On Tuesday, August 14th, I attended a SoulCycle class at its Georgetown/Wisconsin Ave. location. My friend Dan had invited me, Abby, and a few other friends to go as he had won a charity auction for a free class for up to 10 people. I tend to be skeptical in general, so my bias going in was that the candles and the “mind/body experience” were going to be a bit gimmicky. That said, I came in with an open mind and was hoping I’d be surprised. Overall, it was a mediocre experience at best and do not plan on going back. Here’s why:
Upon arrival and check-in, the staff was adamant that everyone provide an emergency phone number. Dan, who is true to form which includes being crotchety sometimes, put “911” as his emergency number.
“We need an actual phone number,” one of the staff told him.
“That is an actual phone number.”
“Well, of course we’re going to call 911, but we need another number.”
“I’m surrounded by nine of my best friends,” he said. “If something happens to me, talk to one of them.”
For me, I was asked for my shoe size and was handed a size 47.
“A men’s 11 is a 47,” the girl said.
“Yeah, I usually just wear a 44 in these classes.”
“Well these are Japanese size so the sizing is a bit off from the European size.”
Who knew they had even Japanese sizes? And why would a company in the United States buy Japanese sized shoes? I took them and tried them on and a minute later went back to the front desk.
“Hi, these are too big. Maybe I could try a 44?”
She handed me a pair of size 44. They fit perfectly.
Inside the studio, we found bikes that were so crammed together that you couldn’t get between rows, you could only go through the column side. That mean that if you were trying to find your bike in the back, and you went to the wrong column, you’d have to come all the way back out to go to the next one.
Most of us were clustered in the left side of the room, in the second, third, and fourth rows. The instructor, whose bike was mounted on a platform surrounded by four real and four fake candles, was in the front of the class, almost looking down on us as some deity.
The instructor, who was male and probably in his 20s, wore a tank top shamelessly showing off well defined biceps and a backwards Nike Air hat. Not really my look, but it seemed to work for him, especially since several college and 20-something-aged girls packed the front row.
When setting up our bikes, the staff seemed to either be excessively interested in doing their jobs, or just not listening. One of the staff members who checked us in came to us to help us set up our bikes.
“Hi, I can help you,” she said.
Fine, I thought, I can do this on my own, but have at it.
She had me stand up and measured where my hip bone was. Then she had me do something with my arm, so she could measure how far back my seat needed to me. When I got on the bike, the seat height wasn’t high enough, the seat was too far forward, and the handle bars were too low. As I began to readjust, she came up again.
“Is everything okay? I can help you.”
Nah, I’m good this time.
Then, the girl sitting next to me needed some help locking her seat in place. I had tried to help but the locking lever wouldn’t latch down.
“Is there a problem?” the staffer said.
“Yeah, everything is good,” I said. “It’s just that the seat lever is not locking.”
“Hi, I can help you,” the staffer said to the girl.
I’m thinking, she doesn’t need more help. She needs you to lock the seat in place. It wasn’t that difficult.
Upon getting on the bike and getting started, I realized that there was no computer/device telling me what my resistance was or how fast I was pedaling. To me, these were crucial pieces of technology that let me know where I needed to be in my workout.
“You’ll notice we have no computers or anything here,” the instructor said. “You control your resistance by the knob in the middle of the bike. Turn it up for more and turn it down for less.”
Yes, thank you for that critical piece of information.
As we got started, I immediately became pissed off because he had us go “out of the saddle,” which I will refer to as up, for an excessive amount of time, probably three full songs or about 10 to 12 minutes. In cycling/spin classes, I’m a big fan of massive variety, so I’m never doing the same thing for more than 30 seconds. Up, then down, then leaning forward, leaning back, doing something else, etc. With the electronic dance music blaring (which is fine, I had earplugs, as always), we chugged away on the bikes entirely in the up position.
I can deal, I figured, we’ll see how the rest of this goes.
And the rest of it came and went just as the beginning did. It was excessively hot in the room and the fans weren’t running, so it became a cesspool of sweat and body odor. The instructor, in my opinion, had us try to keep a beat that was excessively fast for being up and tried to add too many “dance moves” that were also too fast.
Abby and I, who have been to dozens of spin classes at multiple studios in DC, couldn’t keep up. We just sat down and pedaled. The arm workout was fine, but the proximity of my neighbors restricted my range. At the end of the 42 or so minutes, the instructor led us through a brief stretch and the staff opened the door to the studio.
I was extremely sweaty, but felt I hadn’t worked particularly hard, definitely not as hard as attending a class at CycleBar or Flywheel.
My group of friends turned in our shoes and made our way to the Sweetgreen next door for a post-workout salad. Mandy said she liked it and that she’d return, but Dan, Abby, and I all shared our frustration.
In the end, I really don’t understand what Michelle Obama loves about it. 😊