For Valentine's Day, my girlfriend took me to SoulCycle. Would I have preferred a conversation heart that says "fax me"? Yes. But I also realize that being as on-trend as possible with physical fitness is the most important thing a person can focus on. So we went. Lots of parts were great! Much better than expected, honestly. But then there were some downsides, things likely everyone reading this article has felt too. Here they are.
The locker rooms are tiny, and that other weird room that ACTUALLY has the lockers is even tinier
When I stepped into the bleached-white locker area outside the Box of Bikes, fear hit me hard. Somehow they'd managed to herd 12,000 people fitter than myself into a holding cell. They were loading up lockers, and strapping on bike shoes, and standing there silent and sick of being caged, looking like they were ready to burst out of a Higgins Boat on the beach at Normandy and KILLLLLLLL. It's pretty obvious that the room was designed to hold one class' worth of SoulCyclists, and that they totally forgot that the other class that also has stuff in lockers has to exit and sweat all over you for 10 minutes while they prep the bikes again.
Butts are constantly in your face
Every time I bent down to find a locker that wasn't yet taken (but was always taken), a butt got thrown in my face -- the butt of someone else bending down to find a locker that wasn't taken (those were taken too). Every time, my own butt was surely shoved in some other poor locker-seeker's face. It's like a human centipede of trend-based fitness. This process rebooted itself when it was time to put those shoes on.
Once you're in the bike room, the butts get even closer. Or, one specific butt does. And this butt will be inescapable for the next 45 minutes. Once you start being forcefully instructed to do push-up-type maneuvers on the bike, the butts force their way even further face-ward. Especially when you're completely off-rhythm, and going forward when the butts are going backwards. Now maybe this is great if you love constant butts in your face, but for me, even the nicest butts are unwelcome when I'm trying to focus on being the most warrior-like possible version of myself.
If you use the rented shoes, everyone can tell you're a stupid rookie
When bowling, everyone ignores the threat of athlete's foot and agrees it's weird if you DON'T rent shoes -- the real freaks are the ones who bowl so much they own their own footwear (note: I was once one of those freaks). The opposite is true at SoulCycle: every single person who's been at least three times has smartly realized they need non-rental biking shoes that scream in neon yellow that they're a pro. I felt like I was playing an NBA game in Birkenstocks. And not even the clog ones.
The instructor is basically Michael Jackson on a bike, and you are... Tito? At best?
Our wonderful instructor Erin -- who is so skilled at being professionally Soul-fit that she is the first thing you see on the brand's homepage -- could do things on her bike that nobody had ever done on a bike before. She moved like a cage dancer crossed with Bow Wow from Roll Bounce. It really looked like fun! So I tried it too, and realized quickly that I was at least four-to-700 classes away from being able to have such a grand old time. Back to boring old pedaling so fast my I could feel my heart in my eyes.
If you don't have trendy clothing, you are a fitness leper
There used to be a brand called Champion that made all the coolest workout gear. I wore a Champion shirt and shorts to my SoulCycle lesson. This was not the right thing to do. All the real SoulCyclers had very tight pants with prints of geometric shapes and sometimes neon animals. The people I truly admired though, had purchased entire SoulCycle-branded outfits: tights with wheels on them, sports bras, bandanas. Why is the $54 tank top more expensive than the $46 T-shirt? Because the poor people who buy $46 T-shirts probably aren't even hot enough to show off their shoulders.
If you're a guy and don't rip that $46 T-shirt off at some point, you feel like you're not trying hard enough
And there's me, continuing to wear Champion and feeling even less like one.
Everyone puts their provided towel over the handlebars and I was bad at even that
I kept mis-aligning the towel and having it slip off said handlebars in various ways, with my impressive body weight propelling downwards in coordination with it, over and over. I think this could be solved with slightly larger towels, slightly smaller handlebars, or the allowance of free thought.
It makes you feel terrible about literally every other workout you've ever done
Sometimes I'll go to the gym for an hour and a half, and work up enough of a sweat to almost consider washing my shirt before the next time I go. Three quick minutes of SoulCycle gave me horrifyingly definitive proof that I have been focusing far too much on getting proper recovery time between sets, staying hydrated via extended trips to the water fountain, and reading engaging long-form magazine stories on my phone. The remaining 42 minutes were for dwelling on that awful fact.
Everyone says nobody's paying attention to you, but that can't possibly be true
Every time I feared I was embarrassing myself in front of someone wearing a "I Really Just Need to Focus on Myself Right Now" shirt, my girlfriend told me that nobody cared. She lied. All the SoulCycle riders knew I didn't have the shoes, or the gear, or the comfort level, or the honed butt-thrusting rhythm that directly matches up with Talib Kweli's lyrics, and that I turned down my resistance when Erin told us very specifically to turn it up, and that if I wasn't turning it up, I wasn't getting my (girlfriend's) $34 worth. I know they knew. I'm sorry to all of you.
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Ben Robinson is Thrillist's editorial director and can't wait to try this WheelFly. Follow him even though he SoulCycles in the last row at @benjorobinson.