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Yoga on a Bike

Julie Rice, Ruth Zukerman, and Elizabeth Cutler (below) wanted a spinning-only oasis with no thumping techno and no screaming instructors (1). It’s called SoulCycle.

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No Screamers Allowed
In search of gentler, less macho spin classes, Julie Rice went to Reebok Sports Club, where she discovered spinstructor Ruth Zukerman, who incorporated yoga breathing and encouraged riders to fuel their sprints by releasing frustrations. About the same time, Zukerman met Elizabeth Cutler, a former real-estate broker, through her class at Zone Hampton. Shortly after, Rice and Cutler approached Zukerman about starting a business.


The Power of Three
A November 2005 lunch at Soho House was like a great blind date. Zukerman brought the product; Rice, an ex-talent executive, the management skills; and Cutler the financial savvy and the majority of the funding (she’d invested in Izze (2), a carbonated-fruit-juice company; Pepsi bought the start-up, and her payout became SoulCycle’s seed money).


Tequila Dreams
Over margarita-fueled brainstorms, they developed SoulCycle’s mission. What if clients could sign up for classes, even specific bikes, on the Web (soul-cycle.com)? What if they rode by candlelight? Start-up costs included bikes ($1,200 each), software for the Website ($20,000), and sweatproof headsets ($800 each). “It turns out spinning teachers sweat even more than Madonna (3),” says Rice. Their most surprising expenditure? Each towel (4) costs 45 cents to clean. “And in New York, people are always like, ‘Can I have three towels?’ ”


But Where?
The partners had to deal with pricey spaces with bad sightlines and landlords who don’t like gym tenants because of the wear and tear. Cutler finally went on Craigslist and found a funky space tucked into the back lobby of a commercial building on West 72nd Street, with “no signage and no showers.” They signed a five-year lease and sweet-talked architects and graphic-designer friends into helping spruce up the place.

A Quiet Beginning
Two weeks after they opened last June, the sound system died; the sound guy sold them damaged equipment, then disappeared. It cost $1,200 to fix. Then there was the $2,000 for nonstick flooring. A nook became a retail corner, which raised the monthly gross by 5 percent.


Political Spin
Word of mouth spread in the neighborhood and beyond. By last winter, Kyra Sedgwick, Caroline Kennedy, and Katie Couric were signing up for the $27 workout. Clients confided, “‘I don’t need to go to my shrink anymore,’” says Zukerman. Even Bill Clinton (5) stopped by as part of an unconventional fund-raiser for Hillary: A group of riders paid $2,300 each to spin to a playlist of his favorite songs as he walked through the room. Note to Obama: A Bridgehampton studio opens this week.

SoulCycle
117 W. 72nd St., nr. Columbus Ave.; 212-787-1300


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