SoulCycle: A Review

So there's this new phenomenon rocking the world lately – maybe you've heard of it. That's right: SoulCycle! You've probably seen some trendy influencers raving about it, or maybe your friends are into it, or maybe you heard about it from the unofficial SoulCycle rep herself, Emma Chamberlain. Either way, it's hard to deny that it's been all the rage lately, and arguably they started or helped to start the recent trend that is cycling classes. If you've been curious about SoulCycle but aren't sure quite what to expect, you're not alone – and lucky for you, I took a class so you don't have to!

Now, there's a lot of ways I could describe the experience I had my first time at SoulCycle. Good workout? Yes. High energy? Sure. Worth the $25 first-class discount plus the $3 shoe rental? Eh.... But instead, I'm going to share how I felt in those first few minutes of class when the social anxiety had cleared and the adrenaline was high: SoulCycle is like being in a loud, dark nightclub surrounded by SWEATY (like, the guy next to you will be dripping on you, sweaty) people who are three inches away from you and don't particularly seem to understand the concept of rhythm. That's harsh – I know. Allow me to justify by sharing more of my experience below, and by all means, I do not discourage anyone from trying it themselves to see if you have a different experience than me – after all, I seem to be in the minority.

When I decided to take my first SoulCycle class, I did a Google search to find one near my house and looked up times, cost and background info. I found an 8:30 a.m. class the next day with openings and a first-time rider coupon ($25 for your first class, normally $35 – yikes) and off I went. I appreciated that I got to pick my seat in advance, so I could choose one in the back corner where A) no one could see me and B) I could watch other students if I didn't know what to do (spoiler: I didn't). I followed the instructions that said to show up 15 minutes early and let the front desk know it was my first time, which I did and was pleasantly greeted, shown how to sign in, given a pair of shoes (free with your first ride) and escorted to a locker that had a sign with my name on it (which they do for all new students). So far, so good! Everyone was super friendly – there's a certain level of passion you have to have for exercise to actually teach it, and these employees were no exception. They were warm, helpful and gorgeous – apparently cycling every day gets RESULTS.

After awkwardly waiting the ten minutes until class, I ventured into the classroom... which was dark, quiet and had like 50 bikes stuffed in it in kind of a U-shape around a small stage. I walked around blindly (aka without my glasses) for a few minutes trying to find my bike, but got disoriented and eventually asked a team member where bike 47 was. He helpfully led me to it and asked if I knew how to set up my bike, which I did not, and he helped me get everything into place and explained how to add and remove resistance using the little knob. 

Literally the second I sat down my butt started hurting. I'm not sure if the seats are designed to be really hard and uncomfortable on purpose, and I'm sure my total lack of muscle and strength was a contributing factor, but I braced myself for a long, painful 45 minutes. A few minutes later, the instructor came in and began yelling motivational things very loudly into her microphone, turned off the lights and shut the door (literally, it's almost pitch black) and starting blaring club music. Let me tell you – instant anxiety. She got on her bike and I did my best to follow her instructions but had pretty much no clue what she was saying – there was a lot of leaning forward, left and right, and moving your hands to different positions, and sitting and standing and sitting and standing and sitting and standing.... It was pretty overwhelming. I imagine, like with anything, there's a bit of a learning curve and after a few classes I would have started to get the hang of it, but on Day 1 with no instructions, it was intimidating. I finally took a step back (not literally, the nice man had clipped me into the bike and I had no idea how to get back out) and decided OK, I can pedal to the beat, and I can stand when she says stand and sit when she says sit. I tried focusing on that for a while and it got much better; I was less stressed out about doing the right things as she was yelling them at me and more focused on just riding. This was a good realization to come to, but it would have been nice if the instructor pointed out something to the effect of "don't worry if you can't do everything right away" or "if you don't know how to do this or can't do this yet, try this way" – especially since she knew there were two new students in the room and called us out by name at the beginning. 

This went on for a while, occasionally changing music (always loud, always clubby) and with the instructor sometimes riding and sometimes walking around spouting motivation. A little over halfway through the class we stopped pedaling and did an arm workout with 2 lb weights – not something I expected (or wanted in the moment)  but was actually really nice in that I left feeling like I really had a full-body workout. I thought we'd be done after the weights, but no – now that I was cooled all the way down we did more pedaling, which seemed to be like an "until failure" type of exercise to push ourselves at the end. There was no real cooldown – the instructor said "thank you and goodbye to those who aren't staying for stretches, those who are saying let's get stretching" and I was frantically trying to free my feet from their locked in position in the pedals because no thank you, I did not want to stay for more workout after my workout, thank you. I almost got stuck stretching for who knows how long because I literally could not release my feet – but alas, I got free and almost broke my ankle in the process, and basically ran across the room to the door and left without looking back.

Overall, I would say I had a 5/10 experience – positives being kind, helpful staff, a pretty decent workout and the structure (rather than me just wandering around the gym for an hour not knowing what to do), and negatives being loud, stressful music, bad instructor communication, gross sweaty people two inches from me and PRICE. Price is the biggest barrier that will stop me from coming back – I get that I live in San Francisco, the second most expensive city in the country, but $35 per class is just not practical for someone in my current life stage. I would be willing to go back and give it another go were it not for that major barrier; besides that, I just didn't like feeling like I was working out in a nightclub, but that might totally be someone else's jam and I'm really not trying to yuck anyone's yum. So, all that said, would I recommend SoulCycle? Sure, maybe to try once. But am I a part of the cult following and will I be going back? No, ma'am. 

Gifs Courtesy of Giphy