On January 20 John Macgowan posted Would you teach for SoulCycle? If you have not read it, try to find the time. It generated a lively discussion of 17 comments between eight of us. The post highlights excerpts from an article in New York Magazine that ran on January 14, 2013. An interesting read as well pointing out that Soul Cycle instructors are earning $50K and more.
Coincidentally, Soul Cycle is coming to San Francisco, opening a studio inside an Equinox. On Friday February 8th they invited us local instructors to participate in a ‘Soul Cycle Master Class”™ to get a sense of what Soul Cycle classes are like. Why? Because on Saturday February 9th Soul Cycle was holding auditions for instructors who would - should they make the grade - be the first to do Soul Cycle (SC) classes in Northern California. I wanted an audition.
I attended the Master Class looking forward to the experience. SC owners Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice were there for opening remarks. A very buff/cute and perky twenty something instructor originally from Santa Cruz led our 45 minute class.
I was on the bike warming up next to an acquaintance. We were chatting easily five minutes before class started and I was holding about 95bpm. (I always wear my heart rate monitor) Class starts, in less than two minutes I was above T2 and thats where it stayed for a lot longer than I thought possible. My friend and I never spoke again.
Those of you needing a quick refresher, T2 (Ventilatory Threshold 2) is roughly equivalent to Lactate Threshold which is roughly equivalent to anaerobic threshold. Even for the most fit athletes long periods above T2 are just not possible without slowing down. I was viewing my heart rate on my iPhone app. Finally I had to turn it over so I could not see the numbers. Take away lesson: if you are doing Soul cycling, leave your heart rate monitor at home.
Our instructor spent about half her time on the bike. The other half was spent bouncing around the room ‘pumping us up”™. During the first thirty minutes we spent a good percentage of time out of the saddle and at high cadences. I observed a new position; come out of the saddle, rest all your upper body weight on the handle bars, and then spin at extremely high cadences. I didn”™t even try. We also did movements that can only be described as pushups and jumps. These I did.
The music was played so loud that it was distorted. Of course this caused the instructor to turn up her mic volume to a place where I couldn”™t understand a word she said. I just copied the women around me.
Thirty minutes in she sat us down and we did simulated upper body resistance training. Simulated because - ironically - there were no weights in this cycle studio. After that a couple more high intensity climbs and bam, we”™re done. Whew!
I think it is safe to say that I was definitely bringing up the average age in the room. I was one of three men in the full studio. My friend and I being roughly the same age and one hard body guy in his early 20”™s. (In San Francisco this guy will easily play successfully to both genders) Not sure why men were so outnumbered but this is a female dominated arena. And, oh my could they scream with the joy of being pushed into a sweating mass. I put the average age of the women in attendance at late 20”™s.
I think we all get that there has been a decline in what used to be a pent up demand for cycling. Clearly in the markets where Soul Cycle studio's exist there is pent up demand for this product. Indeed - if one is to believe the New York Magazine article - some riders interviewed were spending in excess of $20K per year on their Soul Cycle habit.
Why is that? I struggled with this question but, if we take a hard look at the Soul Cycle model we find that their distinction is a huge commitment to finding just the right instructors. Let”™s face it, at the end of the day quality instruction is still the key to successful programs. Soul Cycle management believes in their program (having perfected it), which is kind of like the American Idol of indoor cycling. They invest a lot of time and money to find a few good instructors. If one has the right stuff, the end game is worth it for SC and instructor.
How many studio owners are willing to go there? Historically, not many. And what is there?
Let”™s look at Soul Cycle again. Soul Cycle supports, motivates and promotes the instructor all the way to a Soul Cycle stage, if they make the grade.
Making it through the audition process is only the first step. Then off you go to their training center to learn to do it their way. If one makes it through that, then one teaches six to eight classes per week and not necessarily prime time. Still there is more. One must attend three to five classes per week taught by the studio mentors. And, one cannot teach anywhere but SC.
Having done all this your large paycheck is still not in the bank. Soul Cycle uses a tiered incentive system essentially based on how many butts are in saddles during your class. The more butts, the bigger the pay check.
Lots of work that - from my experience in this industry - few instructors and even fewer studio owners are willing to to do.
