About SoulCycle

SoulCycle is a 45-minute, full body indoor cycling workout that combines traditional spinning, along with upper body moves involving weights. While on the bike, your fat-burning cardio will include climbing, sprinting, and dancing to the instructor’s choreography.

According to the company, each SoulCycle studio features calming candlelight, rocking music, and inspirational motivation from the instructor. In other words, they claim it’s a place where you can clear your head and let loose.

In short, SoulCycle claims their “meditative fitness experience” is designed not just for your body, but for your mind, life, and soul as well. And instead of spinning classes, SoulCycle calls these experiences “cardio parties.”

We’ll discuss this (and much more) in detail, but you’re probably wondering if SoulCycle’s touchy-feely approach to spin class really can “transform the way you look and feel,” or whether it’s an overhyped way of parting you with your hard-earned money.

In other words, will SoulCycle’s classes deliver more value than the competition? What kinds of results can you realistically expect? Who might be the ideal SoulCycle customer? Let’s dive right in.

Is Spinning a Good Form of Cardiovascular Exercise? Will It Help You Lose Weight?

Although it might sound complicated, cardiovascular exercise simply references workouts that raise your heart rate.

Running stairs? Doing jumping jacks in your living room? Chasing after your toddler? These are all examples of cardiovascular exercises, and there isn’t one that’s necessarily “better” than another, depending on what you’re looking to achieve.

For the most part though, cardio isn’t about only raising your heart rate, it’s also about maintaining a target heart rate, which can help ensure you’re getting enough exercise, while preventing you from overdoing it.

This can vary depending on your age, although most professionals recommend staying within 50% to 75% of your maximum heart rate for the most efficient fat burning.

Finally, keep in mind that the amount of fat you burn during a spinning session, as measured in calories, can also be impacted by your age, weight, gender, current fitness level, level of exertion, and more.

In general though, traditional spinning classes will have you burning anywhere between 400 and 400 calories, while SoulCycle tells us you can expect to shed between 400-600 during one of their 45-minute studio sessions.

Speaking of which, let’s take a closer look at these classes.

Which SoulCycle Classes Are Available? What Are They Like?

With more than 65 studios across 9 different states, SoulCycle employs dozens of instructors, each of which brings their different backgrounds, personalities, and approaches to fitness. For a short bio about each instructor, including musical tastes, be sure to check out the company’s Instructor page.

Surprisingly, even on SoulCycle’s YouTube page, there aren’t any videos explaining what you might expect in a class, or the specific exercises you’ll be doing that distinguish them from traditional spinning classes.

However, we did find a short video on POPSUGAR Fitness’s page, which can help give you some better insight in a little more than two minutes:

Although we’re not told much about the exact exercises, do we know how each of SoulCycle’s programs differ from one another? Again, not a whole lot is revealed, but here’s what we know:

SoulSurvivor

While the standard SoulCycle class is 45 minutes long, SoulSurvivor adds an extra 15 minutes for a “little more challenge, a little more sweat, a lot more SOUL.”

Community Ride

If you’re new to SoulCycle, their Community Ride might be a great way to meet your “team,” without being required to commit to an entire series.

SoulChallenge

If you think SoulSurvivor is a piece of cake, you might want to step up your game with SoulChallenge, which the company claims is for “hardcore” riders who want a 90-minute sweat sesh.

Soul Warrior

If you can see yourself at the front of the class in the instructor’s podium, the Soul Warrior class just might give you the opportunity—if you get picked.

SoulTeen

If you’re a teen, you don’t want to listen to an instructor or music tailored to “old” people. Instead, SoulTeen gives those at least 4’11” tall and 12 years old to experience something they’re interested in.

Note: Parents must attend the first class in order to sign a waiver.

SOUL101

SOUL101 is geared toward those who’ve taken five or fewer classes, and is where you’ll get “back to basics” by learning (or re-learning, if necessary) SoulCycle’s fundamentals.

Each class lasts one hour and is taught by two instructors in order to make sure everyone gets the attention they need. Here, you’ll be able to ask questions and learn about proper bike set up, how to use the clipless shoes, and more.

Regardless of the class you’re taking, SoulCycle recommends making sure you’re fully hydrated, energized (usually by eating a light snack 30 minutes prior to your ride), and are wearing appropriate clothing, such as a “tee or tank on top and form-fitting pants or shorts on the bottom.”

Alright, now that we know more about SoulCycle’s classes, let’s learn about the main piece of equipment you’ll use: the bike.

