It’s A New Year! Should You SoulCycle?

that’s some good branding right there

The New York Times ran an interesting history of gyms in general and upscale fancy gyms in particular, and, of course, it gave a nod to one of the latest, most successful fads in turn-your-wallet-upside-down-and-shake-it fitness, SoulCycle.

Soul Cycle, like certain iterations of yoga, has been such a success in the current moment in part because it makes submission to a luxury-brand experience feel like spiritual enrichment. On some level it aims to alleviate your guilt. The $34 you are spending on 45 minutes of stationary biking is going to improve you as a person, and the world, in turn, will be a better place for all of your growth.

I’ve never thought deeply about SoulCycle, since 1) I’m cheap, and 2) I don’t even like biking out in the open, so the idea of biking in a closed room full of grimly determined competitive types seems like the worst kind of punishment. But it’s a new year, and maybe some of you are considering putting yourselves through these particular paces! So let’s investigate.

Just how expensive is SoulCycle? In 2013, when what had been a steadily growing chain since 2006 broke like the dawn across this great land, it was $32 for a 45 minute session, plus the cost of shoe rentals ($3) and Smart Water ($2):

SoulCycle, the indoor-cycling company-cum-fitness-phenomenon that’s been called an “obsession,” a “cult,” and — by those who clamor to pay $32 (plus extra for shoe rental and water) for classes that sell out within seconds — an “addiction.” Strong words to describe a 45-minute group exercise class, but the SoulCycle experience is meant to truly be an “experience”: part dance party, part therapy, part communal high. The studios are dark and steamy, the music is blaring and highly curated, and riders are encouraged to pedal on the beat and follow along to choreography while instructors offer yogic inspiration (“I want the next breath to be an exorcism”; “Namaste, little badasses”) and self-help maxims (“Be honest about who you are trying to be”).

In 2015, the price had only increased by a couple of dollars a session, but that, in combination with the price of mandatory shoe rentals and bottled water, was enough to help sour one Business Insider writer on the whole endeavor.

She has other recommendations:

It’s a no-brainer that SoulCycle is a very easy way to throw your money into the wind, but the cost is even harder to take when you realize other cycling studios offer memberships — or participate in ClassPass, a hot startup that despite its demerits, allows fitness enthusiasts to sample many boutique fitness studios for what was a cool $99 a month (it’s now $125 a month in New York, after a recent price hike).

SoulCycle’s top competitor, FlyWheel, offers memberships at specific studios in New York City for $375 a month. That is expensive, but classes are unlimited; it’s a deal if you go every single day. In other cities, FlyWheel memberships are even cheaper. SoulCycle offers no such options. Classes are available to purchase as singles or by the package, which reduces the price tag per class only slightly. A SuperSoul package exists for $3,500; it’s 50 classes, and it goes so far to hike up the prices to 70 classes, with the “benefit” of securing the ability to register for coveted classes earlier and a concierge service.

$375 a month sounds like a terrible deal to me, personally, but then, so does a regular old spin class at the Y.

The Times also includes another new option I’d never even heard of called Orangetheory, which can run as cheap as $13 a class in places that are not New York: “If Soul Cycle is the preferred workout of well-off mothers with time on their hands, Orangetheory is the workout of strivers. It was not conceived as an elitist enterprise.”

What a refreshing change.

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