructor would occasionally turn the lights on and off with the music, making it feel a little more like a party.

 

Now, let’s break down the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I’ll start with the GOOD:

  • It smells awesome in the studio! They must clean the bikes with something magical because there’s a grapefruit-like smell that permeates the whole studio. Most gyms don’t smell that good so it was a nice surprise.
  • Friendly and helpful staff. There were literally 6 people behind the front desk to help me sign in when I arrived . They were all very nice and excited for me to try my first class. Once they let the riders into the studio, a few of the staff helped attendees adjust bikes. I loved that they did this because it helped newbies get comfortable and more importantly because proper bike setup is crucial to a safe ride.
  • High energy and a fun atmosphere. The class felt a little like a rave. They played pop and hip-hop music (Rihanna, T-swift, Clean Bandit, etc.), and as I mentioned earlier the instructor would coordinate the lights with the workout. This made for a lively and energetic environment.
  • Motivation all around. This part might change depending on the instructor, but the DJ instructor for the class I attended was a former actor and performer, and it definitely showed. At one point he got into a speech about transcending the bike and everyone started cheering. A few times he even had us high five the people sitting next to us, which was a little difficult given how close together we were sitting but it made for a cool team-like atmosphere.

Now, on to the BAD…

  • Expensive.  A single SoulCycle class will set you back $30-$40. If you need to rent shoes, it’s an extra $3. I’ve noticed a lot of new fitness studios charging a high price per class, but thirty or forty bucks for forty-five minutes seems a little much, which leads me to my next point…
  • Exclusionary. Since the classes are super expensive, you would need a decent paycheck to be able to make SoulCycle a regular part of your day. Not many people have that kind of flexibility in their paycheck, which automatically excludes them. On top of that, it’s pretty tough to reserve bikes for classes because they fill up quickly. You have to be ready to buy a spot as soon as the classes open up, and from what I hear it’s almost impossible to get in the front row for a good instructor, but I guess that’s a testament to their loyal riders.

  • SUPER loud music. You know how when you leave a loud concert and you can’t hear much for awhile? I had that feeling after a SoulCycle class. Loud music doesn’t bother me too much, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Here’s a lawsuit against SoulCycle that might make them want to turn down the volume. In this case, a woman “impaled” her leg on a SoulCycle bike and nobody in class even noticed her screaming because the music was so loud. She needed 50 stitches in her leg, which also became badly infected. Ouch.
  • Not the best workout. SoulCycle is basically a combination of dancing and a lightweight upper body workout on a bike. It’s definitely a fun time, but there could have been a little less dancing and a little more focus on intensity. The “fun” piece of the class definitely distracted from the actual workout, but maybe that’s the point.

And finally, the UGLY…

  • No directions whatsoever. There was zero time spent at the beginning of class to teach newcomers how to use the bike. I’m extra sensitive to this one given I am an instructor myself. I know Soul offers an occasional beginner’s class, but there still should be at least some basic info at the start of class for newbies, and an instructor should always ask if anyone is riding for the first time. If someone comes to a class never having worked out before and they aren’t even told how to use the resistance knob, how to find different positions on the bike, and how to do all the moves that Soul Cycle teaches, then they are NOT going to return. Plus, they’re probably going to feel super insecure about cycling and exercising in general. Full disclosure, I don’t know if this is the case for every class or was just the fault of this instructor.
    • A few Gawker writers gave SoulCycle a try and one of them described how she felt so lost in the class because there was no real instruction: “From start to finish I had no to very little idea what was going on. I wish there had been some kind of prep video I could have watched beforehand. I tried to base my moves on what those around me were doing. BUT I DIDN’T REALLY KNOW WHAT THEY WERE DOING.”
  • Candles? In an 800 square foot room with 60 people? Seems like a fire hazard…
  • Dangerous moves. I get that some of the SoulCycle moves seem fancy and cool, and I’m okay with some of them, but standing out of the saddle doing presses with weights in your hand is a little aggressive and dangerous. You might even notice that some of the moves just don’t feel “right”. They feel like your body is being forced into a position that it shouldn’t be in. Red flag, guys.

The verdict:

Soul Cycle is a lot of fun, but it’s not the best way to get a workout on a bike. I guess if your goal is entertainment, not fitness, then Soul Cycle could be a good choice. Either way, if Soul Cycle is your jam I recommend that you try some other indoor cycling studios so that you can see the differences for yourself.

