I went because I wanted to spice up my exercise routine. But mostly I went because the first time was free.
The room was pitch black but for a single candle on the floor, and even the excess light from the flame reflecting off the wall of mirrors at the front was soon obscured as the mirrors fogged up from the heat.
"Let me see your SOUL," boomed the instructor as he blasted the music so that the throbbing base seemed to shake the entire room.
"Let's RIDE," he said with a maniacal grin. "Everybody UP."
I followed the movement of the perky, ponytailed girl next to me who stood up on her bike in a fluid motion while maintaining a breakneck pedal speed. She made it seem as easy as a stroll through the park, while I held on for dear life and wondered when we would be able to sit down.
The answer seemed to be, never.
Within seconds sweat was dripping into my eyes and my legs were on fire. I am a runner and consider myself to be in reasonably good shape, but it was clear to me almost instantly that running shape and SoulCycle shape are wildly different.
"Speed it UP," yelled the instructor. "Turn up the INTENSITY," he screamed as the music sped up.
Muscles I barely knew I had were shaking and threatening to collapse, and a quick glance to my left told me that Perky Ponytailed Girl, damn her, was actually smiling as she reached down and gave her resistance a full twist to the right.
My vision blurred, my quick breaths caught in my chest, and I was dying of thirst, mostly because I was afraid that if I reached down for my water bottle I would take a header straight off the bike.
And through the fog of exhaustion and pain came my fierce vow to never do this again, along with a certain smugness born from the knowledge that I had managed to resist whatever addictive properties most of the world has found in the SoulCycle machine.
And then, the music slowed. The room grew darker as the candle was extinguished. In a voice barely above a whisper, the instructor told us to sit and close our eyes while we pedaled.
"Lose yourself," he said. "This is your moment. You can do anything."
I wanted to smirk at his platitudes, but I couldn't. The music arrowed through me and as I pedaled the pain and exhaustion of the class fell away. I found a rhythm and all of a sudden I felt like I could pedal forever and for one strange moment I wished that the class would never end. That I could stay in this hot and steamy room and ride this bike for the rest of my life.
Then it was over.
And as I joined the sweaty masses headed towards the door I was already thinking about when I could come back for more.
That I would have to pay for.