Some instructors who’ve known me a long time think I prefer electronic music in my indoor cycling classes, and yes, I do love it and I’ll even admit, many of my early playlists (both in my classes as well my profiles as here on ICA) were much more heavy on trance, club, and downtempo styles. I still love those styles of electronic music and continue to use them, especially in classes where I want my riders to focus more introspectively on what they are doing, such as in longer sub-threshold interval, mental strength, or mind-body focused rides.
However, I have to admit that I have been using both rock and pop music much more often now (including in my ICA profiles) in lieu of playlists that are heavier on electronic music because I’ve seen a shift in the demographics of my participants over the years, and especially more recently since I moved and am teaching at a club in a bigger city. It’s what my riders want—they ask for it specifically. So I give it to them, while also interspersing tracks they might not know. (I’m happy to say I’ve introduced my riders to songs they didn’t think they would like, and they’ve even commented about how much they enjoyed the playlist after class!)
I’ve also had ICA members tell me they want more songs their riders know, so I’m including much more mainstream and rock in ICA profiles.
Nevertheless, I truly am a longtime lover of classic rock music; maybe that’s a function of my age—I think of myself as a child of the 1980s—but it’s also a function of the indisputable fact that ROCK AND ROLL IS PERFECT FOR CYCLING CLASSES in so many ways!
Yes, that’s in all bold caps on purpose. I’m yelling it from the rooftops! 🙂
Some instructors say they don’t like rock music—and believe me, there is some rock that I dislike, too (screeching guitars, indecipherable screaming voices, and the like). But if you generally find yourself avoiding rock in favor of current pop music, ask yourself if your riders might like it. If you aren’t sure about rock, check out the suggestions below and in my bucket playlists…I promise, there is such a wide variety of styles and tempos and energy of rock music that work exceptionally well in the cycling studio.
If you tend to avoid rock music for whatever reason, a good time to test how your riders (and you, of course) will like it is to create a Rocktober theme ride in the month of October. You might be surprised at how many of your riders come up to you after class and say, “More of that, please!” ICA has two popular and fun Rocktober profiles for you to use (you’ll find links to both profiles in that link). Every time I’ve used either of these profiles, I’ve gotten a resounding “YES!” from my riders.
One of the reasons why I like rock music so much for cycling classes is that many tracks have a higher tempo that translates to a cadence range in the 80s and 90s rpm. The higher-energy tracks in this tempo range are perfect for high-cadence, hard-driving, high-intensity intervals (and some are good for sprints). The guitar and drums of rock music often help you turn those pedals when you start to fatigue and feel like slowing down! The less intense songs of this tempo are great for endurance, warm-ups, and recovery tracks. You’ll notice that in my examples below. This tempo range is a little more challenging to find with current mainstream pop and EDM music (though mainstream hip-hop and indie genres are excepted).
As instructors, we should include a wide range of music styles in our playlists to please the wide range of preferences in our classes. I’m not saying you should play songs you dislike; I’m suggesting you open your mind to the vast delights of different styles of music! That’s why we’ve done so many SOYMB (Step Outside Your Musical Box) posts at ICA to help you do just that. In our eclectic collection of SOYMB suggestions here, you’ll find hip-hop, Motown, EMO, country, Canadian, downtempo (an electronic style), and motion picture soundtracks to choose from to widen your musical offerings.
At ICA, we have FOUR bucket playlists with rock-and-roll songs: a classic rock playlist (1960s to 1980s), a modern rock playlist (1990s to present), badass women of rock, and a fun one that has songs about rock and roll or have the words “rock star” or “rock and roll” in the title or lyrics. There are over 1,000 great songs good for cycling in those playlists.
(Note: Even if you don’t use Spotify for your classes, I suggest you at least register for a free Spotify account. That way, you can still follow ICA playlists for members and refer to them for ideas to search in the music resource you use. On the other hand…I really do recommend a premium Spotify account!)
I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite classic rock and modern rock songs that I’ve been using lately and what I do to them:
Running Down the Dream, Tom Petty, 4:52, 168 bpm/84 rpm
This song is so perfect for a hard-driving longer interval. I’ve also used it as a fast climb or in a race situation.
She Sells Sanctuary, The Cult, 4:12, 140 bpm/70 rpm
Such a great climb! You can stand on the chorus, “…and the world, and the world turns around.”
Bad Reputation, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, 2:49, 103 bpm/rpm
Not for the faint of heart! This one is a very high-cadence, hard-driving interval. You can also do a few sprints (with recovery in between). I especially like using this song in a “badass women of rock” playlist, maybe for International Women’s Month in March.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want, The Rolling Stones, 7:28, 88 bpm/rpm
Sometimes you need a long song for a focused tempo (moderate) interval or endurance ride. I’ve noticed that many endurance playlists often include mostly instrumental electronic (downtempo) songs (that includes mine!). Why not use some rock? Here is the perfect option!
The Rolling Stones have so many classic rock tracks that are great for cycling classes. I’ve included quite a few in the ICA bucket playlist.
Landslide, Fleetwood Mac, 3:19, 180 bpm/80 rpm
Here it is, your cool-down song for your Rocktober rock ‘n’ roll playlist (or any playlist any time of the year, for that matter). You’re welcome.
I Miss the Misery, Halestorm, 3:03 164 bpm/82 rpm
Another intense song for a fast climb or interval at threshold or above. The guitar helps you turn those pedals. This is another song to include in your “badass women of rock” playlist.
Uprising, Muse, 5:04, 128 bpm/64 rpm
Such a great climb!
Everlong, Foo Fighters, 4:10, 158 bpm/79 rpm
An intense fast climb. I’ve used this song in Tour de France climbing profiles where I need high-energy efforts and attacks.
An Ocean in Between the Waves, The War on Drugs, 7:11, 166 bpm/83 rpm
I just love everything this group does. This song is the quintessential warm-up or extended moderate flat. In fact, I have to be careful that I don’t use it too often—I love it that much!
What are your favorite classic and modern rock songs and what do you like to do to them? Let me know in the comments; if they aren’t in my bucket playlists (for ICA members), I will add your suggestions.
If you’re not an ICA Member yet, what are you waiting for? We will save you many dozens (if not hundreds!) of hours searching for and collecting the perfect song for the perfect use, not to mention saving you time creating effective and fun profiles. No one does what ICA does for busy instructors in the way we do it! No one else provides instructors with the sheer number of evidence-based and engaging profiles (we’ve got 100s of profiles that include cues and suggested music) or the number of tips on how to use your music effectively, proper technique, coaching and cueing, exercise science, theme rides, how to implement mind-body coaching techniques, and so much more.
ICA is program-agnostic…all the education on ICA is applicable across ALL indoor cycling programs.
I hope you’ll give ICA a try. If you have any questions about membership, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.