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I Tried the SoulCycle At-Home Bike. Here’s Why It’s Better Than In-Person Classes.

All that's missing is the mood lighting.

SoulCycle at-home bike Courtesy SoulCycle

While we’ve been confined to our homes for the past year and change, I’ve made a concerted effort to spend more time working out so as not to become one with my couch. I tried a variety of workouts using my much-loved Mirror (think yoga, weight training and kickboxing), but felt the need for something that put an even bigger emphasis on cardio. So when presented with the opportunity to try out SoulCycle’s at-home bike, I jumped at the chance—but not without some reservations.

The thing is, I’ve done a handful of in-person SoulCycle classes before and, to be honest, I didn’t like them. The few times I’ve gone to one of their studios, I’ve left feeling completely defeated and like I spent the entire class worrying so much about keeping up with the cycling patterns and choreography that I didn’t even get in a good workout, The fact that most of the other attendees looked like models who were not even phased by the grueling routine did not help. On top of that, I prefer my workout instructors to keep the positive affirmations to a minimum—and if you’ve ever been to a SoulCycle class, you know that you-can-do-it metaphors and inspirational stories are as much a part of the class as the actual pedaling.

But despite my apprehension, I decided to say “Yes!” to the bike, as any SoulCycle instructor would push me to do. I figured having the tool at my disposal would allow me to become more familiar with the choreography and boost my confidence—and if I did struggle, at least it would be in private. If all went well, maybe I could actually become a SoulCycle person. And if not, well, the bike wasn’t going to take up too much room.

Getting Set Up

The actual setup of the bike was relatively simple. Once it was delivered to my home and installed into my guest room, all I had to do was plug it in, log into my Equinox+ account and then adjust the seat height, handlebars, resistance and the settings with the help of on-demand on-screen videos.

One note about that Equinox+ account: Yes, in addition to purchasing the bike, you do have to buy a monthly membership to have access to the classes. The membership costs $40 per month, and also gives you access to other classes from the Equinox family, such as Rumbl and Pure Yoga. If you have a membership to an actual Equinox gym, though, you’re in luck, as the Plus account is already part of the deal.

One last thing before you begin: To get the most out of the workout, you will need shoes that can clip into the bike. You can get the SoulCycle shoes that are specifically designed for the bike (they start at $175) like I did, or, like my partner, you can get non-SC shoes and buy the clips separately. Whichever footwear you choose, I do highly recommend getting something that works with the bike, otherwise it’ll be a lot harder to put the pedal to the metal.

SoulCycle at-home bike

The bike has a small footprint and is easy to store when not in use.  Courtesy SoulCycle

How it Works

The bike itself is pretty straightforward: It’s a stationary bike but, like everything Equinox-adjacent, it’s modern and well-designed. Its cool matte-black finish makes it look as much a design object as a tool for working out, and its relatively petite size allows it to fit into pretty much any space. Perhaps the most outstanding feature is the large touch screen, which is reminiscent of one you would find in a Tesla. The ultra-responsive screen makes it easy to search through SoulCycle’s catalog of on-demand classes and features enough space to show the instructor and rider view, so you can see what your form should look like. (Plus, it’s a great screen for streaming your latest Netflix binge—but more on that later.)

Once you’re signed in, your home screen will have suggestions for classes you might like based on previous classes you’ve taken. Or you can opt to take one of the themed rides that the bike offers, such as The Power of Pop (think Britney on loop) or Throwback Rides (hits from various eras). If none of those suit your fancy, you can search through the hundreds of on-demand classes, and refine your quest by class length, difficulty, instructor and type of music. Classes come in intervals of 15-, 30-, 45-, 60-, and 90-minutes (the latter may ensure you’ll be unable to walk for the next week). There are also classes tailored to every skill level, from beginner to expert. Personally, I’m good at a nice intermediate.

