A Plea for SoulCycle

I’ve just finished a marketing internship with a huge media company in London, but one habit I’m still clinging to is catching up on all the cool shit from the day before in the early morning. (It’s nice not to have all the tall people having a cheeky over-shoulder read on the Tube). A few days ago, I found about about SoulCycle, the high-end spinning craze totally taking over the US at the moment. I mean, this is obviously insane:

These people all look like they need an ego check and a cup of tea, but I want to be one of them.

When I can be bothered, (i.e. now I’m unemployed again) I absolutely adore spinning. The official description is something something RPM, something something motivational, varying terrains, blah. All I heard was that it burns loads of calories and is quite fun, if you’re into that sort of thing. I went, I sweat directly into my eyeballs, and I haven’t looked back since, mostly because I can’t due to sweaty-eyeball blindness. For real, check it out:

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Personally, I just like that it goes down in a dark, sweaty room, often strobe-lit, while someone taut and anonymous yells at you for an hour – i.e. just like clubbing, but with sweat and endorphins instead of vodka and shame! I find this the absolute height of soothing (I’m aware that enjoying hazy anonymity and strangers disciplining me is probably symptomatic of something my shrink is going to enjoy 5-10 years from now). It’s also part of the reason I’m convinced that SoulCycle will be my new God when it comes to London in 2014.

This awesome piece from FastCompany.com calls SoulCycle a startup – in fact, the first Soul Cycle opened in 2006, which, just for perspective, was nearly eight years ago, and it’s only just become a thing. As a total newbie to business, I always assumed that the really successful businesses, the ones that become part of our cultural vernacular and way of life, were just great ideas which had dropped into the market at the just the right time. I believed that things like Facebook and Google relied mostly on the strength of innovative thought. SoulCycle shows you that great ideas can be built over time, and are all the better for it.

Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice opened the first SoulCycle in 2006, and the brand went into partnership with Equinox Gyms in 2011, which solved their initial funding problems. The founders use a lot of words like ‘unique’ and ‘magic’ and ‘dedication’ in interviews, which just speaks to their totally unconventional and optimistic approach to their success. They never advertise, 79% of their staff permanent full-time employees with proper benefits and holiday time, and their branded products (from Christmas tree decorations to hideous/awesome trucker hats) make up 12% of their total revenue. The classes themselves have been described as something between Burning Man Festival and a gospel church, with the added bonus of some spinning to custom playlists for the $34 (£22) per class fee. This is how that works (I couldn’t sell water in the desert for £22 a bottle).

There’s a lot of opinion pieces about SoulCycle – whilst plenty of them are negative, the positive ones are from devotees so happy that that’s where the money’s coming from, and the negative ones create buzz you just can’t buy. From what I can tell as well, there’s an element of wish fulfilment about SoulCycle – people always want to be happier, fitter, more at peace with themselves (read: thinner). SoulCycle isn’t even pretending that you can’t buy that if you really want to – and that kind of honesty’s refreshing in an exercise industry built on body-shaming and making promises that can’t be kept.

Fuck it, I’m 22 – if there’s any time to believe that a bike can change my life, it’s best to get it over with now.

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