It’s day one in New York City and I’m in a fog of jetlag. I fear if I stop for a second, I may fall asleep on a dirty Manhattan street. Gross. My only option is to get moving. I’ve seen Soul Cycle on my social feeds – it’s a spin class that is meant to revolutionise your body and soul. I love some faux-spirituality with a sweaty twist, so I look it up online.
“We call it a cardio party. Our riders say it’s changing their lives. With every pedal stroke, our minds clear and we connect with our true and best selves,” their site exclaims. “Through this shared SOUL experience, our riders develop an unshakeable bond with one another. Friendships are made and relationships are built. In that dark room, our riders share a Soul experience. We laugh, we cry, we grow – and we do it together, as a community.” WTF. I’m in. I will probably cry. I’m jetlagged and easily influenced by the pack mentality.
I hotfoot it to the closest Soul Cycle – there’s 18 in NYC. On arrival, my hazy eyes are blinded for a moment by the bright surfaces. Legitimately, everything is white. Is this heaven? It could be. Fellow Soul Cyclers float by me, swathed in luxe gear and glowing with good health. The reception staff have an almost evangelical level of enthusiasm about the day of spin classes ahead. I make my way through the bright white lobby and towards the R&B beats blaring from the studio. It’s dark. Too dark. I’m clumsy and tripping over spin bikes left, right and centre. This is not ideal – they’ll discover I’m an imposter. Luckily, four staff swoop into position and guide me to my bike. Why are there so many staff?
This ain’t no ‘regular’ bike. It’s a cool bike. Hand weights rest at the back. I clip in and get ready to ride. Looking around, my eyes slowly adjust to the room. The instructor is on his bike on a platform. Surrounded by candles. Wait, what? I’m risk averse. I’m concerned about the open flames. WHERE ARE THE FIRE EXITS?!? I locate them. First crisis over.
The room fills up with beautiful people. Do they only allow absolute babes here? And how the hell did I get in? While I’m contemplating all these questions, the doors close and the class begins. Unprompted, everyone starts to spin. Seemingly in tandem, my fellow riders move their torsos up and down. Their elbows drop in a kind of seated tricep dip. How on earth do you coordinate this with the spinning legs? It’s like the exercise equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your tummy. No one else appears to be struggling. Oh. I join in as best I can for this bike-dance warm up. Everyone is casually bopping and spinning in unison, like they’re three G&Ts deep and jamming at a Drake concert. As I finally start to pretend I do this erry damn day, it steps up a notch. We dial up the resistance and are out of our seats. The cheers begin. We’re finding our soul.
Unlike a regular spin class, where you get thigh burn and, let’s be honest, a bit tender down south, this is truly a whole body workout. All this dipping and standing up and down is really working my core. I’m not sure about the soul bit yet though. We swiftly move into the arms work with dumbbells. Legs are spinning in one direction, arms are busting out YMCA-style movements in the other. I’m not going to lie, I’m riding down struggle street. I give up with the legs and focus on the arm reps. Everything is burning.
The R&B beats continue, the mantras are shouted. And suddenly, it’s pitch black. The instructor has blown the candles out. This is not a drill. There’s a faint smell of smoke. We’re “freestyling”. Look, it’s odd. But at this point, I finally let loose in all my uncoordinated glory. No one cares if I’m dipping or dancing or if I’m asleep on the bike. I just ride along to the motivational soundtrack, soak it all in and I’m not going to lie, I kind of love it. Damn it, I knew this would happen.
From that point on, I’m fully committed to the SOUL experience. I heave through one final peak track. I almost vom. I question how I ended up in a smoky studio in the heart of NYC, surrounded by a group of hyped up spinners. But I’m happy and smug AF. The whole room is united in one big hot sweaty mess. Even the beautiful people.