That’s right. Beginning today, ClassPass users can book rides at SoulCycle’s 60-plus studios in the U.S. and London using ClassPass credits.
As a refresher, SoulCycle and ClassPass were both all the rage in the mid-2010s. But there was a gulf between the studio jumpers of ClassPass and the mystical SoulCycle devotees. At the time, nearly every fitness studio was on ClassPass, and SoulCycle was the notable exception. It was the only studio with enough of a dedicated community that it had no need for the influx of students ClassPass brought to other studios, and it could comfortably charge $30+ per class, plus equipment rentals. It is not an understatement to say that SoulCycle was truly infamous for not being on ClassPass.
Now, you’ll be able to book a SoulCycle ride for between 10 and 15 ClassPass credits. Each credit costs about $2 to $3 (depending on your exact ClassPass subscription). That price tag is not insignificantly more expensive than other cycling classes. For example, ClassPass says Cyclebar in New York City ranges from about 8 to 11 credits and Pedal House in New York City ranges from about 8 to 13.
So how did we get here?
It’s been a long time coming
First of all, ClassPass has seriously evolved in recent years. In 2018, it switched from a class package subscription model, which involved buying 5, 10, 15, or even unlimited classes, to its current credit-based model. Before then, there was no way to differentiate between the value of a luxurious boutique class that used a lot of expensive equipment, and something simpler. A class was a class, and this made studios with high overhead feel like they weren’t getting paid what they were worth, and that they were losing money by allocating spots to ClassPass users. This all caused the late-2010s ClassPass backlash in which studios alleged ClassPass was cannibalizing their users, akin to the way Grubhub or Uber would take a big cut of food deliveries or cab rides.
Today, studios can set the amount of credits they want to charge for a class, or use ClassPass’ dynamic pricing models which allow it to charge more or less money, or allocate more or fewer spots, based on demand. So essentially, ClassPass made a lot of changes that they say make it a better deal for studios than it once was.
Next up, of course, was the pandemic. As gyms and studios shut down en masse, what became the face of pandemic at-home fitness was the biggest existential threat to SoulCycle: Peloton. Just like SoulCycle, it had teachers with cult followings, transcendent playlists, and elitist cache. Most importantly of all, it had something SoulCycle didn’t have: The convenience of cycling from home.
SoulCycle did come out with its own at-home bike and digital class schedule at the beginning of the pandemic, but it failed to catch on in the same zeitgeist-y way that Peloton did. SoulCycle also happened to be owned by Equinox, which was suffering from gym closures and their accompanying massive rent bills. (Earlier this year, Equinox was sued for millions for not paying that rent.) On top of it all, at the end of 2020, an investigation into toxicity at the company and among the SoulCycle community tarnished the organization’s shine.
Something had to give. In August, SoulCycle announced that it was shutting down 25 percent of its locations and had to lay off 75 of its 1,350 employees. Recently, Equinox declined to provide Well+Good with a comment on the health of its businesses, including SoulCycle.
ClassPass and SoulCycle are announcing the news as an exciting new partnership, which it certainly is for ClassPassers who have never been able to set foot in a SoulCycle using their credits. But the announcement’s subtext is also the story of how the fitness industry has changed. From boutique studios having a somewhat siloed specialist power, to ClassPass disrupting the whole business, to the ClassPass backlash, to the pandemic and the rise of at-home fitness, and finally to where we are today: To the industry trying to get back on its feet and bring students back to class, ready to clip in and tap it back once more.