What Is SoulCycle, and Why Are People Obsessed With It?

How the incredibly successful cycling chain works its magic

SoulCycle Peddles IPO: Fad or Fit Investment?

A company called SoulCycle, well-known in big cities like New York and San Francisco, has decided to go public. Wall Street is aflutter, and so are fitness fanatics familiar with the workout chain, which is notorious for inspiring a cult-like following. SoulCycle's filing includes phrases like "Your Soul Matters" and "We Aspire to Inspire" to describe the culture of its 45-minute indoor-cycling classes, which can cost close to $40. Here are five reasons why SoulCycle has grown so quickly—and appears to have a successful road ahead.

It's designed for exclusivity. 

SoulCycle classes for the week ahead open for registration at noon every Monday. And devoted riders go crazy. People will abandon meetings, reschedule phone calls, and ditch work commitments to coalesce around their smartphones and book classes with their favorite SoulCycle instructors. Wait until 12:01 p.m. and the class might be full. SoulCycle keeps opening more studios— they've now got 38 in six cities across the U.S.—but certain sessions always reach capacity quickly.

It's a solid workout that doesn't take much time.

In just 45 minutes, SoulCycle says that a rider can burn as many as 700 calories. Each session involves a warm up, a high-intensity cardio and strength session, and a cool down. Each class includes a short session using free weights, and by the time you get there, a one-pound dumbbell may as well weigh a ton. Most SoulCycle studios run classes all day, starting first thing and going until 7 or 8 at night, making them convenient for time-crunched Americans.

It's the sweatiest party you've ever been to.

Bring on the Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, and Pitbull. SoulCycle sessions are marketed as a dance party on a bike. Set in a dark room with loud music, riders spend most of their time out of the bike seat doing choreography like push-ups on the handlebars or "tap backs" designed to work the core. Throw in some candles (which typically adorn the podium around the instructor's bike) and the experience is more like a sweaty nightclub than a standard gym.  

It's designed to make people feel good.

Instructors are trained (at Soul University, no less) to be friendly purveyors of positive reinforcement—no boot camp-style screaming here!—and each one has their own particular technique for doing so. Some talk about controlling one's own destiny, while others focus on shaking off a tough day at work, or feeling stronger and fitter. People get hooked on that combination of positive reinforcement and endorphins.

It's a place to see and be seen.

SoulCycle is more than just a spin class. Every location of the chain also sells apparel, like a $52 tank top and $78 sweatpants, along with headbands, water bottles, and other memorabilia adorned with SoulCycle logos. SoulCycle groupies will purchase entire outfits to truly show their loyalty to the fitness company—which further cultivates a sense of loyalty among riders with a special "community" section on its website, where you can get to know instructors and read rider testimonials. 

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