A new spin on fitness

I am not exactly a workout junkie. As of this time last year, I probably hadn’t put on sneakers since I played team sports. But I decided that my attitude towards exercise needed to change.

Enter FlyWheel and SoulCycle, Manhattan’s rival boutique cycling studios. One of the three original founders of SoulCycle left and started FlyWheel, so the companies are certainly cut from the same cloth.

In each of the classes I rode a stationary bike with clip-in spinning shoes. Both studios were right by my office in the Flatiron district. Both of them kicked my behind to the tune of great music. After that, the similarities start to drop off. There is one thing for certain: each studio has a unique story to tell, and both stories are told masterfully.

Here’s my take on SoulCycle and FlyWheel:

Tagline: Take your journey. Change your body. Find your soul.


SoulCycle is about creating an environment in which you feel comfortable striving for your goals. The studio is lit by candlelight and, for most songs, the instructor keeps the lights low to turn the focus inward towards your, you guessed it, soul. This can be liberating, but also intimidating to a first-timer. At the beginning of most classes, instructors will ask if anyone is new, take the opportunity to identify them and offer a little extra help before the ride begins. They even match this experience online with a specific page and email address to which you can direct any concerns before your first ride. SoulCycle knows how to speak to its riders and its voice is omnipresent—even plastered on the studio walls.

Tagline: Never coast.


FlyWheel is about realizing your full potential. Each bike has a small computer that captures performance metrics, which are stored in your private account on the FlyWheel website. Using your speed and resistance, among other measures, FlyWheel tracks your lifetime stats and your percentile in your region. If you want to compare your ride to the rest of the class, you can opt-in to the Torqboards, two large screens that show leaderboards a few times during the ride. FlyWheel riders want to achieve peak performance—and they want to quantify each step along the way. FlyWheel delivers the tools to do just that both in-studio and online.

FlyWheel and SoulCycle are often uttered in the same breath. What many don’t realize is that each studio is its own wildly successful brand. They didn’t get this far just because their music is good (it is) or because their instructors are inspiring (they are).

SoulCycle was purchased by fitness giant Equinox and FlyWheel is opening a studio in Dubai in September because both companies know what their customers want and they deliver it every day in-studio and online.

2 comment(s)

  1. I’d like to see a brand analysis on Crossfit. Honestly it’s different than these corporate brands because it’s not owned by a single entity and since Reebok took up sponsorship they have achieved world wide recognition. It’s interesting because I think Crossfit is growing on such a large scare, but it’s owned, instead people are doing it because of the community aspect and the fact that the work out changes all the time and overall I find it just to be interesting from a brand perspective since it seems to have started as word of mouth and evolved into something popular because of the driving force of another brand…that could potentially own the Crossfit brand itself just based off of good branding on their part.

  2. That’s a great point! The evolution of CrossFit from a handful local gatherings to thousands of affiliated gyms across the country is certainly remarkable. Because there are so many participants at so many different gyms, CrossFit has to strike a balance between a consistent brand and a decentralized one, and I believe it does that pretty successfully using its online community.

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