When SoulCycle started in Manhattan in 2006, owners Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice were thrilled that students showed up at all for their boutique biking classes.
“We loved everyone who walked through the door so hard,” says Cutler, who hoped people would understand their vision of coaching plus cardio to a killer soundtrack in a candlelit room.
They did. The classes — and SoulCycle’s growing roster of studio locations — developed a cultlike following loaded with high-profile fans. Lady Gaga and Lena Dunham celebrated their respective 26th birthdays with SoulCycle parties. Oprah Winfrey threw a similar bash for her 60th in January. And Bradley Cooper has been known to rip off his shirt mid-class.
D.C. devotees have begged SoulCycle to bring a studio here for years, Cutler says. That wait ends Aug. 5, when the doors open at 2301 M St. NW, a spot selected because it’s between Georgetown and downtown. Another studio is slated to open on Bethesda’s Elm Street by the end of the year.
“We’ll have more after that,” Cutler promises. “Our motto is, ‘We bring soul to the people.’ ”
As SoulCyle has expanded over the years, the brand has learned how to re-create its magic wherever it goes. One key trick, Cutler says, is bringing along veteran staffers who understand the culture.
“In the new markets, we’ve found it helps to seed a little bit of New York with what’s going on locally,” Cutler says. There isn’t one particular instructor she predicts will be the standout of the group coming to town.
“Asking, ‘Who’s your favorite teacher?’ is like, ‘Who’s your favorite child?’ D.C. is going to go crazy. They’re all rock stars,” she adds.
What does she look for in a SoulCycle instructor? They have to have good energy, and be someone you’d want to hang out with for 45 minutes, Cutler says. They also have to make it through a proprietary 12-week training program.
They’re not taught a script — “instructors are given a platform to speak authentically,” Cutler says. But they are trained in how to lead a class on a journey in the dark. The cyclists must shift resistance and pedal speed to climb over hills, survive sprints and achieve their goals.
“Some people call it dancing on the bike. Everybody is moving together,” Cutler says. And when it’s over, and you know you’ve taken yourself to your limit, you feel absolutely euphoric, she adds.
Maybe that’ll make the $30-per-class price easier to swallow. And Bradley Cooper could sit next to you.
Ahead of the Class
Show up ready to work in a tee or tank and form-fitting bottoms. Bring bike shoes, or rent a pair for $3. (Shoes are included in the $20 class deal for first-timers, which is available by booking by phone or at the studio, not online at soul-cycle.com.) You’ll want water — fill up from the filtered fountains or buy a bottle ($2-$3). Towels are included. SoulCycle recommends arriving 15 minutes before your first class to check-in and fill out a waiver. If you’re not signed in four minutes before class begins, your bike may be released to the waitlist. There are keypad-controlled lockers, and showers to get you cleaned up (three for women and two for men).
Number of bikes in the new D.C. studio. They were designed exclusively for SoulCycle — with dual binding pedals, a split seat (for rear end comfort) and weight holders (for the dumbbells lifted during class).
Total number of SoulCycle studios, once the D.C. location opens. The chain began in Manhattan in 2006, and has since expanded throughout the New York area and established a major presence on the West Coast.
Price of a Super Soul package of 50 classes. That’s $70 a pop, but people willing to pony up that much cash can reserve classes in advance and get priority on waitlists. Better act fast though — it expires in 12 months.
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