 

I hope this review is helpful for those considering SoulCycle or for people who already frequent the studio. Shoot me an email (info@katehoerner.com) if you have any questions, and make sure you sign up here to get exclusive insights and tips that I only send to me email list.

 

10 thoughts on “My (Brutally Honest) Review of SoulCycle

  1. Thanks for posting this. A new Soul Cycle opened near me and I was offered a promotional workout, and I had all the same reactions: fire hazards, overpriced, not a good workout. It’s cult-like.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Janet! I can see how people get “hooked” and have fun with it, but it’s definitely not worth all the risks.

  2. I agree with some of the above especially that’s it’s an expensive way to sweat…what wasn’t mentioned here is that soulcycle offers soul 101 classes for beginners. As with any sports activity a beginner should take an intro class first aka the soul 101 before signing to a regular spin class. It’s the same principle as signing up for a 10k marathon when one has never trained for a race before, that just makes the person susceptible to injury irrespective of what sport they choose.

    1. I do agree that all forms of exercise should be started at a beginner level to avoid incorrect form and/or injury, which is why I offer lots of free workouts on my website for beginners to try with no added pressure. However, I didn’t refer to these Soul 101 classes because they weren’t mentioned when I signed up for my first class. I will say, though, that a lot of the moves are unsafe and, frankly, just ineffective for any sort of muscle benefit, regardless of how advanced the cycler is. If Soul Cycle got rid of these moves and injury wasn’t a concern, then I agree with you that a beginner’s class would be the best way to start. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!

  3. I worked fot the company 15 months as a technician. I seen alot of issues that got swept under the rug and out of sight out of mind attitude from managers who were barely out of high school and really dont care about you.
    Thier main goal is money driven and is evident by the locations they choose.
    As for the lighting in some studios believe me you do not want to see the bikes or floors. It would make you leave and get a chemical bath.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Rick! It’s always helpful to hear a little behind-the-scenes detail as well…It is a bummer because SoulCycle could be such a great studio if they focused more on the safety of the riders.

  4. I disagree with most of your “bad” and “ugly” comments but not all of them. I agree it’s expensive but let’s face it, there are all kinds of gyms out there most people could never afford, singling out Soul Cycle for being too expensive seems unfair. There are options as you point out. As for people feeling lost, well I’m a tough it out kind of person and I was just as lost in the beginning and being 62 years old now, 54 when I started, it was tough and I still cannot do some of the fast jogs to the music but hey, it’s a goal, it’s a pack, you push yourself to keep up but no one chastises you for not being able to do the routine. I am up to 99 percent and the feeling of conquering it is indescribable. Besides, my instructors always comfort newcomers and all those to just do what you can do. I believe pushing yourself is what it’s all about. The music and motivation part is what hooked me and in all my years of working out, never ever did I sweat like a soul cycle sweat. I finally got to feel what others always say they feel. Is it exclusive, absolutely. What isn’t today in this world, there are many affordable classes out there, it’s never been for everyone and it’s not like it’s the only indoor cycling studio. I love the cleanliness, the atmosphere and I limit myself to what I can afford. I cycle outside as well. I’d argue that one class doesn’t make the experience because I’ve come to know which instructors I prefer and which use music I don’t enjoy and routines I don’t like either. As for the weights on the bike. Hey I won’t stand if I can’t, I turn up the tension when I want and it stabilizes me on the bike while I lift. I’m also a kayaker so for Winter this routine keeps my upper body working. Yes, I’m addicted. I’ve taken hundreds of classes and when I get off that bike and look at all the 20 somethings I just kept up with and even creamed, I am supercharged.

    1. Hey Edith- Thanks so much for commenting! I agree with you, most boutique fitness studios are expensive, but Soul Cycle is by far the highest I’ve seen in my area so it was worth mentioning. That’s amazing that you stuck with it and love it now! I’ve actually tried multiple classes at this point because I agree that one is not enough to really see what it’s like (different instructors, different music, etc), but not a lot of people would feel comfortable going back like we did if their first time didn’t feel right. But some people stick with it like you and absolutely love it, so I’m glad you feel that way! Thanks again for sharing 🙂

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