Soul Cycle Is a Cult, But At Least It’s Healthy

Kevin Gray
by Kevin Gray
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Soul Cycle Is a Cult, But At Least It’s Healthy

Soul Cycle must be a cult.

I’m convinced.

People gather in a dark place, are meticulous about their hair and makeup, wear gear that costs more than my car payment and move in unison to trance-like music. Afterward, everyone goes out for avocado toast — which, I admit, is a significant improvement over suicide pacts and poisoned punch — but the comparison holds.

As far as cults go, at least it’s a healthy one. And while Soul Cycle isn’t my favorite of the bunch, other studios offering similar rhythm-based spin classes have been firmly planted in my exercise rotation for years. Somewhere between the energetic instructors, mash-up playlists and on-the-bike choreography, there’s a solid workout — one that keeps me coming back for more.

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, I used to hate spin.

Your average spin class in your average big box gym can be hard to like. Then I found Flywheel. What a difference that made. Dedicated studio space for spinning? Check. Finely-tuned bikes? Check. Clip-in cycling shoes, gratis towels and the “TorqBoard” — used to measure your progress against your fellow riders (and yourself) — also check. You even incorporate arm weights for a total body workout. It was great. It still is great. The classes are challenging, the music’s good and the atmosphere is welcoming.

So that’s where I remained, on a Flywheel bike, for about a year. I had no complaints. Well, few complaints. I thought the instructors could have mixed things up more to keep classes fresh and interesting from day to day and week to week. But overall: good stuff. Solid B+ all around.

I went to my first rhythm-based spin classes because my wife suggested it. It seemed innocuous at first. Pretty Flywheel-like, from the space itself to the bikes. But then the class started, and all around me, people were riding to the beat of the music and … dancing?

Tap-back-presses, pulses, four corners and other choreographed movements are a big part of rhythm-based spin. The idea is to use your whole body, including legs, core and arms — and to do so while maintaining the beat. It took some getting used to. For a guy who is an unskilled-albeit-enthusiastic wedding dancer, staying on beat and matching the riders around me was a work in progress.

But once I got the hang of it, I loved it. The fun music, engaged participants and varied classes kept me coming back for more. As I improved, things became more natural. After a few weeks, I could find the rhythm without staring at the instructor’s feet. After a few more, I was nailing each piece of choreography. Eventually, I could put it all together into a cohesive package, maintaining the cadence even through the fastest, most challenging stretches of class. And because you set your own resistance, you can avoid those pesky plateaus.


That said, not all rhythm-based spin studios are created equal. If you’re bike-dancing more than you’re pedaling, that’s not good — well, not if you’re primarily there for a workout. But the best studios keep you working hard, sweating and gasping for breath from start to finish, using a mixture of standing runs, seated sprints and brutal climbs. Sure, you’ll occasionally be bouncing around the bike like a crazy person, but hey, so is everyone else. Embrace it, and the whole experience can be really liberating — just as long as you’re not expecting to be a real cyclist.

At the very least, a good workout — just like a perfectly-filtered Instagram post — is scientifically proven to make your avocado toast taste better.

About the Author

Kevin Gray
Kevin Gray

Kevin is a Dallas-based writer who spends the majority of his weekends on a bike. His less healthy pursuits can be found at Bevvy and Cocktail Enthusiast.