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This isn’t spinning, it’s a way of life
January 25, 2013 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Recently, in a candlelit room in Tribeca, a 24-year-old named Zack made a confession. “I’m very open about this, but I’ve been in recovery for the past two years,” he said from a podium, facing a room of two dozen people who looked up at him with approval, acceptance, and even a generosity of spirit. He wore a trucker’s hat over curly blond hair and explained that he was from Florida, an actor and hip-hop dancer (“Woo hoo!” “All right!”). Then he kicked on the music and began pedaling his bike. Inside The Carefully Cultivated Soul of SoulCycle

Vanity Fair on the Celebrity Cult of Soul Cycle
Nightline Uses the Word Badonkadonk
Slide show of the Experience
Lena Dunham Has Her 26th Birthday At A Soulcycle
posted by Potomac Avenue (59 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
A gym that is also a cult?
posted by b1tr0t at 2:43 PM on January 25, 2013


Cycling is also fun when it takes place outdoors.
posted by entropone at 2:46 PM on January 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


Man, I'm glad I live near a bunch of bike trails.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:48 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of these opened up in town. Glad to know it sounds just as wanky and pretentious as it looks. I mean, Jesus, people, Santa Monica has miles of bike paths! On the beach! With sun! And air!
posted by RakDaddy at 2:49 PM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there a gym that isn't a cult?
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:52 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


A gym that is also a cult?

Sorry, CrossFit already has my gym-cult needs covered.
posted by The Tensor at 2:52 PM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Only one letter away from Soupcycle...and yet the distance between them? Worlds.
posted by redsparkler at 2:53 PM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, while it might be cherrypicked, this quote is creepy as hell:

“I hope you have a good middle name, Janet,” said master trainer Janet Fitzgerald. “There’s only one Janet.”

“I do. It’s Suzanne.”

“Good job, Suzanne!”

posted by Burhanistan at 3:02 PM on January 25, 2013 [21 favorites]


You know, I'm generally not interested in what 24-year old actor/dancers named Zack with blonde curly hair have to say. But it exposes my shallow nature how disappointed I was that there wasn't a picture anyway.

I used to be a huge fan of spin classes. I guess I still am, I suppose. They were how I managed to train for the Minneapolis to Chicago AIDS Ride in 3 months when I didn't have a bike previous to signing up, and though I think they don't replace actual riding, I think done the right way they can be great for training. But this is just weird.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:06 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sigh, it's sad that I 'm become so slacken in my duties that I'm now considering paying someone to yell me better.
posted by The Whelk at 3:08 PM on January 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


This could get so kinky so quickly.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:08 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


gotta say i have zero problem with this and would probably go if there were one by me. spinning's awesome, as are over-sharers. i don't see a downside.
posted by facetious at 3:11 PM on January 25, 2013


STOP LIKING WHAT I DON'T LIKE
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:18 PM on January 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


You know when my gym had those stupid video games attached to cycles where you bike around collecting power ups I found I coud spend two sweaty, panting hours on those things because I LIKE WINNING VIDEO GAMES. Anything that adds a layer of abstraction or fun over " pick up the heavy thing and then put it down, forever." is totally fine in my book.
posted by The Whelk at 3:21 PM on January 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


I have an acquaintance who moved last year from KY to NY to work for soulcycle. After a few months, he got sent to LA to open up new locations. He is, in my estimation, a tool. Soulcycle is, in my estimation, a place for tools to yell silly slogans and maxims at people from the seat of a stationary bike as, meanwhile, the beautiful outdoors chugs along just fine with its fresh air and bike paths.
posted by broadway bill at 3:23 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna go ride my bicycle somewhere and make unhealthy life choices now.
posted by brennen at 3:24 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wish you had used “Namaste, little badasses” as the title.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:30 PM on January 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


So basically - Bikram with bikes?
posted by koeselitz at 3:30 PM on January 25, 2013


Soulcycle is, in my estimation, a place for tools to yell silly slogans and maxims at people from the seat of a stationary bike as, meanwhile, the beautiful outdoors chugs along just fine with its fresh air and bike paths.

At this moment, outside my local Soulcycle, the beautiful outdoors is chugging along just fine at approximately -4 degrees. Just sayin'.
posted by The Bellman at 3:30 PM on January 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


They lost me at "...pert little baby bump...." , too bad that was at the end of the article...
posted by HuronBob at 3:34 PM on January 25, 2013


Cycling is also fun when it takes place outdoors.

