SoulCycle Promotes Bloodlust Among Riders

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Photo: BUCK Studio/Corbis

Today the New York Times "Style" section devotes attention to the worst kind of gym asshole. Meet the Tracy Flicks of fitness classes: the people who insist on landing those “coveted” front-row spots lest they are forced to suffer sitting behind “any rhythm-challenged, hungover or just not-quite-so-fit” people who might dare darken the bike seats of a hallowed SoulCycle studio. The ones that “all but beg to be called out in class for their A-plus performance, and preen when that happens.”

“When there’s people in front of me, it gets in the way of my workout. I won’t ride if I don’t get the front row,” says one such person, most likely brandishing her cycle shoe with menace.

While show-off-y types have always existed in boutique fitness classes, it seems that classgoers are increasingly ready to bludgeon each other with fancy water bottles to gain access to the status front-row seat. Why has this become so important?

As reported in the more disturbing parts of this article, it seems instructors are turning fitness studios into Gladiator rings — ramping up the competition required to gain access to the coveted spots. For example, some instructors ask novice (weak) attendees to move to the back row with subtle shaming. There are SoulCycle emperors who insist on preapproving the people who sit in their front rows, and have recently introduced the invite-only, selfie-ready VIP bike right next to the instructor. Yes, the invitation is an honor, but at what cost? Freedom? Innocence? Life?

Or $54, the price of one of those brag-y "Front Row" tank tops sold in the SoulCycle shop?