On a brisk Sunday morning in February, a few members of our Seattle magazine team hopped over to Bellevue and bravely donned spandex in front of each other to see for ourselves what SoulCycle—the first Northwest outpost of the popular, celeb-favorite New York City-based indoor cycling studio—was all about.
The first thing it’s about? Crowds! The bright lobby was bustling for the Sunday 9:30 a.m. class with a good mix of both men and women stashing their stuff in the hallway lockers before waiting in line for class. We grabbed a pair of clip-into-the-pedal shoes, provided by the studio, and clicked our way to our assigned bikes, adjusting the seat height with assistance. With feet locked in, the lights went down to darkness—thank goodness—and off we pedaled for our one-hour SoulSurvivor class.
Our instructor was Evan Arbour—part spin master, part motivational guru. His jamming playlist (each instructor creates their own) was simultaneously both incredibly loud and mind-clearing. The enveloping thump set the stage for what was to come: synching rhythm with the music and with each other.
“SoulCycle revolutionized indoor cycling and made it a full body and mind workout. It is designed to make fitness joyful,” says SoulCycle’s senior vice president of brand strategy, Gabby Etrog Cohen. “By combining physical strength, mental health and spiritual well-being, riders push themselves to new levels—and they have fun while doing it.” With choreography that includes stand-up and seated pedaling while using hand weights, everything gets worked from head-to-toe. Synchrony with the other riders in the class is paramount to SoulCycle.
“You're never doing it alone in that room,” says Arbour. “We do every step together and support each other when it gets hard and celebrate each other's victories. I think most people are afraid of judgement, especially when it comes to fitness because we are unsure how we will be perceived by other, more experienced individuals. We all come together at SoulCycle and get stronger together; it's a team sport.”
Indeed, when one dipped forward, we all dipped forward. Sure, I managed to nearly fall off a couple of times (thankfully, the others didn't follow), but you get the picture; in this day-and-age of connection through social media likes and anonymous comments, it’s nice to have a shared experience.
A 60-minute ride, plus cool down with yoga-like poses and five pounds of perspiration later, we emerged back into the light with a group that felt positive and accomplished. The next day I was the only one sore (that’s what happens when the instructor sets the resistance on your bike instead of you setting it yourself), but it made sense to us all why SoulCycle is "a thing": it’s a good workout, it has a sense of community, and it’s fun. No two rides are the same and the fitness franchise keeps it interesting with theme rides like “Florence and the Machine vs. Beyonce.”
Though there’s an emphasis on SoulCycle being for everyone, at $28 a class plus $3 shoe rental, the idea of “everyone” is a bit of a stretch, especially as there are no monthly memberships available. Although there are packages at a slight discount, a sense of belonging, it would seem, does not come cheap. On the plus side, there’s ample parking at Bellevue Collection and the immediate shopping and dining possibilities are endless for your pre- or post-ride. (I, for one, treated myself to a few Uniqlo sweaters after surviving SoulSurvivor.)
One last tip? Don’t forget your locker number.
Here's what other Seattle magazine SoulCycle guinea pigs had to say:
I feel like I have tried every workout the fitness industry manages to come up with—and SoulCycle is among the top ten. Combining cardio with strengthening elements and camaraderie with isolated work, it’s a great option for any fitness level as you can push yourself as hard as you’d like. Days when pasta, wine and Netflix sound like a better option, you can cruise a bit. Other days you can stumble out drenched in sweat knowing you left it all in the studio. Ultimately the workout you get is up to you, but your instructor and fellow riders will always be there motivating you to reach the next level. - Amanda Hill, Art Director
I have been reading about SoulCycle on blogs, in magazines—generally seeing it referenced as THE culty celeb exercise class of the moment in NY and LA. I have never taken a spin class, because every time I get on a stationary bike I just want to gouge my eyes out from boredom. But, judging from the media coverage, I figured there was much more to this than your average spin class. And there was. It was loud, intense and then suddenly all Namaste. The bikes are packed together in the room very close to each other and the intent is for everyone to be moving together at the same time, pedaling together, leaning together in the same direction. There's lots of standing while pedaling, doing a sort of pushup while pedaling, moving side to side while pedaling, and there's some portions where you sit and do arm exercises with weights—it is not for the faint of heart. It was like an aerobics class on a bike, but it seems to be as much about the communal experience of everyone doing the same, intense thing at the same time as it is about sweating buckets (which we did).
The room is dark, save for the instructor's station which is well lit, which helps when you have those moments when you just want to cry in the corner (just saying). The music is LOUD (they offer earplugs at the front desk—use them)! I could not keep up with the instructor's insanely fast paced pedaling, but I didn’t completely melt the way I thought I would (no doubt thanks to all the Barre 3 I've been doing). At $28 a pop, I am not sure I see it regularly working into my day-to-day routine, but I can see how it could become addicting. And if the huge, kinetic group of people crammed into the small waiting/locker area before class (and the group waiting to get in after our class) is any indication, there are plenty of people who will. - Rachel Hart, Editorial director
As a gal who eats for a living, I really need to be exercising more than I seem to find time for in my schedule. I can't be trusted to work out on my own, so I have to rely on group classes—even better when coupled with the accountability of going with a friend. SoulCycle was high-energy and fun, and I get why people buy into the culture and built-in community of places like this. - Chelsea Lin, Food Editor