Last night, a friend and diehard Flywheel junkie convinced me to accompany her to one of her many weekly spin classes in Larchmont, Calif. For those of you that don’t know, Flywheel is an instructor-led spin class, one of the many fad exercises that has picked up a large following around the nation over the past few years.
As someone who goes to SoulCycle at least once a week- twice a week if I can spare the time- I was hesitant to cheat on my beloved cult, but I’m willing to try anything once, especially when it comes to exercise. I am a huge proponent of testing and expanding my body’s limits, so a new experience was appealing to me. Plus, it was free, and I’d heard so much about it that I’d wanted to see what all the ruckus was about.
I know riders like myself are often curious about the similarities and differences between SoulCycle and Flywheel, so after successfully trying both (albeit with much more experience and a clear bias for SoulCycle), I want to lay out the pros and cons of each for any riders considering trying their first class at either studio.
SoulCycle is a melange of meditation and spinning. The odor of the studio’s signature Jonathan Adler grapefruit candles overtakes your nostrils the second you walk through the door. SoulCycle is about setting your own goals for both your mind and your body and accomplishing them at your own pace. Each class ends with a Namaste- an acknowledgement of one’s soul.
Talented Instructors: Every SoulCycle instructor must audition before they can join the 6-week instructor training program. SoulCycle instructors know the product inside and out and, most importantly, they genuinely hold a passion for it- all instructors must be advanced riders before they can even apply. Each instructor has their own music and mantras, so find the instructor that’s best suited for you. My personal favorite is Jenny C, who teaches in the Southern California region.
Full-body Workout: SoulCycle will dare you to engage your entire body with push-ups, tapbacks, isolations and more. Think of SoulCycle as a choreographed dance party on a spin bike that engages your core, your glutes and your arm muscles.
Community: Call it what you want- a cult, a bunch of crazy ladies that have too much time on their hands- but because SoulCycle is all about a choreographed rhythm, each class is a small community. Once you walk into that room, you become a part of a well-oiled machine. This community feel- which, I will admit, does turn some people off- can motivate you to work hard to keep the pace and follow along. And at the end of that 45-minute ride, the person riding alongside you is guaranteed to give you a pat on your sweat-soaked back.
Price: Even as someone willing to pay the price tag, I can admit how absurdly expensive SoulCycle is. After your first class, each additional class is $30, or you can buy a bundle of classes that ultimately doesn’t save you much. Price does vary by region, but this is ultimately how it works. I do wish SoulCycle was more generous to loyal riders. Thirty dollars is a lot to shell out for a spin class, but this seems to be the asking price for any good workout class these days.
Small Space: Many of the studios I’ve been to in both New York and California are cramped and I’ll have to brush past sweaty bodies from the previous class to get to my locker to put my stuff away. Even inside the spin studio, the bikes are very close together. Sometimes when I’m doing the weights portion, I accidentally hit the bike behind me. Awkward.
Flywheel isn’t much different from your typical spin class, except it is monitored by a small computer on the left side of your bike. Flywheel is sure to bring out the competitive side in you.
Relatively Cheap: Compared to SoulCycle, Flywheel is pocket change. My first class last night was free (!!!) and for college students like me, they offer a discount. Every class after your first visit is $25 if you’re not a student, and unlike SoulCycle, Flywheel offers a pretty good discount for loyal riders that buy packages.
Track Your Progress: The best part about Flywheel might just be that you can log into your account and track your progress. After each class, you can check online to see your average RPM, average speed, estimated calories and more. This tool is great to track your progress as you progress through Flywheel classes and is motivation to dare yourself to push harder next time and see results.
Competitive: Flywheel is much more competitive than other spin classes I’ve been to. After every few songs, the instructor would flash statistics on the board for the “best” riders, or the riders burning the most energy. You can opt out of this and choose not to compete, but it still feels like a weird way to encourage people. This is much more “survival of the fittest” than Namaste.
Traditional Workout: Flywheel is the type of spin workout I could get if I were to spend 45 minutes on a bike at the gym. You spend some time out the saddle, you sit down, repeat. It’s very basic, and you don’t necessarily have to pay $25 to get this kind of workout.
In the end, I think choosing between Flywheel and SoulCycle depends on the type of person you are. SoulCycle is more for the yoga junkie who aims to better themselves and the people around them, whereas Flywheel is for people motivated by competition and the thrill of a race. Then again, I’ve met people who love both. A lot of factors come into play and it’s ultimately your decision.