SoulCycle at-home bike

The instructors–and their playlists–help keep you motivated.  Courtesy SoulCycle

The Workout

The classes themselves are exactly what you’d expect: high intensity spin with a big emphasis on the music. Regardless of the level you choose, all classes start with a warm-up and then get right into an extreme cardio-based workout. The instructors will bump up the intensity throughout by encouraging you to add resistance with the wheel at the front of the bike—though since you’re at home, it’s all on the honor system, of course. Most of the classes also have a section devoted to arms and upper body so you can get a full-body workout with the help of some weights tucked in the back of the bike.

There is also some choreography involved. Yes, I know; the idea of cycling at specific tempos while also moving my upper body to some bizarre choreography also makes me cringe, but it grows on you. In the beginning, I could not for the life of me move both my arms and legs at the same time—truly, it’s hard to do! But as I took more classes and got used to the choreography of some of my favorite instructors, I got better at it, and it really boosted my confidence. In case you’re like me and want to get everything just right, there are also short videos on the bike that demo all the classic SoulCycle choreography. And if you just can’t be bothered to learn what a double tap is or how to do corners, you can always ignore the core altogether—your house, your rules.

The bulk of the classes that you have access to on the bike are pre-recorded and on-demand, meaning you can squeeze in a workout whenever it works with your schedule. However, if you prefer to have a plan or you’re just really craving a live class with your favorite instructor, there are a slew of live classes available every day that you can take from the comfort of your home. But like the pre-recorded selections, these vary in length, difficulty and musical genre, so you might not find exactly what you’re in the mood for on any given day. Another note: The famous mood lighting found in the studios makes it a bit difficult to see what’s going on and given that there is no rider view (like you’ll find in the pre-recorded classes), it can be a bit more difficult to follow along if you’re not a seasoned pro.

SoulCycle at-home bike

Whether you’re into pop, hip-hop, alternative rock or country, there’s a class soundtrack here for you.  Courtesy SoulCycle

The Motivations

Of course, the big draws of SoulCycle are its instructors and their playlists. Each instructor brings with them a specific style of teaching and a preferred genre of music, so it’s easy to find ones that you connect with on those levels; all also provide challenges and encouragement along the way. Though not all of your local SoulCycle instructors are available on the at-home version, a ton of crowd-favorites like Samantha J., Ariel and Victoria are at your disposal. I really enjoyed honing in on the teachers that best suited my style, as that encouraged me to hop on the bike. It takes a little experimenting, but I do think there’s an instructor for every kind of workout you might be craving.

After having the bike at home, I have to agree that music choices really make the classes. They are expertly curated to pump you up or mellow and cool you down, to the point that you often don’t realize how excruciating the workout was until you dismount from the bike. Whatever music gets you in the workout mindset, they have it; pop, hip-hop, Latin, rock, alternative and even country are all options. The fact that the playlists are varied with originals, remixes and deep cuts is also a plus for this Top 40-hating girl.

Finally, for those of you who are in it for the workout and don’t particularly care about taking a SoulCycle class, or maybe just have a show you need to keep binging, the bike also features the ability to stream Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ while you ride freestyle. Personally, I need someone to yell at me to keep going or I will inevitably come up with an excuse to stop, but for my boyfriend, this feature has been a huge plus—so much so that he’s used the bike every single day. I guess WandaVision is just as good a motivator as the best SoulCycle coach.

What I Like About the Bike

Overall, there’s a lot to like about the SoulCycle bike. First of all, there’s no denying that it’s a great way to get in a cardio workout; no matter the class or instructor, I always felt like I was being pushed to my limits and beyond to get a good return on my time investment. The fact that there are so many classes at various time lengths also made it easy to incorporate cardio into my workout routine, as I could easily do some independent strength training and then add in time on the bike based on my schedule. Plus, it’s a lot easier to hop on the bike for 30 minutes when it’s just a few steps away.

All of these factors led to me seeing an actual change on the scale. As noted, I was already working out when the SoulCycle bike came into my life, but since I added cycling to my routine, I’ve lost a whole ten pounds. I did also start working with a nutritionist at around the same time, so the change can’t solely be attributed to the bike, but I do think the regular intense cardio deserves some props.

