Soul Cycle Review | pt. 2 | Is this for you?

by | Mar 15, 2015

soul cycle
Continuing my Soul Cycle review about my experience at 75 1st Street in the SoMA section of San Francisco Soul Cycle.

Overall Soul Cycle Review

Pros: Clean facility, phenomenal sound system, high-energy sweat-drenching fun workout and great shower area to clean up and go back to work! Best of all 45 minutes!
Cons: Expensive, no cyclometer on bikes, contraindicated moves that might be hard for the older crowd.

Details

First, the facility was nothing less than spectacular. Not at all like a typical exercise studio. Soul Cycle was impeccably clean throughout.
The front desk provided cycle shoes, a workout towel, and a bottle of water as part of the sign-in process.There was a nice staging area with benches for folks waiting for the next class. Great for socializing. There were also free daily use lockers to store valuables. 
What was unusually amazing at Soul Cycle was the shower area – something few “studio gyms” typically offer.  The Soul Cycle shower area featured plush towels, personal shower stalls, and a wide choice of after shower amenities.  It would be very easy to clean up after a workout and return to work or go out for the night.
As for the workout room, again, I was impressed by the quality of the music and audio system as it was over-the-top terrific. Many health clubs will place two or four speakers in a studio, often in the front and back of the studio. While this disperses sound throughout the room, it creates both loud and dead spots. With over 20 speakers sets in the studio and several subwoofers, the sound was powerful and motivating. While the music was loud, it wasn’t harsh or overpowering.
For most workouts, it’s critical to hear the instructor. While this sounds simple, many group exercise classes struggle with this. I could clearly follow the direction of the instructor during the Soul Cycle class. Giant kudos to whoever designed this system. Best I’ve heard anywhere.
The bikes are unique to Soul Cycle and are very similar to the “Spinning” brand bike that has been around for years with the heavy front chain-driven flywheel. The spinner bikes are high energy, and once you get going, it’s loud and feels like you’re really going somewhere together as a class. This really felt like the class was going on a ride.
The workout experience was a whirlwind.  The techno/dance music delivered through this incredible music system with a room full of fit bodies working hard in unison, on these great bikes – created lots of energy and left many attendees drenched in sweat.  This is the appeal of SoulCycle. It was fun. Time flew. When it comes to exercise anything that gets people excited about doing it needs to be respected.  Job well done, Soul Cycle!
As for details of the workout, from what I can tell for SoulCycle it’s mainly about the energy. Casey, the instructor, didn’t present an exercise plan. Instead, she just dove straight into having everyone start peddling “to the music” out of the saddle.  This went on for about 10 minutes. After this warm-up, there was the familiar mix of “jumps” – sitting and standing in intervals – intermixed with a bit of hill climbing. At about the 37-minute mark the class slowed down reached below their saddles, grabbing some light hand weights engaging in some anaerobic shoulder/arm lifts for about 5 minutes. This was followed by a 5-minute stretching/platitude session to candlelight. I found this “soul” part of the class during the cool down a bit cheesy and forced. Hard to find my yoga center after being pummeled by high decibel techno for 43 minutes.
While the instructor was entertaining and fit, her instruction was not very clear. I was often lost with what I should be doing and what was going to happen next. There was also no mention of time at all during the class. Whether this was specific to this instructor/class, I am not sure.  The class, however, didn’t seem to have the same problems I was following along. Plus, I didn’t have a perfect fit with my right toe clip, and my ankle was uncomfortable brushing against the crank. I should have changed bikes – but didn’t.  This was a bit distracting.
There was a lot of rhythmic up-and-down leaning forward and leaning back to the beat of the music. Later this was changed to side-to-side. This is impressive to watch.
These types of moves, however, while exciting and energy producing, have been “contraindicated” by almost all the cycle certification organizations as they unnecessarily compromise the low back while offering little real exercise/cardio value. Fortunately, the crowd at the class I attended were young and fit and could most likely handle this move safely. Still, an ideal class for me would not include this move.
Also, I have become biased to using a cyclometer during cycle workouts. Whether on the road or in the studio, I like to know and not have to guess at my cadence, distance, calories burned, etc.. Can’t do that on these bikes. Nor can you assess the amount of resistance you are applying as the tension knob has no clicks or gears that offer that type of guidance.
The big question is, was I able to “take my journey, find my body, and find my soul” as the SoulCycle website advertises? Well, not really in just the one class. 
My overall impression was that for the young urban professional they are targeting, SoulCycle is a great, fun workout. The numbers speak for themselves. For me, an older cyclist, maybe a bit too intense.

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