9 Ways to Suck at SoulCycle

A first-time rider shares foolproof tips for failing at the class.
Photograph courtesy of SoulCycle.

Since SoulCyle opened its first franchise in DC earlier this year, it’s been cheering on class-goers with “SoulCycle-isms,” the inspirational slogans intended to encourage riders—or, as they’re referred to in class, “the pack”—to crank the resistance a bit higher and pedal a bit faster. Using phrases like “the more you give, the more you get,” the studio preaches that the only thing standing between you and a better, strong body—is you. But what becomes obvious after trying a class is that there are myriad ways to get in the way of your own SoulCycle success. Sessions can be confusing, and a bit overwhelming, for first-timers—so much so that this fall, SoulCycle introduced Soul 101, a three-class package that walks beginners through the basics of the course.

We tried it out—our first experience—and came away with nine things to do should you want to fail spectacularly at SoulCycle.

Set up your bike wrong. Riding supposedly gets more comfortable over time, but it may be a while before you get used to the hard sliver of plastic. In the meantime, try to set the seat at a notch that leaves too much space between handlebars and seat, and you can spend the class awkwardly hunched over, trying to bring your unfortunately short arms closer to the handlebars. Raise the seat higher than the handlebars, and you can enjoy putting all your weight on the bruising bike seat instead of balancing your weight on your forearms.

Wear shorts. SoulCycle recommends “form-fitting pants or shorts,” and we suggest the latter if you want to spend the class wincing as your thighs chafe against the seat. SoulCycle sells athletic tights in the studio lobby—which would eliminate this problem—but that would require arriving a bit early to procure some. Which brings us to…

Arrive late. SoulCycle suggests you arrive 15 minutes early for a class to change into appropriate footwear and locate your bike. But you are a chronically tardy rebel, so you arrive your customary five minutes late in order to better enjoy stumbling around a dark studio to the tune of the instructor barking over Ariana Grande, trying to find the bike you reserved ahead of time. Once you find it, spend another few minutes attempting to adjust the thing to fit your body—a fiddly process in the best and most fully lit of times (see first tip)—without the benefit of the advice the instructor dispensed before class began.

Drop your towel. The handlebars of each bike are conveniently draped with a clean towel for mopping up sweat during this high-intensity workout. Go ahead and knock that baby onto the floor immediately, ensuring you’ll spend the rest of the class drenched in perspiration. Don’t worry about the studio’s four fans ruining the sauna-like effect, either—they’re conveniently shut off so the temperature of the room can steadily creep upwards throughout the duration of the class.

Get on a bike with no weights. Let’s be honest: You didn’t really want a full-body workout, and toned arms are overrated. To avoid participation in the upper-body exercises, enhanced by two-pound hand weights that hang beneath the bike seat, choose a bike that’s missing a set before the class starts. If you change your mind, you’re going to have a blast getting from your bike to the box of extra hand weights beside the instructor’s podium: your feet are clipped into the pedals, and unless you’re a seasoned cycler, dismounting is awkward and impossible without the exact knee-turns-in-ankle-turns-out twist that causes the clips to release.

Develop an allergy to scented candles. Get a little tummy-toning action going by sneezing your way through the class, thanks to SoulCycle’s custom grapefruit-scented candles. They’re the first thing to hit your senses when you step into the store, and when the lights go dark for the class to begin, the room is lit by the cluster of candles that line the instructor’s podium.

Have sensitive ears. We weren’t kidding about the instructor having to shout through a headset to be heard over the pounding remixes of Beyoncé or Taylor Swift. Forget your earplugs at home so you can enjoy leaving the studio with the same slightly shell-shocked sensation you have after a rock concert.

Be musically illiterate. You’re great at clapping—on the offbeats—so when the instructors direct you to ride with “the pack” and to synchronize your swaying, twisting, and “tapping it back” with the other cyclers, you’ll have no problem being the only one moving right when everyone else leans left. Even better: You can keep an eye on your complete lack of coordination in the wall-size mirror that faces the class.

Put yourself on a tight “fitness budget.” Slim down with the SoulCycle “diet” by swapping your weekly food allowance for class registration fees: $30 per session, $3 for shoe rental, and $2 to $3 for water. The locker rental is free, though.

SoulCycle DC. 2301 M St., NW; 202-659-7685.

Get Our Weekend Newsletter

The best DC news, delivered straight to your inbox.
Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.