Yoga was the domain of spiritual types and hippie moms until petite blonds in finance (and Spandex) decided to find enlightenment and flexibility, and New York City became a landscape of studios (and Lululemons). Now, it’s indoor cycling’s turn.
Since SoulCycle opened in April of 2006, turning a dark room full of sweaty people pedaling to the beat into a place-to-be-seen, spinning has exploded. Soul now has nine studios in New York (20 nationwide), and its big competitor, Flywheel, will have six by early 2014 (it currently has 26 around the world, plus four on cruise ships).
In addition to the mega brands, at least six new ones have debuted in the past year—Revolve, Torque, Syncstudio, Crank Upper East Side, Studio 360, and Swerve. Two more—Cyc Fitness and Peloton—are scheduled to open within months. That’s not to mention the others that have opened in the past five years, like Pedal NYC and Pablo Fitness, plus the many quality cycling classes offered at gyms like Equinox and Crunch.
So why are New Yorkers cycling crazed, and will the market continue to grow? We got the scoop.
Why the obsession?
“I think part of it is really the fact that it can be an exercise that’s entirely motivated by music,” says Syncstudio VP of operations Ashley Lively. It’s true. By building killer playlists and framing workout sequences completely around the beat, cycling studios have successfully made working out feel like more like dancing your heart out than, well, working out. Cardio dance classes tap this, too, but they’re still typically run by instructors, not brands, so they don’t yet have the presence or scale of indoor cycling. (Plus having two left feet may turn you off.)
“It’s something anyone can do—from novices to seasoned athletes,” says Torque co-owner Christian Sjulsen. “They can all get amazing workouts on a bike.” Plus, unlike running or weight-lifting, it’s low-impact. It may also have to do with the time commitment involved: 45-minute classes make it easy for harried urbanities to get in and get out.
The cycling landscape diversifies
As spinning has become more popular and SoulCycle and Flywheel have continued to expand, rather than gobble up smaller studios, they’ve created an environment that indie brands can thrive in. When I mention that another SoulCycle is about to open just blocks away from the brand-new Swerve Fitness, co-owner Eric Posner nods happily. “The more popular it [spinning] is, the better it is for us.”
Plus, it gives smaller companies the chance to position themselves as cool, indie up-and-comers. When reporting on the openings of Crank, Studio 360, and others, I began to notice a pattern: All of the owners say they’re trying to make cycling more of a community, less intimidating, and less of a “scene.”
Says Lively, “There’s a Starbucks on every corner, but then there are also a lots of small, local coffee shops that do really well.” —Lisa Elaine Held