There was a moment, about 20 minutes in, that I cried. An actual, real tear escaped from my eye, dripped down my face and got lost in a sea of salty sweat. More sweat than I ever knew my body could produce. And as my legs spun around on the bike, as the music blared in the darkened room, as the so-ripped-you’d-almost-not-believe-it instructor yelled out an endless stream of motivational mantras, I caught sight of my face, glaring right back at me in the mirror (why oh I why did I agree to a front row bike?) – unhealthily, worryingly puce.
Welcome to SoulCycle. The cult American spinning phenomenon worth nearly £1billion – and for the first time since it launched in New York back in 2006, arriving here in the UK.
Their London HQ is due to open today, and at 7.15am this morning I managed to get my hands on one of the most sought-after seats in town: a saddle.
When one of my now London-based American friends saw the story I’d posted post-workout on Instagram, I was bombarded with a flurry of messages: ‘Who was your instructor? How did you get in? I’ve been waiting for this for years. Can you get me in?’
You get the gist. SoulCycle isn’t just a fitness class. It’s a movement, with disciples – who are about to take over your insta feed, and possibly your life.
The idea of fitness movements aren’t new. Barry’s Bootcamp, launched by fitness instructor Barry Jay in Hollywood in 1998, is a high intensity group workout that has built its own cult following around the world. It now has studios in London, Manchester, Paris, Sweden and Norway.
Meanwhile, Psycle, Cy-club, CycleBeat and Boomcycle have all come after the spinning phenomenon in the UK, with their musically-themed, night-club vibe classes – filling the void that SoulCycle appeared to be leaving, with their seeming desire never to expand outside of the US and two studios in Canada.
But now they’re here, finally, Yet it begs the question: have they left it too late to crack the UK market, with so many rivals having already sprung up?
I have to confess – I was, until this morning, a spinning virgin. Apart from a very tame class aged about 17 at my parents’ gym, the only time I’ve ventured onto a bike is on holiday in France, pootling down country lanes, a baguette poking out of a bag slung over my back (#livingthecliche).
Now, frankly, I’m not sure I’ll ever be the same again.
Because it really is an ‘experience’ (as their manifesto claims), rather than a workout.
Perhaps it helps that it is an unashamedly all-American experience, even down to the staff – many of whom have come over from the States for the launch – facing down our British cynicism with a brimful of energy and Cheshire-cat grins.
Mantas, our blonde-haired Californian-born instructor, is ripped beyond belief. His beady eyes spot everyone – even in the back row – who isn’t ‘giving it your all. Push yourself. I believe in you.’
As the workout continues, his body glistens with the sweat pouring off his body, and I start to believe that maybe, maybe, if I devote myself to this enough, I might, just might, be able to get a body that replicates his (ummmm, I won’t, but clearly by this point I am so deranged with exercise my brain has stopped working rationally).
About twenty minutes in I think ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’m broken.’ But Mantas spots me and calls me out. ‘You can do this.’
And I discover I can. The rest of the session passes weirdly enjoyably. Each time I have to push myself, I do.
Maybe it’s the adrenaline. Maybe it’s the scented candles mixed with thumping disco. Maybe I’ve had the ‘moment’. Whatever it is, I know I’m in. Really in.
Even if it does take five layers of foundation, after my shower, to take the hideous redness of my face from ‘are you ill?’ to #healthyglow.
In London, your first class will set you back £16 and then after that, it’s £24 per class, unless you buy a bumper pack – a 5-pack costs £110, a 10-pack is £210, a 20-pack is £400, and a series of 30 classes is £570.