SoulCycle's been around for nine years now. It's here to stay. So why do I still want to shake people when they start schilling Soul?
Well, somehow, ever since I graduated from college (2014) and moved back to New York City, it's become my business. It's f—ing everywhere. Shirts, sweatshirts, pants, socks, candles (I'm serious.). My boss is #obsessed.
I've even been invited to SoulCycle birthday parties. How can you consider yourself a good friend if you're asking me — a 23 year-old trying to pay rent in the city — to spend almost $40 on a workout for your birthday? (I offered to cook her dinner instead.)
In this city, a T-shirt with the SoulCycle wheel is a status symbol, a display of wealth masked by this intangible idea of "Soul." At least Chanel's interlocking Cs don't pretend to convey anything but money.
But what irks me most is the cultishness. One woman I know thinks that, because she goes to SoulCycle every day — sometimes twice a day — she is enlightened and the rest of us are just lost souls who haven't yet seen the light.
She somehow manages to weave SoulCycle into every conversation.
"Stacey said I killed it in front of the whole class today!"
She mistakes my blank stare for genuine interest and my silence for an invitation to keep talking.
"I think it would really help you with your stress."
But I needed to follow the rule I always follow when it comes to food: You can't say you don't like something until you try it.
So I'm standing across the street from the Union Square studio, wearing all black so I can slip in with ninja-like discretion.
I dash in and whisper my name to the man at the front desk. He is chipper, and I mean chipper. (Props to him at 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday.) He tells me it's only (!) $20 for the first time.
He makes me sign a waiver (How in the world am I going to hurt myself on a stationary bike? Oh, I will find out later ...) and then shows me down the stairs to the locker room, where a neon sign reads "pack, tribe, crew, posse, cult, gang, community, soul." Hold on a second. I'm just trying to work out — not go "Clear." I don't need to belong somewhere to get my sweat on.
Is it too late to turn back?
Yes — $20 too late. So, I throw my bag in a locker, lace up those smelly shoes, and head back up the stairs.
I ask him to show me how to set up everything, and he tells me I need to wait until they "open the doors." I wish he'd warned me what it would be like when this happens. Stampede doesn't even do it justice. It deserves its own word: a Soulpede. Aren't the bikes pre-assigned? What does this neon blur know that I don't?
My savior from the front desk forges a path for me, shielding my head from the weights being grabbed and waved dangerously close to my head as women race to their bikes. He helps me get onto mine, and clips my shoes into the pedals. The woman to my right shakes her head when I start asking questions: How do you turn up the resistance? How do I stop? What do I do?
Then our instructor Liz comes in hot. She's very petite but muscular, with a shock of bright blonde hair. Her appearance matches her electric energy. She turns up the music and immediately starts dancing. Like, really intense shimmying. And I don't blame her: her music taste is on point. If I were ever to succeed at working out, it would be when Drake was serenading me through it.
"Don't take this too seriously!" she says. "It's just a bike!" But she's surrounded by candles.
Nicki Minaj comes on, and she starts getting really into her dance moves. "Go at your own pace!" she says. "Let's dance!" So I start shimmying back at her, which slows down my pedaling.
The woman to my right rolls her eyes when she notices my pedaling is out of sync with hers. She's wearing a tank that says "Tap It Back." (I still don't get what that means, even after multiple Google searches.)
Liz comes over to me and motions with her hands the pace at which my pedaling should go (so, not my own pace), then cranks up my resistance.
In my own little act of defiance, I turn it an inconsequential amount in the other direction.
Yes, I understand that the point of paying so much for a class is because the instructors motivate you to push yourself. Liz does that. She never scolds anyone, just encourages everyone to pedal together, as if we're a team. I like her.
My issue isn't with her. It's just that my supposed "team" is not really there for me. I don't expect my neighbor to turn to me and applaud my effort at the end, but I didn't think she would straight up ignore me when I asked her how to unclip from the pedals.
When we get to the stretching portion of the class, I'm relieved. I can't mess up anymore (well, except for yanking my shoe off the pedal and landing back on it with my shin). I feel like a kid sitting at a lunch table in the cafeteria where she's clearly not wanted. The dismissal bell couldn't come faster.
Was I sweaty at the end? Drenched. Did I get a good workout? Sort of. I think I was too distracted by the intensity of the place. I was out of breath at some points (to be expected from someone who hardly does cardio), but the so-called push-ups or weight exercises weren't very helpful — they just made me forget to pedal.
But, yeah, it wasn't for me. It's not worth it for me to pay that much money to get my cardio in a room full of people who don't think I'm worthy of their clique. I'd rather have Drake serenade me through my headphones as I run along the East River. Or a hip-hop class that tricks me into doing cardio where you're allowed to laugh at your lack of coordination.
SoulCycle says it's so inclusive, but it seems like its students missed that memo, and its neon "cult" signs definitely don't help. (But hey, genius marketing.)
I want to give props to the people who can feel indifferently about newcomers (i.e. not glaring at them) and just enjoy their class. It takes a certain kind of power — and no, not the kind in your core, glutes, or thighs — to be able to put the blinders on. A power, apparently, I don't have. (What I do have, however, is a seriously sore vagina.)
Photo Credit: Getty Images