SoulCycle is Coming to Boston… And So Is Flywheel

Let the spin war begin.

Flywheel interior. Photo provided.

Flywheel interior. Photo provided.

Do you hear the screeching? The gasping? The collective OMG heard ’round the Boston fitness community?

SoulCycle is coming to Boston. Oh, and Flywheel is, too.

There have been rumors and rumblings for months, but we finally got confirmation this weekend. SoulCycle will open in Chestnut Hill in March. We received an email from Gabby Etrog Cohen, SoulCycle’s public relations and marketing director:

We are opening in Chestnut Hill in March. Boston is a vibrant and energetic city – perfect for SoulCycle – we cannot wait to build a rich SOUL community in Boston.

When I asked if more than one location will open, or if Chestnut Hill is it, I got this reply:

We WILL open in Boston but Chestnut Hill first.

So there you have it. SoulCycle, the mothership of spin classes, will finally be in the Boston area. Perhaps even with two studios. We will post more as soon as we have an update from SoulCycle.

But in even better, aka opening sooner news, Flywheel Sports is opening a Boston location in the Pru next week! That’s right, the grand opening week will start October 8th and run through the 13th. Flywheel will be offering free classes and other opening week events.

Flywheel bikes. Photo provided.

Flywheel bikes. Photo provided.

You’ve certainly heard of both of these indoor cycling meccas before. Both SoulCycle and Flywheel have been slowly taking over the country for years but both waited until now to open in Boston. Why? Who knows, but we are glad to have them. Here’s a very brief history:

SoulCycle was created in 2007 in New York City. In early 2010, Ruth Zukerman, a SoulCycle co-founder, left the company and opened up Flywheel with ex-NFL star Tiki Barber. Both are high-end indoor cycling studios. Both have multiple locations in NYC and have started to expand across the country. Both offer heart-pumping curated music and high end accessories.

SoulCycle exterior by William Ward on Flickr

SoulCycle exterior by William Ward on Flickr

But there are also some significant differences between the two studios. SoulCycle has an edge on Flywheel for the “branding effect.” You can buy the bright yellow branded bikes and the gear before a studio actually opens up in your city. It was around first, and so has a loyal fan base. But pricy classes, a jam-packed room, and paying for water and spin shoe rentals has some people heading back to their neighborhood gym spin classes. One NYC fitness blogger calls SoulCycle, “the Scientology of Spin.”

Flywheel is a bit different than SoulCycle by offering stadium seating so you can actually see your instructor from any bike in the room. It also is a bit more competitive (disclaimer: I was an active member of Flywheel in NYC and Boca Raton, Fla.) because they offer the Torqboard, a large screen connected to the bikes that lets you rate your ride against your fellow class takers. You can opt out if you want, but if you like to be pushed, the board lets you see how you measure up. Flywheel also offers free spin shoe rentals and free water. But some people say that Flywheel is a bit too competitive. Slate ran this headline in April, “Flywheel: SoulCycling for the Truly Sadistic”.

Regardless of which you prefer, neither are cheap, and both offer an amazing workout. But do we need SoulCycle and Flywheel? Because both companies seemed to forget about Boston in their expansions (until now), area residents took it upon themselves and opened up their own indoor cycling studios. Recycle Studio has two city locations (Back Bay and South End) and offers an upscale, boutique spin studio just like SoulCycle and Flywheel. The Handle Bar opened in Southie this past summer and offers indoor cycling enthusiasts the same type of ride. Both companies opened because Boston was missing the high-end boutique cycling studios. Now, with the two national mega studios coming to Boston, will our local, homegrown spots survive?

We reached out to Jessica Bashelor, owner of the Handle Bar for a comment. She replied via email:

I have nothing but respect and admiration for SoulCycle and FlyWheel because they really opened up the marketplace for boutique indoor cycling. Boston is a tight knit community and appreciates its local, small businesses. As a Bostonian for the past 8 years, I’ve really tried to grow The Handle Bar within the community and keep strong ties to the neighborhood. While SoulCycle and FlyWheel are big chains and will offer competition; a great cycling class is a great cycling class and we know that we offer this to our riders and will continue to do so even when they open up. We were born in Boston…and we love Boston and I think that this will always be evident through everything that we do.”

What do you think? Are you excited for SoulCycle and Flywheel? Is there enough spin culture in Boston to sustain all of these studios?

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  • Bill Pryor

    I feel I must point out that the largest Boston area cycling (spin) studio was launched in 2005 in Wellesley. Spynergy Cycling Studio has a large loyal following, and has undergone multiple expansions and renovations. As owner, I have mixed feelings about expensive NY-based chains showing up in Boston, I would rather root for Boston-based entrepreneurs. But I do agree with Jessica that those chains have raised the profile of indoor cycling which helps the whole market. In the end, the studios that build loyal communities, understand the local market and provide true value will be the ones that thrive.