I would also be remiss to not mention how great it is to basically have a private SoulCycle studio in your house. You always have a perfect view of the instructor without having to get to class early, and the different on-screen views make it easier to try to follow along. Having access to choreography-specific videos is also quite helpful—as is the ability to repeat a class over and over if the playlist is just too good!

Speaking of the tunes, the great music selection is such an effective motivator when working out, and I’d also say the diversity of the on-screen riders and instructors made me feel a little less out of place. While the in-person classes I’d been to in the past were largely filled with perfectly toned people who never broke a sweat—which is not me at all–the on-demand classes featured a diverse group of riders of all shapes, sizes and sweat levels, making the whole experience feel a little more accessible.

The bike is also quite easy to set-up and use and is slim enough to fit into many small spaces (looking at you, big city renters) and light enough that you could easily tuck it away when you don’t need it.

SoulCycle at-home bike

The screen is large and displays both rider and instructor views, but doesn’t swivel to allow for non-bike workouts.  Courtesy SoulCycle

The Drawbacks

Remember earlier when I compared the touch screen to that of a Tesla? Well, I may be asking for too much, but I wish that like a Tesla remembers every driver’s seat preferences, the bike also remembered each rider’s seat height and handlebar depth. With three people of varying heights and arm lengths riding the bike in my house, it was kind of a pain to have to readjust the bike to my liking every time I wanted to go for a ride.

It’s worth mentioning that unlike that of its closest competitor, Peloton, this bike’s screen is pretty much stationary—meaning, while you can tilt it back and forward, you can’t bring it out to the side to function as a monitor for other non-bike-related classes. So if you were hoping to use your bike as a one-stop-shop for all of your on-demand fitness needs, that won’t be possible.

One final huge miss for me is that the bike doesn’t track what I consider relevant metrics when it comes to working out and weight loss or maintenance. So unless you pair your Apple Watch to the bike, you won’t see any info on your heart rate or how many calories you burned during your workout–both important motivators for me, as well as relevant info for my overall fitness and nutrition plans. What you will see is data on your power, cadence, mileage and Beat Match (which tracks how well your cycling matched with the beat of the music throughout the class). While those other stats are interesting, they’re not particularly useful to me, and considering the price of the bike, I’d prefer to get all pertinent info without also having to add in a watch or fitness tracker.

The Verdict

Now for the big question: Is it worth it? If you’re in the market for an at-home tool that’s going to give you a full body workout or really build up your muscle mass, then the answer is no. Although cycling will definitely put your legs to work, the five to ten minutes of a SoulCycle class that’s spent on an upper body workout does not measure up to a good gym session. Sure, you’ll keep your arms toned, but it’s not a huge challenge in terms of weightlifting and there’s not much of an emphasis on your core unless you absolutely nail the choreography and maintain perfect form throughout class—which, let’s face it, is not happening for a full 45-plus minutes.

However, if all you’re after is a great cardio workout that you can do on the daily, the SoulCycle bike definitely does the trick. The classes are no joke: They really put you through the paces and get your heart racing, and the music is so good and the instructors just pushy enough that I found myself actually enjoying the sessions and wanting to do them consistently. This consistency led to big changes in my body, but while I’ve never looked leaner or felt healthier, I’ve also never felt better mentally. Whether due to all the encouragement from the instructors, the consistent working out (and visible results) or a little of both, I feel a lot more empowered and capable of doing just about anything–especially when it comes to working out.

The bike is also an exercise tool that’s accessible to and enjoyable for a variety of people, so if you’re looking for something your entire household can benefit from, this is a good bet. And if you’re already a SoulCycle devotee, then this is a no-brainer. After all, it’s basically like having a one-on-one with your favorite instructor in the comfort of your own home. Plus, you can repeat your favorite classes over and over until you finally nail all the choreography and get that 100-percent Beat Match. The SoulCycle at-home bike is $2,500 plus $40 per month for the Equinox+ membership.

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