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ePublication of Australian Fitness Network

By stamping a unique identity onto an established fitness discipline you can carve out your own niche in the field of group exercise.

Created by two New York hipsters as an alternative to existing indoor cycle classes, the SoulCycle training concept sees participants straddling yellow SoulCycle exercise bikes and peddling to high-energy music. So far, so familiar – so what makes it different to other indoor cycle classes?

SoulCycle delivers a 45-minute full body workout that includes dance, climbing, jogging and hand weights. Add to this the strong on-brand environment and on-brand instructors who are the living and breathing embodiment of what they preach, and you have a distinct point of difference.

Although SoulCycle advertises the benefits to the body and the soul of taking their cycle classes it’s the strong nightclub positioning of the brand that makes it a different experience. The opportunity to work out by candlelight, for example, gives it an exoticness that should appeal to those who’ve tired of the traditional studio set up.

SoulCycle’s branding and marketing also set it apart. The bright yellow bikes stand out like beacons of Tour de France-inspired fun, and the studios are cleverly set up to reflect the yellow, black, white and grey of the brand colours. The instructors are also universally clad in SoulCycle t-shirts, headbands, pants and jackets, which undoubtedly inspires participants to purchase their own SoulCycle fashion accessories in an attempt to channel some of the brand’s rock star qualities.

So, how much does a slice of cool cycle cost? Well, SoulCycle has been the subject of criticism for the relatively high cost of participation – and this is where its point of difference, i.e. being an experience rather than a fitness class, really comes into play. Classes can be purchased and booked via its website for approximately $38 AUD per session. Packages are offered ranging from five classes for $185 AUD to 50 premium access classes for nearly $4,000 AUD (yes, that’s a whopping $80 AUD per session for which participants get the right to reserve their bike in advance of other participants).

It’s apparent from these prices, and the fact that such prestige high-end options are available, that the exclusivity of SoulCycle must hold allure for those for whom high cost plus exclusivity equals highly desirable. The company claims that the empowerment these classes give to its participants lasts beyond the studio walls, so value for money here is counted not just by weighing yourself on the bathroom scales, but also by the experience itself.

With 20,000 people riding every week in 25 American locations, it looks like they are doing something right. The experience and the exercise are appealing to the target market. Whether it needed a marketing boost or not, SoulCycle got one recently when Oprah Winfrey gave it a big tick of approval by spending her 60th birthday there taking a class with a group of her closest friends and describing it as a ‘spiritual’ experience.

So, will SoulCycle make its way to these shores? Australia already has standalone cycle studios, such as Pelotone and Vicious Cycle (which has something of SoulCycle’s rock star feel to it), but with stated plans to have 50-60 studios open worldwide by 2015, it’s a distinct possibility (and it has been rumoured) that the New York brand could be making its way down under.

Regardless of your thoughts on SoulCycle specifically, or the content of its workouts, the concept of stamping a truly unique identity onto a specific fitness discipline provides interesting food for thought for any fitness professional looking to carve out a niche in the field of group exercise.

Tom Jacobs is a Sydney-based writer with a background in television and comedy. When not writing, he’s usually at a live gig or listening to records. He is currently writing for iconnect360.

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