SoulCycle: Wheels of Fitness Phenomenon Turning Downtown
Wheels of fitness phenomenon turning downtown.
By Deborah Burstyn
Walnut Creek’s status inched up another notch with the August opening of fitness sensation SoulCycle. Tucked inside Broadway Plaza’s parking garage near Macy’s, the “soul” of these cycling classes comes from instructors who give upbeat spiritual pep talks during workouts. Positive messages are shouted out over amped-up music encouraging students to work hard and let go of negative self-conscious thoughts. “Walnut Creek, you’re beautiful! You’re crushing it,” shouts one instructor during an opening day class. “We’re your new sweaty family,” she says. “You can let all your s…t go here!” The class cheers in assent. Students here are encouraged to accept each other and feel a sense of shared community, a hallmark of SoulCycle’s almost cult-like following nationwide.
From its start in New York City a decade ago, SoulCycle has expanded to about 85 studios across the country. Newer outposts include Southern California, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., and the Bay Area. Walnut Creek has the honor of being the company’s first East Bay location. SoulCycle has three studios in San Francisco as well as one in Marin and one in Palo Alto. A studio in Los Gatos is set to open next year.
The quasi-religious ambiance is heightened by the almost complete darkness in the windowless studios where classes are conducted. But instead of huddling in prayer, SoulCycle’s disciples are rapidly pumping up and down in unison, dancing on their pedals to tunes ranging from funk to techno. At the instructors command, students press down on their handlebars for upper body pushups. For a brief interval, free weights – stowed in wire basket behind the seat – are incorporated into the workout. And through it all, the fast and furious bike pedaling never stops. Class ends with applause and people file out drenched, energized, and exhilarated.In an era when many no longer attend church, SoulCycle, with its mix of cheerful motivational messages bundled with intense group exercise, may be filling a void. But at $30 a class – there are no membership discount plans – it’s a good thing they don’t pass the collection plate.