I have a confession to make, and it won’t endear me to most of the fitness junkies across New York and LA: SoulCycle is not my favorite thing in the world. In fact, I’m not really a fan at all. Shocking, I know, but hear me out.
It’s not even the class itself that puts me off, but the experience surrounding it. While some people love the cultish community vibe of SoulCycle, I value autonomy in the gym, even when it comes to group fitness. I’m not big on small-talk in the locker room, which is apparently mandatory among SoulCyclers. I also find it hard not to cringe when instructors scream “motivational” and “spiritual” comments in my direction, cannot “dance” on my bike, and find that the 10 minutes after a SoulCycle class, usually spent trying to maneuver through the cramped studio and locker room without touching another sweaty body, completely off-putting.
Obviously, I’m the minority here – just about every other fitness-minded individual in the country raves about SoulCycle, but for me there are a few other, perhaps a little more underrated, spin classes I prefer. And even if you love SoulCycle, it can’t hurt to test out the competition.
Equinox gym, for starters, has a killer spin class. The music is on-point, you can track your progress, and afterwards you’re able to enjoy all the amenities of a first-rate fitness center, including snacks from Juice Press, steam room, and in some cases even a roof top pool for a quick swim to cool off. Of course, it also helps that group fitness classes are free to members.
Another favorite is Cyc Fitness, which has studios across New York, Atlanta, Austin, Boston, and more locations in the U.S. and is a few dollars cheaper per ride than SoulCycle. Inside, you’ll find the room decked out with neon lights which pulse with the high-energy playlist. Think of a really, really healthy nightclub, and you’ll pretty much have it pictured. The 45-minute class also focuses on some exercises using lights weights and moves inspired by sports like volleyball and swimming. There are sprints, hill climbs, and some choreography that does require a little coordination. Spin shoes are free, and towels and water are available for you to purchase. Oh, and there’s an actual drum that the instructor plays during the class. You’ve really just got to try it.
Then, there’s Flywheel, the cycle class that will bring out your inner competitive streak. And although Ruth Zukerman, one of SoulCycle’s original founders, actually started Flywheel, it is not, in fact, SoulCycle. Each bike is fitted with a device that streams your effort onto a leaderboard on the front wall, if you choose to share it. Of all the absurd incentives to push yourself even harder at the gym, a board of shame is probably the most effective. They also aren’t trying to offer a “spiritual experience” like Zukerman’s original venture; just a damn hard workout.