Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sweat City: Three SoulCycle Classes + Review

The first SoulCycle in the Seattle area opened in January at the Lincoln expansion in downtown Bellevue and I was excited to check it out. I was told it takes about three classes to really “get” SoulCycle so I bought their $60 3-class starter pack (discounted from the usual $28 per class). The BVUE Soul Starter Pack is still available for a limited time! 

I was hoping to get the “inspirational, meditative fitness experience that’s designed to benefit the body, mind and soul” described on SoulCycle’s “Our Story” page. “With every pedal stroke, our minds clear and we connect with our true and best selves.” Sounds pretty amazing, right? Obviously a ton of people swear by SoulCycle, but I didn’t have a good experience overall and you won’t find me at another class anytime soon. Skip to the bottom for the summary if you don’t have time for the long read. 

FIRST CLASS 

A week after the grand opening, I signed up and arrived for class 15 minutes early. I was impressed that there were about six staff members helping people get signed in, finding their way around, and answering questions. The person who checked me in was very friendly.

THE GOOD: The studio’s interior design is brightly lit with white walls, yellow accents, and inspirational quotes (think Lululemon bags). The music selection in the class is really energetic and catchy and it was more of an upper body workout than other spin classes I’ve taken. 

THE BAD: Once I got my stuff into the lockers and changed into the cycling shoes they provide, I only saw one person (the instructor) in the classroom helping get people set up on their bikes. I raised my hand, but the only staff person in the room was helping someone in the front row so I walked out to the front deskwhere there were four peopleto ask if I could get some help.

He rudely told me that there were several people in the room to help and to ask one of them. I told him there was just one and he was busy, which is why I came to ask the front desk. He repeated himself so I went back into the room and went up to the instructor who told me he’d be “right with me”. I went back to my bike to wait. Meanwhile, the lights were dimming and class was about to start. I waited at my bike, starting to get a little anxious, while he continued to chat with the person for another two minutes or so.

He finally came over to set me up and left, but when I clipped in and sat on the bike, it was at least two notches too highI couldn’t even do a full turn on the pedals. I was flustered and frustrated at this point and class was starting.

The hallway with the lockers is also the only path to the bathroom and showers, so it’s very crowded!! There were dozens of people jammed into this space and it is overwhelming. The classroom is also crowded: there are 60 bikes in the room and they are packed in extremely tight. For instance, the instructor had us in third (“up”) position and the lady in front of me wasn’t following—she was sitting up on her bike—so my face was within inches of her back. 

I noticed there were six fans in the room, but none of them were on, so it was hot AND claustrophobic. Fuck this, the whole experience sucked and I am never coming back.

 

SoulCycle-Bellevue-Instructors

SECOND CLASS 

Well, I came back. I committed to taking at least three classes and I’m not a quitter.

A week later, I took a friendwho has tried other spin classes in the areato try another class. It was better than the first one and I’m glad I gave SoulCycle a second chance. We agreed that the upper body workout was good and both enjoyed this instructor (Earl) and his positive energy and great playlist. Something she pointed out was the demographics: it was about 95% white women in their 20s and 30s.

THE GOOD: The room felt less stuffy and claustrophobic because three of the six fans were on and the class was only 1/3 full. I was able to easily adjust my bike to the right settings this time. There was one staff and the instructor in the room making sure everyone was getting set up correctly (up one from last time). 

THE BAD: Towards the end of the class, the instructor had two girls in the class blow out some candles. What is this for and what does this mean? Please explain. 

I still needed help getting clipped into my bike—it’s very stiff. 

After the class, I noticed I was charged $3 for a shoe rental and reached out to the studio to find out why. They hadn’t told me they were going to charge me and I hadn’t been charged after my first class. I missed it on the FAQ, but apparently every time you use their cycling shoes (after the first class), it costs $3. The $30.66 per class doesn’t include shoe rental? 

 

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THIRD CLASS

I made it to the last one!

THE GOOD: The playlist was fun and upbeat and included some throwbacks. I feel like I got a pretty decent upper body workout (I grabbed some 5lb weights from the front of the class instead of using the 2lb weights that come standard on the bike) and left the class sweating. I was able to clip in by myself! 

THE BAD: There was too much yelling and hair tossing by the instructor for my taste. Why do fitness instructors insist on screaming? There are better ways to convey your enthusiasm and energy. And again, the class was a homogeneous group of white women in their 20’s and 30’s. I’m not sure why the demographic is so narrow given Bellevue and Seattle are fairly diverse. I definitely feel like I stick out. 

 


SUMMARY

Next time I’m in the mood for spin, I’ll head to Flywheel. I met an LA transplant at the gym last week who was an avid SoulCycle-r in LA before moving to Seattle last year. She tried the Bellevue SoulCycle studio and Flywheel studio each for the first time within the same week and prefers the latter. Regardless, you should check it out if you’re interested and decide for yourself.

PROS

  • The classes are choreographed by the instructors paired with high-energy playlists 
  • More upper body and arm workout relative to other spin classes 
  • The classroom is dark so you feel less self conscious
  • You can select and reserve your seat (the front is more of a party, the back is more private)
  • Really cute and stylish branded apparel for sale 
  • Free parking in the Lincoln Square expansion garage (enter from NE 4th St.) 

CONS

  • It’s not as intense of a workout as other classes (spin and otherwise) 
  • The hallways in the studio and the classroom are very crowded  
  • The bikes are too close together and you will bump into people trying to get in and out of the studio 
  • You may not receive prompt help when getting set up on your bike for your first ride
  • There are no numbers or stats and only a knob on the bike to increase/decrease resistance, so you can’t track progress or know when to push yourself harder 
  • It’s expensive: you’re paying $30.66 + $3 shoe rental = $33.66 per class 

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Photos by SoulCycle. 

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About Jennifer Liu

Despite the rain, Jennifer loves Seattle and is a rare native. From the gorgeous summer weather to the drizzle the other 9 months, this may be her forever home. She graduated from the University of Washington and has a master's degree in counseling psychology. She loves to travel, volunteer, and host themed dinner parties. You can find her eating, hiking, hanging out with her awesome dog, or napping. Ice cream, burgers, and sushi are some of her favorite things.
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