SoulCycle's elitism is epitomized by its unwritten first-row rules
Never worked out at SoulCycle? Here's a test of whether it'll make you swoon or gag: Would you be okay being told you're not good enough to ride in the front row?The indoor-cycling studio's success comes in large part from a carefully cultivated elitism (starting with the $34 per class price-tag). Nothing illustrates this culture better than what goes on with the front row.It starts with your first ride. Newcomers are encouraged to stay away from the front and instructed to sit near the back.Also not welcome in the front are people who won't fall in line with the "pack" culture.
SoulCycle paints some rules on its wall, and one of them addresses this specifically: "There is a direct correlation between your energy and your neighbor's ride. If you want to do your own thing, please don't ride in the front row."
And while anyone can technically book a bike in the front, they may still be encouraged to move if they're deemed not good enough, The New York Times reported early this year. The Times' Courtney Rubin wrote:
"Many SoulCycle instructors insist on preapproval of their front rows, with new clients being asked whether they’d like to take a back seat. In the minutes before class, the SoulCycle staff consults the "move list" and considers front-row hopefuls. Occasionally, if no one makes the cut, "staff will come in and ride because it sets the tone for the whole class," said Gabby Etrog Cohen, a spokeswoman."
We reached out to SoulCycle to see if anything has changed with the front-row policies since The Times' story. Citing a quiet period ahead of its upcoming initial public offering, the company declined to comment.
The Netflix series "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" parodied this phenomenon. Kimmy is not permitted to ride in the front row, but after she proves herself, she is granted by the instructor the ability to move forward and pedal.
It seems too ludicrous to be real, but the holiness of the front row is very real for SoulCycle riders who reinforce this culture on social media.
Shoutout to lady in front row @soulcycle for (a) looking at iPhone (b) staying in saddle whole class (c) singing loudly (d) being the worst
Front row, center bike for the 1st time @ @soulcycle Loop. Can't imagine it any other way. I'm a happy rockstar w/my pack! #SummerOfSoul