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SoulCycle At-Home Bike review: How does it compare to Peloton?
I tried the first SoulCycle bike designed to be used at home -- here's what it was like.
Mercey LivingstonCNET Contributor
Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She's written about fitness and wellness for Well+Good, Women's Health, Business Insider, and Prevention.com among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading and trying out workout classes all over New York City.
SoulCycle used to be on my regular workout rotation when I lived in New York. There's no other class or brand quite like it and as a result it's amassed a cult-like following over the years. In my opinion, it's because it created an immersive experience that you feel the moment you set foot into the dark, candlelit studio that only intensifies throughout the class. The feeling continues as you push through sprints and "dance" on the
to killer playlists, all while a motivating instructor shouts inspiring mantras.
With all of this in mind, I was intrigued to hear about the launch of the SoulCycle At-Home Bike, especially now that we're months into the pandemic, and it doesn't look like I'll be visiting a spin studio anytime soon. Since SoulCycle is most known for this in-studio experience, I wondered just how that would translate to an at-home bike.
Now that there are more spin bikes available on the market than ever, people have options. Given that SoulCycle's bike is $1,900 and the new Peloton Bike Plus ($1,995) are about the same price, that raises the question of how they compare and which one is right for you.
While I have not tried the Peloton Bike Plus or original Peloton Bike at home, I have attended live Peloton classes at the Peloton studio in NYC. So I'm familiar with the class format and the Peloton app, but did not test the Peloton Bike in my same home setting that I did for the SoulCycle bike. I'm sharing my experience with using the SoulCycle bike below and comparing it to what we know about the Peloton from our CNET review, plus research on the new Peloton Bike Plus features.
Delivery and setup
The delivery and setup fee is included with the SoulCycle bike purchase, and the same goes for Peloton. Normally, a technician will deliver and assemble the bike in your home, but with COVID-19 this process is limited. Both SoulCycle and Peloton are offering an option for assembling bikes and dropping them outside your door for added safety.
Ideally, all you have to do is move the bike inside and plug it in to get started. When I moved my bike inside I ran into some technical hiccups with the bike setup that delayed me from being able to use it for a bit. But the customer support team was super responsive and helpful, and even walked me through the hiccups via FaceTime.
I was immediately impressed with the bike's 21-inch high-resolution touchscreen, which looked and sounded great (even without headphones). The speakers are meant to create a "surround sound" environment, according to the company. You can pair Bluetooth headphones with the bike, but I decided not to use them since no one else was within earshot of the room where I set up the bike.
The screen is large enough to help you get immersed in the class, even by my standards -- I have trouble working out on a smaller screen like a tablet, phone or even a computer screen. The tablet screen is also Wi-Fi and
enabled, so you can also pair a heart rate monitor with the bike.
In order to use the bike, you'll need to clip into the pedals. You can opt for the SoulCycle At-Home shoes, which cost $175 and do not come with the bike. The SoulCycle-branded spin shoes are not required, however, and you can use any pair of spin shoes that are compatible with the LOOK Delta or SPD cleats (you can purchase these separately from spin shoes).
If you're looking for a bike that you can stash under a bed or fold away in a closet -- this is not it. The bike weighs in at 142 pounds, it's about five feet (62 inches) long and it does not fold up or stow away easily. If you get the SoulCycle bike you'll need to clear a good bit of space (I put my bike near a window in the corner of my living room) and plan on it being a fixture, not a stowaway item. The bike does have wheels on the front end, so you can lift and roll it from room to room. For me, it took an extra person to help lift and roll it.
I wish I could compare the bike to the in-studio SoulCycle bikes, but it's been so long since I was in the studio that I can't quite remember how the bike felt. But I will say that once I had the bike up and running, the seat adjustments, handlebar adjustments and clipping in and out was pretty simple. If you need any help, there are guided videos on the screen that take you through all of the initial setup with adjusting your bike.
The SoulCycle class experience
To access the SoulCycle library of on-demand and live classes you have to pay for a Variis membership, which is an extra $40 per month (Variis is the brand that makes the bike and digital platform). That's the same price as Peloton's digital All-Access membership, which you are required to purchase with the bike and gives you access to live and on-demand classes.
If you're familiar with SoulCycle classes, you can jump right into the livestreamed or on-demand classes, which all vary in length, difficulty and theme. For people new to SoulCycle (or a bit rusty like myself), there are plenty of introductory on-demand videos that teach you the basics for proper riding form or the different riding positions, and other moves that you do on the bike like tap-backs and push ups.
Even if you are familiar with SoulCycle classes, in the on-demand classes, the screen switches from the studio and instructor view to a demo view showing you the proper form for that section of the class. The bike also has a feature that lets you connect your Spotify account, so if you come across a song you like during a class, you can add that to your Spotify. You can also access a free-ride feature which lets you ride the bike while listening to music, or streaming Netflix instead of an instructor-led class -- a feature that you can't access through a Peloton, unless you stream it through the web browser.
SoulCycle is also beta-testing a Studio Stream service that lets you buy the live SoulCycle streaming classes for $20 each to view on any screen. If you pay for the Variis app, you won't need this in addition to the app, since you'll get access to livestreamed classes. But if you have another bike at home and want to try a live SoulCycle class, you could do that with the Studio Stream service.
SoulCycle is known for having inspiring and motivating classes, which you do get in the at-home experience. I really liked being able to take classes with familiar faces that I used to ride with in the New York City studios. You also get to see your stats on screen, and after the class you even get a report that shows your "Beat Match," a percentage that basically tells you how well you were able to keep up with matching your speed to the music. The class I took was not easy -- and even though I used to frequent SoulCycle studios, it definitely kicked my butt. When it was over I was pleasantly surprised by how I was able to challenge myself at home, since I feared the lack of the studio environment would diminish my motivation.
SoulCycle's combination of playlists, inspiring instructors and cardio is what kept me going back to the studio again and again when I could go in person. So when I got done with my first class at home, I stepped off the bike (and into my living room instead of a locker room) I felt just about as close to that post-Soul class endorphin high as I've felt in eight months, which says a lot in the middle of a pandemic.
Who it's for
There are a few key features that set the Peloton Bike Plus apart from SoulCycle. The Peloton Bike Plus has a slightly larger screen, at 23 inches, and it rotates around 360 degrees. If the only workout you want to do is spin, you won't necessarily need this feature. But if you like to do a spin class followed by a yoga or strength training session on the Peloton app, you can use this feature to turn the screen so you can view it from your yoga mat. Peloton Bike Plus also has an "Auto-follow" feature, which allows the instructor to set and digitally control your bike resistance throughout class.
The SoulCycle bike is great for SoulCycle fans who are familiar with the classes, or newbies who have always wanted to try them. If you've never done SoulCycle before, I recommend checking out the classes on the Variis app first to see if it's your style before committing to the bike, since it is an investment.
The SoulCycle bike and Peloton Bike Plus are similar bikes when it comes to price and features, but what really differentiates them, in my opinion, is the style of the spin class itself -- Peloton and SoulCycle are just different and resonate with people for different reasons.
Both the Variis and the Peloton app offer different class formats outside of spin -- and Variis keeps adding to its roster of popular
brands, including the recent announcement that boxing studio Rumble is joining forces with Variis to stream classes. Since you will have to commit to the Variis or Peloton membership each month when you buy a bike, it's worth checking out each app and class offerings to see what you would get the most out of, in addition to the spin classes that you prefer.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.