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SoulCycle and Ryde Compete to Gain a Loyal Following in Houston


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he popularity of indoor cycling studios has undoubtedly spiked in the past few years. This trend, emerging from LA’s cultish fitness scene, has branched out into America’s trend-setting hotspots–New York City, most of Southern California, Aspen, The Hamptons–and now Houston.

SoulCycle, the first to jump on this trendy cycling fad ten years in New York, continues to reign supreme in the cycling world, beating out competition in other smaller cycling studios. However, Houston-based cycling studio, Ryde, located in River Oaks Shopping Center, seems to be challenging Soul Cycle’s reign in Houston and stealing some of their potential customers. Ryde’s more boutique approach to the cycling trend is appealing to many workout enthusiasts.  Their improved amenities such as lavender scented towels, high-tech bike monitors, fantastic music, and a growing following may indicate that Ryde is beating SoulCycle at their own game.

Ryde came to Houston’s River Oaks Shopping Center in April 2015. On opening day, Ryde was the only “trendy” cycling studio in Houston. Ryde’s very early and very late classes allow everyone to work a ride into their schedule. As a Ryde enthusiast, I love to start school days with 5:30 a.m. cycling session.

Like SoulCycle, the entrance and the locker room are covered in shiny white plastic illuminated with natural and LED light. The blinding white atmosphere paired with blaring workout remixes, forces eyes and ears to wake up and prepare to “ryde” immediately upon arrival.

After selecting a locker to store a gym bag and tennis shoes, a cyclist enters the bike room. The space starts off totally dark with music blaring and one neon-blue light radiating from a stage at the front of the room; this is where the instructor stands while he or she organizes a playlist and greets people as they walk in.

Newcomers may feel intimidated while trying to find their assigned bike number in a totally dark room, but after a few classes it becomes a really exciting feeling to enter the bike room. Once all the riders  have mounted and adjusted their bikes, the workout begins.

The 45 minute class begins and ends with high intensity workouts and taps into every major muscle group, with extra focus on the quads and biceps. In addition to just using the bike itself, pushups and other upper body movements are incorporated to intensify the workout. Ashley Gooch, the co-founder of Ryde, invented a lot of these moves.

Ryde also always incorporates “tap back,” which means the rider is constantly sitting and pushing their body up from the bike seat to make the legs work harder. These movements are synced to the rhythm of the music, making it easier to execute. Near the end of the class, “Ryders” simultaneously lift weights while riding the bike.

“Ryders” can also track their progress throughout the workout by looking at how many calories they burn and the amount of resistance to the assigned bike. There is also a leader board for the class which is all connected to an online account.

To end the workout, cool lavender scented towels are passed around the class during stretches. There are showers, towels, and toiletry products to use if customers are exercising before school or work. It is the perfect close to the hot, high-intensity workout.

On the other hand, SoulCycle shares many similarities with Ryde but doesn’t offer the same intense workout. SoulCycle keeps the rooms at very hot temperatures and pack the bikes uncomfortably close together. There aren’t any bike monitors, so customers can’t track calories burned after a SoulCycle session.

The physical appearance of both the Memorial and River Oaks SoulCycle locations closely resembles Ryde. The actual bike rooms are also very similar in appearance, except SoulCycle studios are smaller. According to Nikki Storness, the manager of Memorial’s SoulCycle, the training process for instructors is unique to SoulCycle and by far the most rigorous training program compared to other studios. Storness insists that through this training process, SoulCycle can guarantee that “there is actually talent on the bike”.

Because SoulCycle instructors are randomly assigned to teach in Houston, SoulCycle is neither family-owned nor local, unlike Ryde which is a family-owned local business. Ryde is very integrated into the Houston community. They employ people from the University of Houston, and other local Houston companies. Gooch admits that her Ryde employees “don’t need to work here”, but they enjoy coming in off the clock to pass out towels or to say hello to frequent customers.

Gooch also explains the very friendly relationship between the employees and customers. For example, Gooch always invites her classes to chat with her after class about anything, not just spinning. Another way Ryde has built a  relationship with their customers is their low prices compared to other cycling studios. A class at Ryde is $24, or $30 for an unlimited amount of classes in a week, while SoulCycle is $30 a class or $145 for a week of 5 classes.

Ryde is certainly challenging SoulCycle’s dominance as the best cycling class in Houston!

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SoulCycle and Ryde Compete to Gain a Loyal Following in Houston