Q&A WITH SOULCYCLE’S JULIE RICE: A LOCAL GYM THAT HELPED SPAWN AN EXERCISE CRAZE

By Meg D’Incecco

Have you ever walked past the corner of Amsterdam and 77th Street and noticed sweaty people streaming out the door of Soul Cycle and wondered, ‘what the heck is that place?’ At its most basic, Soul Cycle is a gym filled with stationary bikes. But as one of those sweaty folks you see there (even during a hurricane or snow storm), to me it’s a lot more. Personally, I love the music, the teachers, the energy of the pack—all sixty people biking in time to the same beat— and the feeling of accomplishment I get after a class.

New York magazine recently described it as “an ‘obsession,’ a ‘cult,’ and—by those who clamor to pay $32 (plus extra for shoe rental and water) for classes that sell out within seconds—an ‘addiction.’ Strong words to describe a 45-minute group exercise class, but the SoulCycle experience is meant to truly be an “experience”: part dance party, part therapy, part communal high.”

As Upper West Side resident and co-founder Julie Rice tells us, the little gym that started on West 72 Street has grown to include locations across the country. We asked her some questions about Soul Cycle and the neighborhood.

West Side Rag: For the uninitiated, what is Soul Cycle?

Julie Rice: SoulCycle is the country’s premiere indoor cycling studio. SoulCycle is an inspiring, fun, effective cardio workout. Each and every class delivers a 45-minute full-body workout in a candlelit serene studio with a customized rocking playlist – SoulCycle is a cardio party on the bike!

WSR: Soul Cycle started on West 72 Street, can you tell our readers about how you chose that location and how things got started? Was there a lack of indoor cycling options on the Upper West Side that compelled you to start your business there?

JR: After moving to New York City, Elizabeth and I began searching for some type of cardio exercise we could fall in love with. We realized, after failing to find anything we wanted to make into a routine, that we would have to create it. We met for lunch and truly believed we could make indoor cycling not only inspirational, but a fun, full body workout, and the rest is history! Our biggest challenge came right off the bat when we opened our first studio on W. 72nd St (which we found on craigslist!). It was in the back of the building and we had no exterior signage. We knew we had to hit the streets, so we began handing out schedule cards and free class passes to get the word out. Slowly the riders began to come and we thought if we could get 75 people a day to ride, it would be unbelievable; now there are thousands of people each day, East and West Coast.

WSR: Do you live on the Upper West Side? What is your connection to the neighborhood?

JR: When I moved back to New York, my husband Spencer and I lived on 72nd street across from our first studio. We then moved to 76th and West End Avenue where we lived for almost six years. We had a brief stint in the West Village but after a year, we realized we had to move back to the Upper West Side. It is our home! Now we live on 75th Street and West End Avenue.

WSR: As your business grew, why did you move to West 77th Street? Why not keep both locations open?

JR: As much as we love our original studio on West 72nd, and it will always have a special place in our hearts, we outgrew it. With Equinox, Pure Yoga and Creative Juice as our neighbors, our block is a one-stop shop for the Upper West Side’s health and fitness community.

WSR: Any plans to open up more studios on the Upper West Side?

JR: Not immediate but you never know!

WSR: Where are your other locations?

JR: We have 11 studios in NYC and the surrounding area, three in LA and we’re opening two studios in San Francisco this spring.

WSR: Does the Upper West Side studio have a unique personality? How would you describe it?

JR: For me, it is home. My daughter goes to school here, she grew up here, we built SoulCycle here. The Upper West Side has everything I need and more, great restaurants, the best grocery stores (although I still use Fresh Direct) and the most amazing activities for my two daughters. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

WSR: People may hear a lot about celebrities working out with you but who is your usual customer? Is it mainly women or are you finding there is a mix?

JR: We like to think we don’t have a typical rider; the SoulCycle workout was created for all ages, personalities and fitness types. The beauty of SoulCycle is that we have teens, moms, athletes and grandfathers – all riding together as a pack.

WSR: Do you have any UWS favorite spots to eat healthy? Or not so healthy?

JR: I am a total sugar junkie! I love sweets and my absolute favorite indulgence is 16 Handles. I also love Red Rooster in Harlem. I often bring home from Chirpin Chicken – we order in a lot.

WSR: Other UWS retailers you love?

JR: Of course I love Jonathan Adler on 74th & Columbus. I’m also a huge theater fan, so I’ve really been enjoying being so close to Broadway. I saw Bring It On three times before it closed. Other favorites include Barney’s Co-Op and Rag & Bone.

WSR: What is next for Soul Cycle? Anything else you’d like to add?

JR: SoulCycle is poised to continue growing in 2013. We have new locations set to open in in NY, NJ, LA and SF, and then we’re opening our first International studio in London in 2014. We also launched the SoulBike, which is now available for home purchase, and plan to continue expanding our lifestyle brand, including collaborations with Tenoverten and Jonathan Adler.

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