The SoulCycle Bike

Similar to their classes, there isn’t a whole lot of information about SoulCycle’s spin bikes on their website. Here’s what we’re told:

The frame is constructed of “the highest quality ED coated carbon steel,” measures 22.5 " W x 47" L x 40.5" H, and weighs in at a whopping 137 pounds (62kg).

Attached to the frame, you’ll find a manual resistance knob (i.e. turn the knob clockwise for additional resistance; counterclockwise for less), dual binding clipless pedals that are LOOK and SPD compatible, as well as a split seat that helps eliminate pressure and improve comfort.

You’ll also find custom weight holders that are “designed and positioned on the bike to perfectly complement the SoulCycle workout.”

SoulCycle Spin BikeThe SoulCycle spin bike. Image credit: SoulCycle

Looking elsewhere online, a 2015 Slate article notes that the SoulCycle bike was designed by boutique firm Villency Design Group (ironically, the same firm that designed the Peloton spin bike—more soon) with three crucial elements that helped “reinvent the stationary wheel”:

  1. A longer distance between the handlebar and the seat, which allows riders to work their upper body and core while they spin, instead of focusing mainly on their quads.
  2. The ability to withstand frequent rider movement, due to SoulCycle’s “signature moves,” which was largely accomplished by making the frame “10–30 percent heavier than comparable bikes.”
  3. Hand-sanded joints and a chain area with an “extra tight seal” to help prevent rust and other wear and tear caused by sweat.

From a customization standpoint, it looks like you can make three different adjustments to your SoulCycle bike: 1) Raise/lower the seat, 2) move the seat forward/back, and 3) raise/lower the handlebars.

Note: In order to maximize your workout (as well as to avoid potential injury!), it’s important that your bike is properly set up, which is something you can learn how to do in SoulCycle’s SOUL101 class.

Now, the pressing question is: How does all of this compare to a traditional spin bike?

We’ll be sure to answer this in a second, but first, what will you pay to attend a SoulCycle class? How much is one of their bikes?

How Much Do SoulCycle Classes & Bikes Cost? Where Are the Locations?

SoulCycle currently has 65+ studios across 9 different states, and what you’ll pay largely depends on which of these you plan to attend. With this in mind, here are the ranges you can expect:

  • SoulCycle Bike: No price listed on website. Will update once response received from the company.
  • First Time Ride (1 Class): $20
  • 1 Class (expires in 30 days): $30 - $40
  • 5 Classes (expires in 45 days): $145 - $200
  • 10 Classes (expires in 3 months): $280 - $360
  • 20 Classes (expires in 9 months): $540 - $700
  • 30 Classes (expires in 12 months): $780 - $1,020
  • 50 Super Soul Classes (expires in 12 months): $3,500 - $4,000

According to SoulCycle, classes are transferrable between regions, but they may cost different amounts (in other words, you might owe more).

In addition to the above, SoulCycle also sells a variety of clothing and other products in their store, ranging in price from $10 to $165.

While unworn, unwashed clothing purchased in a SoulCycle studio comes with a 30-day refund policy for store credit, and class packages with a 5-day refund policy, there isn’t anything mentioned about the spin bike.

Along with its price, we reached out to the company and will be sure to update this review as soon as a response is received.

Before moving on, let’s take what we just learned and crunch some numbers to see how these prices stack up against the competition.

Running the Numbers for SoulCycle’s Classes

Perhaps one of the main reasons you wanted to learn more about SoulCycle is that, in most cities, there are hundreds of available spin classes available at any given time—many of which also implement full body exercises.

Given this, will you get more value from SoulCycle? We’ll let the numbers do the talking:

According to CostHelper, the average price of a drop-in (no appointment) spin class was between $15 and $25 at the time of our research.

To purchase blocks of 10 to 20 classes, CostHelper also listed the average price somewhere between $175 and $325, which puts the average per-cost class somewhere between $16.25 and $32.50.

In a best-case scenario, non-specialty SoulCycle classes (like Super Soul) will cost you $26 per class—but only if you purchase 30 classes at once, and only if you live in a market where this specific package is priced at $780.

In the vast majority of cases, especially if you’re just a beginner looking to try out a class or two, you’ll pay meaningfully more with SoulCycle than just about any other options.

But will you get better results from a SoulCycle class than from a traditional spinning one? We’ll find out next.

Are SoulCycle’s Reviews as Bright as Their Spin Bikes?

Between SoulCycle’s Union Street (SF), Palo Alto, and Chestnut Hill (MA) locations, the company had 300+ combined Yelp reviews and an average rating of about 4 stars.

There, most compliments seemed related to great ambiance, intoxicatingly fun routines, energetic instructors, and effective results. Several specifically claimed it was the “best spin class” they’d ever been to.