Indoor cycling isn”™t new any more. Simply rejuvenating existing programs isn”™t a trivial task, will take time, money and commitment that is rarely seen in our industry. I doubt many studio owners have so clear a vision of their Unique Selling Proposition that they would pony up the dollars to operate like the very successful Soul Cycle.
If you are wondering if I got hired, I did not go back to audition. A part of me wanted to know for sure if I had the right stuff. I believe I would have passed the audition. I”™m a big enough ham and love connecting with my riders so much that - to me - making the first step seemed inevitable.
Truth is, I live one hour from San Francisco. I have other contracts in my ‘portfolio career”™. I could not have committed the time or to the commute.
Yet today, I find myself getting off the bike more, bouncing around declaring to my riders that I AM here to pump them up. I guess a little bit of soul cycle goes a long way.
- Remove Resistance to Build a Larger Following - November 12, 2022
- The Cycledelic experience - June 12, 2022
- Something Good - March 26, 2021
Great to share this experience and show where Soulcycling marketing is starting … instructors … Ok they do not research the best coaches but they understand that we are an important part of success.
Glad to read about the experience, Chuck. Like Pascal, I think it’s good to see where marketing trends are going……even if it’s only to protect oneself from future repercussions (not that I worry about that too much……my future timeline being a fair bit less than most)
One of the reasons I spend so much of my generated income from IDC in attending IDC workshops, training events and masterclasses is that I want to be a bit better at what I do and be a bit more like folk who help me to get there…..both as an instructor and an “athlete”.
Apart from you being willing to be a bit more “bubbly”, I see nothing in your experience that’d make me want to even try a “masterclass” if one came to my area.
FWIW, Tom Scotto (a name not unknown to members of this forum) made Boston’s 1012 list of best instructors http://blog.rateyourburn.com/blog/post/2013/01/11/boston-s-10-best-spinning-cycling-instructors-of-the-year-1.aspx …..at #3. Look who (what) beat his product out in the #2 slot (or Jon Malone’s at #5, for that matter) Check out this chick’s educational rap sheet…..if you can find it…. and see how it stacks up for value.
As I mentioned on this forum and over on pedal-on, if the industry doesn’t police itself WRT crazy nonsense, however popular, it’ll get policed by Someone Else……and it’ll be much more restrictive than anything that, say, Jennifer Sage etc. would want to apply when it comes to keeping it real (or effective…..or safe….or not having you look like total rube!!!)
Thank gawd I’m too old to worry too much
10-4 Vivienne. I too dread the day when those who consider themselves as the arbiters of what’s right or real, get the chance to impose their views on our industry.
But that, IMO, will never happen 🙂 SoulCycle is filling a niche by offering the entertainment clearly desired by a lot of people, through hiring very entertaining Instructors. Every club owner or manager wants classes with waiting lists and many are copying SoulCycle in the pursuit of similar success.
I’m beginning to recognise that many Instructors (and the people who influence them) feel they can teach exactly what & how they want (talking about HR ad nauseam is a typical example), irrespective of what customers really came to experience.
Said with a thick Russian accent; “you will do this because I know what’s best for you… and I expect you to like it” may work in a little 10 bike boutique studio, but that form of thinking would be the touch of death in a big box like where many of us have to actually entertain our participants.
One of the trainers at LTF has the saying; “first you need to give them what they want… and then (and only then) you can work in a little of what they need.”
I think Chuck is on to something here. We all could probably use to spend sometime over at the “dark side” and then bring some of it back to our own classes.
Thruth be told, it doesn’t have to be an either/or…
Supremely boring arrogant instructors deserve to belong somewhere out there in the desert…….along with what I perceive to be SoulCycle’s ACTUAL offering…..
I’ve hunted down a few of the Youtube thingies that’re out there and designed to promote Soul Cycle (I guess)……one or two with Kelly Ripa (seems to me like a spokesperson for SC like Gwyneth Paltrow is for the Tracy Anderson *method*…….another “shoot me now, make it quick”, bat-$h!t crazy iterations of what fitness “professionals” should provide) Honestly, if this is what’s out there as something to market SC……overcrowded, gloomy environment just as a starter…..I swear I could put something on to match this in my basement.