He's a witch! Burn him!
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:38 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


HuronBob: "They lost me at "...pert little baby bump...." , too bad that was at the end of the article..."

soon there will be plastic surgery to enhance your pregnant abdomen.
posted by boo_radley at 3:41 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Once upon a time I used to be a Spinning instructor (by the way, MCMikeNamara, I did the Minneapolis to Chicago AIDS ride having trained almost entirely indoors).

This element to Spinning/indoor cycling has always been present. The people at Soulcycle, in my opinion, isolated that element, refined it, and initially marketed it in a place teeming with fitness-obsessed people looking for something new and trendy that they can imbew with a sense of higher meaning or purpose (yes, that's a backhand to NYC, a place I do truly still love).

When I taught in Chicago, there were instructors with cult-like following, who had a combination of charisma, style, good taste in music, and the ability to inspire. But this isn't limited to spinning by any stretch. Soulcycle is just the perfect overlap of those things with an intense physical activity.

While it wouldn't be my cup of tea, I think it's great that people are willing to pay $34/class for what's being peddled here (pun intended). It's clean and harmless for the most part and while it's not true cycling, it ain't hurting anyone. If it makes people feel good about themselves, all the better.
posted by scblackman at 3:42 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some of us live where rednecks throw beer cans at you and where cars don't know how to share the road and there are no bike paths. I used to go to spin classes all the time and was fairly fit and now I am fat and NOT.

There you are.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:42 PM on January 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


Now that I've actually read the link, I think my old spin instructor would have fit right in, albeit a bit more quietly.

The originator of indoor cycling was really into the woo, if I recall correctly, and there is a certain amount of woo in many of these type classes. Because there really is something meditative and deep about being on the bike. I used to be able to have decent prayer times in class (silently of course.) That and do a lot of intense thinking. Of course it helped that the classes I picked had an instructor conducive to that. I disliked the ones that taught more traditionally "fitness instructor-" like.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:50 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I bike a lot but its cold in the winter and I try not to sweat too much. Spinning really is a different thing for me because of that.
posted by fshgrl at 3:50 PM on January 25, 2013


Dudes, spin classes =! this shit.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:51 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would not pay $34 a class though. That shit is bananas.
posted by fshgrl at 3:51 PM on January 25, 2013


> Cycling is also fun when it takes place outdoors.

It certainly is, but it's also actually difficult to find enough open road to safely ride on at speed, especially when you really start riding hard. (I'm not defending this SoulCycle nonsense, just indoor bike training.)

I'd love to have an indoor trainer/stand for my bike. It' frickin' cold and wet outside and even on the best of Seattle's bike trails and in the best of weather I can't just start cranking as hard as I could or want to without going way, way too fast for the bike trails and traffic.

If I was riding outdoors as hard as I really needed to ride to lose weight and actually work on my cardio I'd be averaging about 20-25 MPH or more, and for sustained periods of time, say an hour or three a day or every couple of days.

20-25 MPH is not really sustainable on any of Seattle's bike trails or roads, not without extreme risk of collision with cars, pedestrians or other cyclists. Then there's terrain and turns and traffic control issues. There's people walking their dogs on long leashes all over the trails. Kids on pushbikes. People walking and suddenly stopping or changing directions.

On a trainer I could just put on some headphones, close my eyes or even watch a movie and just start cranking away without having to navigate or watch for traffic or terrain. I wouldn't have to worry about cars, or falling over, or crashing. If I blow a tire it's not going to result in a crash. And I could "ride" 200 miles in no direction at all and not worry about having to get my ass home while exhausted.

Anyway, basically any serious racing or touring cyclist trains indoors for a reason. Because you don't run out of road and you don't have to think. You just grind away.
posted by loquacious at 3:54 PM on January 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


The originator of indoor cycling was really into the woo, if I recall correctly

That'd be Johnny G., and was he ever.

I didn't know that he started a new "platform" based on a hand cranked bicycle. Something tells me that this one isn't going to be nearly the success or nearly as amenable to the Soulcycle treatment.
posted by scblackman at 3:54 PM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


St. Alia of the Bunnies: "The originator of indoor cycling was really into the woo, if I recall correctly, and there is a certain amount of woo in many of these type classes. Because there really is something meditative and deep about being on the bike. I used to be able to have decent prayer times in class (silently of course.) That and do a lot of intense thinking.

