Peloton Loyalists Are Not Happy About SoulCycle's New PR Campaign
There are some questions in life that will always elicit a strong response from people: does pineapple belong on pizza? Are loud sneezers doing it on purpose? Are cats or dogs the best? But within the fitness community, there's one particular hot-button topic that will create the debate to end all debates: SoulCycle or Peloton?
This question reigns above the rest in terms of inciting an opinion. Why? Because people are extremely passionate about their cycling preferences. Some go for SoulCycle, which prioritizes dancing choreography and "get in touch with your feelings" rhetoric. Others prefer Peloton, which tends to be more competition-based, with instructors who are as likely to crack a cheesy pun or joke as they are to trot out an encouraging mantra.
Whatever your stance is, you likely have at least a handful of very valid reasons as to why you prefer one over the other — as evidenced by last week, when SoulCycle kicked off a campaign that brought the SoulCycle vs. Peloton debate to the forefront and had indoor cycling enthusiasts going toe-to-toe (wheel-to-wheel?) about their opinions on the two popular classes.
The news that elevated the tension: SoulCycle is offering free classes to Peloton riders who want to trade in their bikes to their competitor, according to a report from PEOPLE. As the article lays out, Peloton users can turn in their bikes to receive 47 free, in-studio SoulCycle classes as a part of the new initiative "Souls Reunited." This program was created to get people "back in the studio and [vibing] with one another."
As you can imagine, this strategy has created quite the discourse on social media. SoulCycle loyalists are loving it, while Peloton users are reeling at the marketing ploy. So, we decided to ask the fans of both brands for their thoughts.
In Defense of SoulCycle
Most of the Team SoulCycle people we spoke with agree: you can't beat the community aspect of an IRL class. To them, the in-studio energy makes them work harder, sweat more, gain heart-opening milestones, and collectively breathe in cauliflower farts that they otherwise wouldn't experience, should they be working out at home. Considering Peloton offers minimal in-person experiences (right now, they have one studio in NYC and one in London), SoulCycle (with 83+ studios spread across the United States) is indisputable the workout method designed to bring riders together.
"I've been an avid SoulCycle lover since 2017. During the pandemic, as many people did, I invested in a Peloton. However, as soon as SoulCycle opened back up for good, my Peloton was gone. I love my instructors so much, and the energy they bring into the room is so incredible — even Cody Rigsby couldn't match that for me. Being in the room allows me to calm my mind and work my body, and I just couldn't get there in my own home. The distractions were always distracting, and there truly is nothing like that dark room with the candles lit." — Emily Cappiello, 37
"SoulCycle has my heart. After years of pandemic-induced Zoom sessions, I just can't pretend I prefer virtual to in-person. Peloton does what it does very well, but SoulCycle has that sense of community and togetherness that makes the workouts truly [energizing]." — Jenna Nye
"SoulCycle walked so Peloton could run. While this is an aggressive marketing strategy for SoulCycle, it's an effective way to get people riding together again. The pandemic has kept everyone in their own space for so long, and more riders are looking for fitness experiences instead of individual sessions." — Christy Pyrz, 29
"While I feel the Peloton was a great option during COVID, I don't think it's comparable to attending an in-person class like SoulCycle. The energy, instructor, and lights add to the experience, and are the motivation I need to start my day and be held accountable. I agree with SoulCycle that the community is such an essential part of the experience. Even though I have access to a Peloton for free in my apartment's gym, I've only used it a couple times. I've found more success forcing myself to get up and go to spin and have my favorite instructor push me. I think this is a brilliant move by SoulCycle [because] at the end of the day, human interaction can't be replaced." — Alisso Musto, 27
"Peloton was the perfect solution for a very specific, very different time in all of our lives, but now people are beginning to feel comfortable around one another again, I think exercising with others in person is naturally far superior. It might not be as convenient, but it is better for the soul." — Kathleen Fletcher
In Defense of Peloton
And then we have Peloton, which many people consider to be the more accessible option. Raise your hand if you've ever lost $30+ sleeping through an IRL workout class you ambitiously thought you'd get up for after a night of drinking. (Hi, my hand is raised.) Many of the Peloton fans we spoke to said that they love the flexibility an at-home experience provides and certainly didn't seem to miss the in-person connection SoulCycle users raved about. Another perk many Peloton riders called out: being able to choose between different lengths and types of workouts on any given day.
"I would never [trade in my Peloton]. First off, I don't even like Soul Cycle classes. I've tried so many times, but I just can't get into it. I want to know exactly how fast and heavy I am going, and SoulCycle bikes have no metrics — you never really know how fast you're going or how much resistance you have on, so there's not really a way to know if you're improving. I also like that Peloton offers tons of different lengths of classes, so depending on my time or the type of class I want, I can either do 15, 20, 30, 45 or 60 minute classes. The variety of instructors is much better, too. Each SoulCycle studio only has a fraction of the number of teachers, so you're not really able to pick and choose teaching style or music. I love that, based on my mood, I can take a pop ride, hip hop, country, EDM, metal, even Broadway. A studio could never compete." — Amanda Keller, 38
"While the SoulCycle strategy is bold, I don't love using negative phrases and mentality for marketing. It seems to cheapen the message to me. While I know SoulCycle is known for going big with ideas and I respect the big campaign, it seems to tie in with their overall tone of a cult-like environment. I prefer Peloton for a large variety of reasons, including the price point. The bike + monthly membership are way more reasonable than SoulCycle classes. Also, the inclusivity and welcome environment Peloton provides to every single member, no matter fitness level. The instructors at Peloton are also more well-known and also feel like one of your friends and family. In my opinion, you just can't beat being able to do a workout at ANYTIME with a Peloton and feel you are in a live class." — Chelsea Curran, 30
"I have a Peloton and have loved using it since early 2018 after I had my second child. Having access to a huge variety of classes at home has made it possible for me to stay mentally healthy and fit without causing strain on my family or our schedule. If I was attending SoulCycle classes, adding time to drive to and from a studio plus the constraints of class times would have made it impossible for me to take an exercise class. I think SoulCycle's strategy of asking Peloton users to 'turn in their Peloton bikes' in return for some classes is desperate and in poor taste." — Jenna Liphart, 33
"I have been doing indoor, online cycling and training since the pandemic began in March of 2020. It is actually what made me fall in love with fitness. Being a therapist, I know the importance of being part of a community with others to heal, motivate and feel better. While I certainly do ride harder and have more fun riding in person, I'm far more consistent with being able to ride online." — Chanel Johnson, 35
"As a certified spinning instructor for twenty years, I think [SoulCycle's] marketing strategy is extremely clever and relevant to how many people feel. Nothing matches the energy of a packed in-person cycling class and how people feed off one another during a ride. Also, there is more accountability when coming to a live class where you know the rest of the community. That said, I will take Peloton over SoulCycle any day. I love taking and teaching dance classes, but when I click in, I am there to ride hard, have fun, and avoid injury, which makes Peloton a clear winner." — Katie Pierson, 38
Hearing both sides of the SoulCycle vs. Peloton debate has shown us one thing, at least: there's no such thing as the one perfect workout for all people. While SoulCycle enthusiasts may have spoken passionately about the necessity of in-person classes and the inspiration that comes from community, Peloton loyalists matched their energy in their defense of the accessibility that virtual workouts bring and the usefulness of having a variety of class lengths and themes.
Ultimately, the perfect workout is the one that works best for you, which is why we're not here to tell you which brand is superior — or even which side triumphs in the indoor cycling debate. But SoulCycle's PR campaign certainly got tongues wagging, and since we love a passionately argued, fitness-themed hot-take, we'll consider that a win.