SoulCycle Is Going Public. How Did It Get So Big?

A SoulCycle class at the Spotify House during SXSW 2015 on March 17, 2015, in Austin, Texas.

Photo by Alli Harvey/Getty Images for Spotify

Brand-name exercise classes are all the rage these days, but SoulCycle, the indoor cycling chain, has garnered a particularly intense following—one that’s been frequently observed to border on the cultlike. Celebrities like Lena Dunham, David Beckham, and Oprah swear by it. The company is nearly a household name by now, with its reputation widely known both inside and outside fitness circles. And on Thursday, SoulCycle announced that it’s going public

The cycling chain—which describes its grueling spin class as a “party on a bike”—attracts about 50,000 people each week. The New York–based chain has almost 40 locations in the U.S., and it plans to open dozens more across the world. Its revenue went from $75 million in 2013 to $112 million in 2014. In a filing with the Securities and Exchanges Commission, the company noted that it was rated the sixth most influential brand on Twitter at the most recent Consumer Electronics Show.

But how did SoulCycle go from a tiny one-studio joint in Manhattan, as it was in 2006, to a massive chain and national fitness craze? The answer is that SoulCycle’s appeal to customers runs deeper than a high-energy workout—the company also markets itself as something of a spiritual experience. It’s even saying as much to investors, writing the following in its IPO filing:

Our mission is to bring Soul to the people. SoulCycle instructors guide riders through an inspirational, meditative fitness experience designed to benefit the body, mind and soul. Set in a dark, candlelit room to high-energy music, our riders move in unison as a pack to the beat, and follow the cues and choreography of the instructor. The experience is tribal. It is primal. And it is fun…

We believe SoulCycle is more than a business, it’s a movement.

SoulCycle’s almost devotional style of indoor cycling has brought it a massive following, which might explain why other fitness companies are latching onto the trend of spiritual branding: Lululemon, for example, launched a movement in 2012 called the “Gospel of Sweat,” in which it encouraged people to “pray through [their] pores.”

In any case, SoulCycle’s aggressive self-branding has earned it a loyal fan base—one that seems very promising for its IPO. The company’s filing included a nominal fundraising target of $100 million, though the final size of the IPO has not yet been determined. SoulCycle hasn’t released the expected price for its shares.