New York craze SoulCycle – the spiritual spinning exercise class that’s designed to strengthen the core and tone key body parts while burning maximum calories and uplifting the spirit – is one of the fastest-growing fitness phenomenons of the decade, according to Forbes (since 2010, ridership has increased 58 per cent), with 25 studios and 8,000 riders a day. Quite some business idea then, and it’s no wonder others are jumping on the two-wheeled bandwagon. London now has its very own answer to SoulCycle in the form of Psycle. When did indoor cycling get so deep?
Located just off Regent Street, Psycle is a slick, polished hive of activity when I arrive. On sale are ILA Spa lotions, potions and candles; Psycle own-branded apparel; pressed kale and spinach juices in glass bottles; beetroot and acai shots and protein balls. A selection of iPads are mounted on the walls for people to check timetables and book classes.
At reception I am handed a pair of cleated bike shoes, which increase the connection between the leg and the bike. The receptionist explains that this engages the hamstrings and glute muscles, “resulting in lean, toned legs – and no big thighs”.
I head downstairs, take a left into the studio, mount my spin bike, and click my shoes into the pedals. Our petite instructor Ruth takes her place at the front with graceful ballet-dancer-like poise. The studio soon transforms into a nightclub-style environment with neon strobes and booming beats – like the chart topper White Noise by Disclosure featuring AlunaGeorge.
We pedal in sync to the rhythm and weave together high-intensity moves, such as leaning forwards and then backwards (a bit like push-ups on the handle bars), standing up out of the saddle, and reaching our arms up and out to the sides while pedalling flat out. All the while the tunes blast out – it’s almost, but not quite, easy to forget how hard I am working as we switch between moves, in time to the music.
After 15 minutes of fast pedalling, we bring our heart-rates down and slow-pedal in time to an acoustic rendition of Rihanna’s Diamonds. We keep the pace slow and resistance hard, like the music, for three minutes. It’s tough, but definitely fun. As a drum ’n’ bass remix of Michael Jackson’s Beat It comes on, we speed up and lower resistance. The blaring of 1970s disco hits is a cue for us to pick up a pair of light hand weights and tone the upper body by moving up out of the saddle and flexing our arms. I can feel my core muscles engage and my heartbeat increase.
As Pharrell Williams’s Happy cranks up, everyone starts clapping to the music. It’s exhilarating, if exhausting. I feel uplifted – or as my American friends might say, psyched.
The bottom line: The high-energy class may have felt a little gimmicky at times (I wasn’t sure about the clapping), but it’s arguably less self-help-heavy than SoulCycle, which encourages riders with motivational phrases. And it’s a world away from something more competitive like Flywheel (now at places like Shoreditch House), which encourages riders to compete on the leader board.
Here, I was impressed by the upbeat teaching, the slick equipment and the pacey routine. I definitely left on a high. It was challenging, but definitely fun, as promised. I would go back for more.
The triumvirate of Holborn’s Boom Cycle, SoulCycle and Psycle means there’s no escaping this upbeat fitness fad, and I think that’s a good thing.
Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, therapies and accommodation.