This is what I love about swimming: it's like that, only even more so. Complete isolation chamber: you don't hear anyone, people can't interact with you at all, and you don't even feel yourself sweat. Just a pleasant, just-warm-enough liquid suspending you in oblivion. You can even close your eyes for good chunks of time if you want and complete the isolation. There's so much room for contemplation there.

But it's not really possible to listen to anyone shouting inspirational mantras and catchy self-help slogans while you're swimming, so nobody has really given swimming the SoulCycle treatment yet. Although I'm sure someone will try at some point.
posted by koeselitz at 4:10 PM on January 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


But it's not really possible to listen to anyone shouting inspirational mantras and catchy self-help slogans while you're swimming

My high school swim coach would sorely disagree with you.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:21 PM on January 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Only one letter away from Soupcycle

I keep spilling minestrone all over my handlebars!
posted by MegoSteve at 4:27 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


He wore a trucker’s hat over curly blond hair and explained that he was from Florida, an actor and hip-hop dancer (“Woo hoo!” “All right!”).

I saw this movie on basic cable in 1993.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:48 PM on January 25, 2013


Wait - that Johnny G link *isn't* a complete Mr. Show-esque style spoof of something, it's the real deal?

It's like Poe's law in reverse!
posted by symbioid at 4:48 PM on January 25, 2013


Only one letter away from Soupcycle...

The word soup no longer looks real to me after visiting that website.

That said, I would not object to someone bringing me soup.
posted by maryr at 5:08 PM on January 25, 2013


Soup. Soup soup. Soup soup soup-soup soup soup.
posted by maryr at 5:09 PM on January 25, 2013


I love cycling. I have u-locks tattooed on my back, my bike is currently dripping filthy water all over my kitchen floor as the snow crusted on it from my bike ride home melts, I run a bike gang for petite women, my boyfriend is a messenger. Like, I am sure it is possibly for me to be more serious about biking, but I am not sure it's possible to love it more.

I just did my first spin class-something I intend to be a supplement to the biking I do everyday, not a replacement-and it's totally a different animal.

-bicycles don't have resistance dials, I can't magically make my bike harder for me to pedal, that is up to the wind, what I'm carrying in my bag, and maybe what I ate for lunch

-if I went 45-60 min on my bike without ever slowing down or stopping I would be dead within the first 10 minutes. there are no stoplights in a spin class.

-I can do full-on, eyes squeezed shut, jaw clenched, hunched over sprints on a stationary bike, which is not something that is safe to do on a road

-I want a fluid trainer pretty badly, but honestly, I don't trust my motivation. I am never going to pedal so hard I simultaneously want to puke and cry in the privacy of my own house when I could just put on a episode of Spaced, get stoned, and make a sandwich

Anyway, Lululemony aspects of SoulCycle are weird, but I think "spin instructor" is a pretty cool career, one I've seen multiple bike messengers move into. There's not a ton of jobs out there that let you utilize your love of bikes. I have a weird dream that maybe someday I can be a spin instructor, but I'm pretty sure I'm not attractive or sassy enough for SoulCycle, and I'm pretty sure I should get well past the "bright pink boiled-looking face dripping sweat, thinking about puking and/or crying" stage first.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:10 PM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


me: “But it's not really possible to listen to anyone shouting inspirational mantras and catchy self-help slogans while you're swimming”

Burhanistan: “My high school swim coach would sorely disagree with you.”

Mine too. Which I always viewed with smug amusement. Someone once mentioned that they thought it was interesting how I seem to minimize the amount of time that my head is above water when I swim. Yep, that's right – I can't hear you at all. Go ahead, keep yelling. I'll keep ignoring you.
posted by koeselitz at 5:47 PM on January 25, 2013


Whenever I'm listening to music and on the treadmill or elliptical, it takes an enormous amount of willpower to not sing along or get my groove on. I feel stifled. Now, I have a business plan. Cardi-party , coming to a city near you! I'll only charge $25 per class.
posted by Fig at 5:55 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cardi-party , coming to a city near you! I'll only charge $25 per class

Welcome to Zumba, dude. Zumba is pretty much SoulCycle for the middle class, and I say this with love (my class meets every Monday at 7pm).