On the other hand, common complaints referenced high class prices (in addition to shoe rentals and water purchases), rude front desk personnel and crowded locker rooms (location-specific), ineffective results (this seemed to especially be the case if you already cycle/spin frequently), and that the added exercises don’t really do much from a real-world fitness perspective.

Regarding this last point, according to a 2015 Business Insider article, the dance moves added to SoulCycle workouts “have not been scientifically proved to do anything for you.” In fact, some experts quoted in the article noted that these moves could actually decrease your efficiency and even cause injury.

Speaking of which, the Indoor Cycling Association wrote an in-depth article about the science behind much of SoulCycle’s methodology (picking up on a Gawker article written by a few first-time SoulCyclists), and it isn’t exactly flattering.

If you’re looking for more info about the physiology and effectiveness of SoulCycle workouts, I’d strongly recommend giving this a read.

From a company perspective, SoulCycle was co-founded by Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice after they met on a blind date a realized they shared a vision of developing an “inspiring workout that's as efficient as it is joyful,” and one that transforms customers’ “relationship to exercise.”

SoulCycle vs. Peloton Cycle vs. Other Spin Bikes

In addition to the higher class prices, you also know that basic spin bikes can be bought on Craigslist for a couple hundred bucks.

Is there anything meaningfully different—or more valuable—about SoulCycle’s bike?

A quick online search for “carbon steel spin bike” will reveal that one of these heavy-duty models can be picked up for as little as $130. Granted, these probably don’t have the same hand-sanded joints as SoulCycle.

Pro tip: Because spin bikes are stationary, the frame material is important, but it’s not a deal-breaker like it is with a traditional road or mountain bike. Instead, you’ll typically want to focus on the mechanism providing resistance, which can include:

  • Fan Resistance – Here, in place of the front wheel, you’ll find a specially designed fan that uses wind to provide resistance. Often times, the resistance level on these models isn’t adjustable, and they’re also quite loud.
  • Direct Contact – In this version, a heavy (40 to 50-pound) flywheel comes into contact with a braking surface to deliver resistance. While these are quieter than fan-based models, they require more upkeep, since you’ll have to regularly replace brake pads.
  • Magnetic Resistance – These bikes use electromagnetic induction to deliver resistance. There’s nothing touching the flywheel, so there aren’t any parts to replace and they’re very quiet. However, this is also the most expensive option.

While we don’t yet know the price of SoulCycle’s bike, it’s highly likely that it features magnetic resistance, although this specific spec isn’t listed on their website.

Again though, you might be paying a lot for this feature, as other magnetic resistance spin bikes can be purchased online for as little as $500.

Another popular spin bike that also features magnetic resistance, a sealed drive, and quality construction is Peloton Cycle, although this model also comes with a built-in 21.5” HD monitor that provides access to 12 daily live studio classes daily, along with 3,000+ pre-recorded on-demand classes.

Peloton’s bike comes in at $2K (remember, we’re still waiting on a response from SoulCycle about the cost of their bike), although you’ll have to pay for a membership for video access.

Another meaningful benefit to Peloton’s screen is that it will track your stats (heart rate, power output, etc.) and performance, which is something you’ll need additional—and sometimes very expensive—equipment for on SoulCycle’s spin bike. In fact, a power meter alone can cost several hundred dollars!

Is a SoulCycle Bike or Class Right for You?

When it comes down to it, we can’t realistically know whether or not you’ll find a SoulCycle class or spin bike worthwhile. There are just too many factors at play, including:

  • Your current fitness level,
  • Whether or not you enjoy cardio,
  • If you thrive in a high-energy environment,
  • If an instructor’s personality at a specific location matches yours,
  • If you’re willing to pay more for a luxury (vs. purely functional) spin bike,

… and much more.

But any way you look at it, the reality is that a SoulCycle class is at the upper end of the price spectrum, so if you’re new to spinning, you might want to take a traditional—and meaningfully less expensive—class before committing to one of theirs.

However, SoulCycle does offer one-time introductory classes for as little as $20, which might not be much to pay in the grand scheme of things. This way, you can decide after some firsthand experience whether or not to purchase additional classes.

Just keep in mind that if you don’t already own shoes, you’ll have to pay $3 at the SoulCycle studio. Also, be sure to bring a water bottle, or you’ll have to pay extra for that, too.

Finally, if you’ve already attended several SoulCycle sweat sessions and have fallen in love with the bike, it might be beneficial to explore all your options—and price ranges—before handing over your hard-earned money.

Did you attend a SoulCycle class? Did you purchase one of their spin bikes? Either way, share your experience with the world by writing a review below!

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