Thursday, March 15, 2012

Soul Cycle West Hollywood is a claustrophobic nightmare imported from NYC

Los Angeles, CA

As I walked through the entrance of Soul Cycle on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, CA, (310-657-7685) it looked like a cross between a retail clothing store and a bowling alley front desk, with what looked like rows and rows of bike shoes, behind the desk. Soul Cycle is a New York import into LA made for the spinning enthusiast with a fat wallet.

Soul Cycle West Hollywood

The front room with the check in desk looked very white and very clean, and the staff was very eager to please and very knowledgeable about spinning. I was offered everything from bike shoes, water bottle, towels, chewing gum, ear plugs, and even a cupcake. While I brought my own SPD clip bike shoes, the staff recommended I try their Look Delta clip bike shoes. Bike shoes are required to spin at Soul Cycle (free for first class, and $3 rental afterwards, per class).  The clothing available for purchase was shirts that I was told last longer, and made to sweat and wash without being destroyed. Does that quantify the extremely high prices of $44-$77 dollar price range? The staff said, cheaper t-shirts are coming.

Soul Cycle Rules

After leaving the front room, I saw some suggested rules on the wall that mentioned because of closeness of bikes, that a strong odor ruins the spinning experience for those around you. Another rule mentions to treat the staff with respect. While the last of the rules deal with spinning etiquette which calls for no talking during the class and no texting or using cell phones while the class is going on. Something else I saw just about everywhere on the walls was framed press clippings from newspapers and magazines. (No doubt a publicist was hired, who did a really spectacular job) The website contains what seems like hundreds of press clippings and TV footage.

I made my way to the locker area, which I learned was unisex and an open area made for men and women to use at the same time. There are about 100 or more lockers that don’t need a key or lock, because they have it built in. The locker area is a very tight space and is very uncomfortable because I am used to separate locker room for men and women, and one with a bathroom, and space to undress and change my clothes. Soul cycle locker area is not a changing room, but a place to change your street shoes and maybe lock up your purse or keys and cell phone.  I recommend coming dressed and ready to spin, and get used to leaving with wet clothes and socks while waiting to shower at home, though I would never leave like that.

For those willing to go through the hassle of showering at Soul Cycle LA, they do have separate men and women small bathrooms with 1 toilet, 1 shower and 1 sink. Amenities include, large shower towels, hair blower, deodorant, disposable razors, hair spray, Q tip’s. The shower has shampoo, conditioner and body wash.  Plastic laundry bag was also available.

I took my belongings out of the locker, walked to the bathroom, and was lucky enough to have the little bathroom to myself, but I could not lock the door. Women kept trying to open the door and see if anyone was in the men’s bathroom. It could have been the cleaning staff, but it was still disturbing me. When I got out of the shower, I saw the bathroom had large towels to use for showering. I started drying off, when a man entered the bathroom and started changing in the same small space that I was trying to change. That became very awkward. He asked why I was staring at him, and I said it’s like you completely ignored that I was here first and trying to change in the same place. When I got out of the bathroom to get the rest of my belongings in the locker area, I could not enter, because there was so many people using the space.

I entered the room for spinning and saw about 45 Schwinn spin bikes, which had nothing special on them (besides branding stickers on the fly wheel and frame), and reminded me of the bikes I used more than 5 years ago, with a handlebar that I could not put my water bottle into, and adjustments that were not lettered or numbered for a quick adjustment. In the old days, we had to count holes, and that’s the way it still is at Soul Cycle. The bikes are all numbered, and you can reserve for the whole week by paying in advance. Bikes 5-10 are front row, in front of the instructor, who has a bike facing us on a platform. The plastic holders on the side of the bike cannot hold a large bottle and seem to work best with a 23.7 ounce bottle or smaller. In boxes next to the instructor platform are weights, gel seats, towels. The wall behind the instructor is mirrored, and the wall behind the bikes have a huge photo encompassing the entire back wall of a road. The side wall has a saying or mantra of Soul Cycle. The mantra is also available on t-shirts.

The instructors are well trained have a high energy, and have you doing much more than riding. They work the upper body with varying positions and weights, and Soul Cycle says they actually work the entire body. The class I was in had a couple of hills, some sprints and upper and lower body workouts, with small weights. The instructor appeared to be using around 60% intensity on her bike on the hills and did not stress more of her class. I was told by staff, the instructors include visiting instructors from NYC, special classes with music themes like GLEE themed music.

Maybe Soul Cycle customers come because the prices are so high per class, that it makes it very exclusive, or maybe Soul Cycle attracts celebrities. Others think that Soul Cycle is attractive only because it’s so new, and the rich want to try new things. When the rich realizes that instructors are better or the same at much less expensive places (like Crunch on Sunset crunch is a much better place to spin than soul cycle because it has superior instructors Edward, Bob, Andrew, Teri Ann, Derek, Matt, Kirk, Tommy, Ryan, Colin, Christina, Brian and Beth. Better bikes, better locker room, better music, better staff, better atmosphere, better sound system, better mood lighting and a better price) Soulcycle will not always be so new anymore, that it will either have to change its prices or close within a year (depending on their lease). Some spinning only facilities do make it a couple years, but let’s be realistic, Soul Cycle opened in the same small complex as the exclusive Equinox, that’s entrance is only a few feet from Soul Cycle’s entrance, and Equinox has reserved bikes online as well. I really don’t understand what attracts people to this claustrophobic nightmare called Soul Cycle. I didn't buy into any of the spiritual or soul stuff that they were trying to push in the media, but I did sweat, had a good workout, and liked that the bikes were in good condition because they were so new. 

My overall experience felt like a small NY sweatshop, full of people in a very tight space. I was told by the staff that the NY locations are even smaller.

Shoe rental $3
1 class $25
5 class series $125
10 class series $250
20 class series $500
30 class series $750
50 class series $3000

Parking $2 with validation


Soul Cycle


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