I’d be a bit too embarrassed, mind…..
There is something odd about this post. I can’t tell if you liked it or if you didn’t.
I did some quick looking around for what Soul Cycle is and so far it seems to me that this is analogous to something like “weight lifting ballet”. Am I too far off?
Cycling as it is now is a beautiful, meaningful and involved exercise. I don’t think Soul Cycle translates to my previous statement. And because of that I would not bother to apply for a job there.
I liked it. My goal with this piece was to describe the class and hiring process first hand. I tried to point out some of the more glaring differences between Soul Cycle and our Indoor cycling 2.0 along the way.
The reality is that Soul Cycle management is looking for instructors who are good at making a connection with the riders. That is right in my wheel house. Had the opportunity been more viable for me (living closer and not wanting to give up the other stuff I do) I would have gone ahead and auditioned.
You said it Chuck ” Soul cycle management is looking for instructors who are good at making a connection with the riders” …
You can have an universal knowledge of training but if you can not talk to people, make connection with them you are not the best coach.
This post is not about Soul Cycle, I think, it is more about what would make you different than any others. One problem is that with that skill often come some feeling of being superior (arrogance).
I would finish using an old French, I advice you to find the lyrics in English … “je sais” by Jean Gabin
For me, I think the take-home lesson here is the importance of seeking out instructors that fit with the vision of the gym/studio/etc, getting them on board with the program, and ensuring that they provide a consistent “product” for their customers. *MY* vision is nothing like Soul Cycle’s, but I CAN recognize the things they’ve done right with regard to recruiting staff that connect with their clientele and providing an engaging, enjoyable experience that participants want to come back for.
that is so interesting that SC would open “inside an Equinox” as that seems not at all consistent with their brand as there is nothing aspirational or inspriational about an Equinox. Do you know which Equinox they are looking at? Downtown SF?
Downtown SF. FYI equinox is bring the soul cycle brand into 17 facilities across the US
I was just recently in NYC for the ECA fitness conference. I did not get to Soul Cycle but I did listen to a presenter on how have a “successful” business. The presenter has seen it all in the fitness industry and she is from NYC. She gave the story of Soul Cycle and explained how they differentiated themselves from the competition and hence fourth became successful.
She also discussed how many indoor cycling groups, shunned the effectiveness, safety, and general structure of their classes (these appear to be anything but IDC 2.0!)
However, she shockingly followed this with “I don’t care, they rock my world, I am willing to pay and go every week.”
There is lots in play with Soul Cycle’s success, but or me( and others posted above) it is clearly how they connect with their students and make them feel special. The pack mentality, and being the latest word of mouth “it” thing to do In NYC certainly helps. We all no how much more energy there is to work with when the room is full, and how people just want to be there regardless of how effective the class really is.
I’d be willing to bet if these same instructors taught a safer, more effective 2.0 format AND brought the “soulfulness” and student connections, they would be a true force to be reckoned with, and not just a flash in the pan for the next few years.
I was asked a year ago and again just the other day to teach this kind crazy format with an “extreme” Personal Trainer, charging a fee and hopefully boosting our clubs revenue. My answer was the same, “no.” When asked why I said, “integrity.” ( I hear you Amy M.!)
Soul Cycle is getting a lot of press and slowly expanding, but they by no means have the market. But, they are in the game, good for them. If they are smart, and I believe they are, they will evolve as well. Some of us need to work on the care and connect skills, others need to continue the education of Indoor cycle 2.0. Either way it is going to be a fun ride!
Doug I think you nailed it. I saw nothing that could not have been done sticking to our 2.0 philosophies.
They are in the game and I will repeat again why: Soul cycle’s commitment to their instructor force. Just like at your club, right?
I do think that Soul Cycle did a few things
right – they understand and appreciate their
Instructors. I’m impressed. If they do eventually
evolve I’m in! 🙂
Yes Doug! We can take the successes of SC and integrate them into Cycling 2.0 and have the BOMB of indoor cycling classes. If we can connect like SC, but teach with cycling principle integrity…well then, we will be rich. Let’s figure it out, brand it, build it, hire it and be on the road to riches like SC. Obviously they are filling a niche here!