As for spinning, one of the hazards of living in a small town is everyone knows everyone, and my gym's spin instructor happens to be a co-worker. No thanks! On the other hand, SoulCycle--no matter how big the corp that owns it--will never ever open up in my town, so there's that.
posted by librarylis at 6:20 PM on January 25, 2013


I thought it was going tobe a guy saying how much he loved his Ashford Country spinner and I was hells yes... Mine is stained to look like it is on fire because I too am a badass spinner but no just stupid bikes that go nowhere.
posted by mrgroweler at 6:22 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Every time I see something about "spinning classes" I am disappointed anew that it has nothing to do with textiles or ecstatic Sufi dancing, or possibly both.
posted by Foosnark at 6:55 PM on January 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thirty two bucks for a forty five minute class? Lets see, go 4 times a week... 550 a month? Are there really that many stupid people? Oh, wait, nemmine.
posted by jcworth at 7:14 PM on January 25, 2013


Wow. That article was...

bad.

It managed to feed me a lot of non-info without giving me any real info. What makes this unusual enough to make me actually want to read the article? I mean, all this woo being discussed? I just didn't see that in the article.
posted by Samizdata at 7:38 PM on January 25, 2013


When I hear about SoulCycle, I always think about the 21 year old instructor who died of natural causes.
posted by xo at 9:43 PM on January 25, 2013


When I started reading this I was thinking Soulcraft and them being a cult. I know they're all steel and cool and all that, but "cult" seems a bit strong.
posted by bongo_x at 10:35 PM on January 25, 2013


What makes this unusual enough to make me actually want to read the article?

SoulCycle is or is in the process of becoming A Thing in certain places. Spinning classes aren't new, but they've never really been (at least that I've ever heard) particularly sexy compared to other "studio"-based exercise classes like yoga or pilates. SoulCycle's thing seems to be taking a form of exercise that you can probably do for $6 / class down at the YMCA and getting yuppies to pay $38 / class for it. That's pretty interesting all by itself.

It makes me wonder whether there's a similar market for studio-based, group, coached running workouts, done on treadmills (maybe with the instructor controlling the incline or something). Obviously anyone who has a gym membership probably has access to a treadmill, but they also have access to stationary bikes and people still go to spinning classes: what people are paying for is the coaching and the "group suffering" aspect of it. And really, what's more miserable than running? With the right instructors and the right celebrity endorsements you could make it work just as well.

People aren't paying for spinning at $34/class, they're paying for the other stuff. SoulCycle just seems fairly upfront ("this isn't spinning it's a way of life") about it, which on the whole is probably better than other fad exercise programs that charge money for dodgy pseudoscience. At least with SoulCycle you have a chance of getting what they're promising — emotional / spiritual validation, it seems — out of it, although honestly it seems like just going to church, a psychiatrist, and a regular gym would be cheaper.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:34 PM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm gravely disappointed that both the article and the people discussed therein defy all attempts at parody.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:17 AM on January 26, 2013


Between this, Zumba, CrossFit, and some other "fitness trends," it really looks like there's a vein of "let us all physically work hard together" that isn't present in modern culture, and is now being tapped.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:51 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which leads me to the real point of this thread: who wants to invest in my spirtually conscious fitness LazerTag business?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:21 AM on January 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


"it really looks like there's a vein of "let us all physically work hard together" that isn't present in modern culture, and is now being tapped."

The Amish really need to get in on this. At least with them you get a barn.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:47 AM on January 26, 2013


Is this what 30 Rock was parodying a couple of episodes ago?

Devon Banks: "I quit, cows! Tell your husbands I tried."
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:56 AM on January 26, 2013


I'm sorry, but this all just sounds so painfully white.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:12 AM on January 26, 2013


Metafilter: painfully white.
posted by c10h12n2 at 12:07 PM on January 26, 2013


Apparently, what a UES mom wants at 9:30 a.m. is Stacey Griffith, whose recent Friday-morning class at East 83rd Street was populated by one man and 71 women, largely of the milf variety and including Real Housewife Aviva.

Um, did I miss the memo where "milf" is now a cool adjective and all? I mean, great if it is. Just let me know.
posted by disconnect at 1:03 PM on January 28, 2013


All I know is that to me, you look like you're havin' fun. Open up your lovin' arms. Watch out, here I come: You spin me right round, baby, right round. Like a sweaty twelve-stepper on an e-bike, baby....wait, what?
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:15 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


> bicycles don't have resistance dials, I can't magically make my bike harder for me to pedal

I can!

Sorry, I've been sitting on that for days. I'm actually considering getting a cheap fixie just to have some fun around the paved trails.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:34 AM on January 29, 2013


I can't magically make my bike harder for me to pedal...
I can!

Don't ruin your hipster cred! Try this + this.

posted by snuffleupagus at 8:07 AM on January 29, 2013


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