I finally (finally!!!) made it to the home of modern spin, the one that started all the spin-off (no pun intended) studios in the US, UK and around the world.
As part of our trip to Cali in January, I knew I wanted to make it to a Soulcycle class. I'd heard so much about it and, let's be honest, I was desperate to go to this super-hyped class to figure out what makes it so praise-worthy. It also felt a little like London's been missing out since there have been rumours of Soulcycle coming to London for over a year but nothing seems to have materialised.
If you haven't been to Soulcycle before you can get your first class for $20 but you have to call rather than book online, so I waited until we were in LA to make my booking. They were lovely and helpful on the phone (US customer service -- yay!) and booked me in for one of the last two spots on the Sunday morning 11am class. Santa Monica was the closest studio to where we were staying (although Brentwood wasn't far and came with the temptation of possibly seeing a Beckham riding a bike!) but as Mr F wasn't into the class thing and wanted to go for a run, we went for the closest and beach-conveninent SaMo studio.
Easy parking (in LA a definite must -- 90 mins free at the lot almost across the street) was a short walk away and I rocked up to a crazy-busy studio of people coming and going in the sunny California morning.
I managed to get shoes and find a locker, get myself organised and set my bike up -- all of their equipment it standard and easy to use if you've ever done a spin class anywhere else before.
We actually had two 'instructors' for the ride -- I use air quotes as one was Gina, the actual instructor and the other was her husband who was riding beside her at the front of the class. It made for a fun additional energy and someone else to watch for moves when Gina got off her bike occasionally to come and motivate us or walk along the rows.
The first thing I noticed, other than the tag-team leaders, was the heat in the room. Although it was mid-January and not that warm out by Cali standards (about 15C that morning) it was warm enough that some fans would have been nice but no A/C or fans were used in the studio. I've been told that keeping the temperature up is part of the Soulcycle 'thing'... okay. I'll go with it. But I was a HOT sweaty mess very shortly after starting. And there was a woman next to me who wore a sweatshirt through the whole class!
Second thing I noticed was how cushy and comfortable the seats are! This is one of my pet peeves... I mean, hello, modern science? Can someone please invent a more comfortable bike seat? There wasn't anything particularly special about the Soulcycle seats but they definitely had more padding and made for a much more comfortable ride. Not that we spent much time in the saddle.
Like Psycle and 1Rebel in London, there was a lot of riding out of the saddle, standing jogs and tap-backs. The speed was intense for most of the ride, which I'm not great with (I'm more of a high-resistance/hill climb/medium speed gal) but I didn't feel totally out of place or fall far behind so that felt like a success in itself!
There were hand weights in holders below the seat (a clever location, actually -- note to other spin studios!) but they were SO light. I didn't see what the actual weight was but they definitely weren't more than a pound. That made it easy to do the dancier arm moves that Gina took us through, which were really fun and high-energy, but I honestly didn't feel like I was getting much benefit from it and could've still done the moves with a 1kg weight, or possibly more. I don't know if heavier weights are something I could have asked for if I'd noticed earlier before the class started or if it's something to do with that annoying idea that women shouldn't be bulky/use heavier weights, but either way, it's the only small drawback that I found in the class.
Gina was really funny and I liked her instruction style. She checked on injuries before we started and kept the energy high. Her outstanding strength was definitely the banter, and this is probably where the love and 'soul' of Soulcycle comes in. There was lots of talk about one-ness and connecting with the energy in the studio and all the studios around California and the rest of the country. Near the end we were on a really intense segment and she had us close our eyes and thing about being 'one pedal stroke, one rider, together, Santa Monica, Brentwood, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Chicago, DC, New York... ' and it really did make it feel like a more intense, unified experience.
Final verdict? I left the class feeling like I'd had a good workout with a bit of yoga-style community and one-ness integrated into it, which was nice.
Is London missing out? Nah. If you've ever been to Rhian's classes at Psycle or Tiago's classes at 1Rebel, you've gotten a similar vibe and not had to travel halfway around the globe. I'd probably book in if Soulcycle opened in London just because I love a little variety but we're certainly not missing out with the options we've currently got.
Have you been to Soulcycle, Psycle or 1Rebel? What did you think? Are you a fan?