SoulCycle Inc ., the exercise boutique with a cult-like following of more than 18,000 “spinners” a day, has been introducing a redesigned bike since May in select New York places. The company hopes the new equipment will reduce maintenance costs–enabling quicker expansion–while also devoting our own member a harder workout.
Called the Soul Bike Next Generation, the new bike looks bigger and sturdier, though at 115 pounds, it’s actually 15 pounds lighter than the old version, because of its aluminum frame. The company aims to roll out the new bikes nationally by the end of 2018.
The biggest change is a switch to electromagnetic induction to supply the friction, instead of the previous model, in which the brake will enter into direct contact with the flywheel. Use a carbon-belt drivetrain built by Portland, Ore.-based Stages Cycling, it’s smooth, quiet, requires no lubricant, and hardly ever needs to be adjusted.
Rear view of the new design.
It’s also a much tougher workout: As anyone who’s ever taken a Soul Cycle class knows, one of the great exhilarations of the class is climbing hard and then giving yourself a breather while you coast. With the new motorcycles, you can’t quite cheat like this as much. You have to do more turns on the resistance knob to come to a grinding halt, which cuts down on the ability to cruise along at high speeds after pedaling hard.
” The wheel is a little heavier than the old wheel, so it takes more effort to keep the same tempo on the new bike ,” said Daniel Wiener, a master teacher at SoulCycle who has been with the company for nine years. He says that a “zero” level of resistance on the new bike feelings more like one and a half turns on the old one.
Gabby Etrog Cohen, senior vice president of public relations and brand strategy, says the magnetic system will cut the time spent on maintenance by half, due to the lack of physical wear and tear. And a lower-maintenance stationary bike will make it easier to open new studios.” The ride is smoother, more comfortable, and more effective ,” Cohen said. The ride is so smooth, one
reviewer has called it” the Marvin Gaye of spin motorcycles .”
Spinners in session.
When I tried it out at the West 77 th Street location in New York, I observed the manage bars have more cushion and slant upward, instead of lying flat. There is a nook to allow for better grip and sort, too. Upper-body choreography was a bit easier–I didn’t get close to smashing my face or elbows as I usually do–while bouncing up and down or attempting pushups without losing velocity.
” The motorcycles feel like they’re working all your muscles more than the older ones ,” said Nina Cochrane, who was in my class.” You definitely finish the 45 minutes dripping with sweat, and you can feel the intensity of the workout the next day .”
I found that it’s easier now to adjust the seat and handlebar postures, thanks to levers instead of knobs. But others discovered them wobbly, less secure, and difficult to set up. The motorcycle still keeps the standard-setting, split-seat design pioneered by the original designer, Villency Group. Even then, the transition to the new motorcycle can be tricky.
Founded in 2006, the workout has become an icon of the independent fitness boutique movement in part by biding low-tech, even as challengers such as Flywheel Sports Inc. and Peloton Interactive Inc. have lured others by use big data to attract riders. SoulCycle’s new motorcycles stay true to this culture: There are no computers or data measurement tools. Riders must continue to rely on red faces, drenched bodies, sweat puddles, and that shell-shocked feeling to measure performance.
The workout has been so popular that riders will dole out approximately $34 for a single class, more than challengers with fancier bells and whistles. In 2011, an limb of the giant gym chain Equinox Holdings Inc. bought out majority ownership and then upped that stake to 97 percent in 2015.( The company declined to say how much it’s spending on these new bikes, only that it replaces them every five years when the warranty runs out .)
In a 2015
SEC filing, Equinox documents a leap from 12 studios in 2012 to 36 in 2014, increasing annual riders from 969,000 to 2.9 million. Operating income jumped to $26.5 million from $7.8 million in the same period. As of this year, the company asserts roughly 6.6 million riders per year and 85 locations.
But there was one flagrant flaw that Wiener and some of his early morning riders found on the new bike: The liquor baskets have been replaced by horizontal trays, devoting them no place to keep their fresh cups of coffee within hand’s reach during the ride.” You can’t put your coffee in it anymore ,” he said.” That’s what I miss, and a lot of people say they miss .”