I was recently asked what I thought of the latest pop fitness fad in the US called Soul Cycle, made ever more popular by the clamour of celebrities who grace their bright yellow-themed studios to take a “soul journey”. Fortunately it has not moved into Europe yet, so I had to go online and look it up. Now it may have been the overuse of yellow, a colour which triggers emotions in me ranging from mild disturbance to unexplicable rage, or the shining happy Soul converts’ “testimonials” inviting you to join their cult, I mean, “tribe”, or maybe it was the scantily clad, tanned, skinny blondes posing their booty and puckering their lips for selfies under SoulCycle hashtags across social media, but the whole thing raised my cackles. What makes it all so bizarre and ridiculous, is that none of it has anything to do with actual cycling! Call it anything else you like, but to call it “cycling” is like comparing a McDonald burger to a Michellin starred meal.
On their official homepage they describe a SoulCycle ride as “indoor cycling re-invented. With inspirational coaching, rockstar music, and a full body workout (added hand weights and core work!), this 45-minute class will transform the way you look and feel.” I watched a couple youtube videos demonstrating various signature moves used by the lean, enthusiastic instructors. As a cyclist, the first thing that struck me was how very damaging some of those moves could potentially be, with their jerky up and down, side to side movements posing a serious risk of knee and back injury.
Set in a dark room to pounding music, the price of sweating through one 45-minute dance aerobic spin class comes to 34$. In case I was unclear, that is per class, not a monthly subscription. Add to that number the 3$ shoe rental, and a 3$ bottle of water, you’re looking at 40$ a class. Supposing you take 8 classes a month, you will spend upwards of 300$ to be part of the Soul cult, I mean, tribe, for a total of 6 hours, or 50$ an hour. That is of course if you can get into a class. You may have to sit on a waiting list. Yes, they really are that popular. In case you haven’t dished out enough for your spiritual and physical rejuvenation, there is plenty of merchandise on sale so you can wear your Soul wherever you go. There are also neat little tips on sweat proof make up and post workout hair so you can, you know, look like you haven’t worked out while working out. That was about where they lost me completely.
Here is a crazy thought: buy a 300$ bicycle and go for a one hour ride every day. When you need to take a respite from the world and embark on a “soul journey”, clip into a bicycle, a real one, and pedal. Up hills, down hills, punish your muscles, sweat, ride into a headwind, ride with music or in silence, ride with a giant smile because you feel alive, you feel at peace, you feel the stress of life wash away. It is you and the road. It is freedom. And best of all, it is free.