Let’s start with a couple of contradictions:
One: Online training programs (like Zwift, Fulgaz, TrainerRoad, and myriad others) provide structured, interactive workouts and will make you a better cyclist. But despite their simplicity – just log in and ride! – they require a lot more attention to detail than many of us want to put in, even if it will make us better cyclists. And some of them can be, well, boring.
Two: Over the next few paragraphs there will be the occasional snarky commentary about spin classes. This comes from a wealth of experience. More precisely, a one-hour session on a Matric IC7 Coach by Color machine at a Washington D.C. gym.
That out of the way, let’s dive in.
When we ride on the road or trail, most of the time we’re introspective. Even when we’re riding in a group, we’re not constantly chatting. We’re thinking. Or feeling. Or listening to the soundtrack in our head.
Think about the latter for a second. There’s a reason music and workouts go well together. The abovementioned spin classes, for example. The pulsing, pounding beat is meant to be inspirational and get you moving better than a double espresso. (It’s also meant to overload your senses in such a way that you won’t question what you are doing stuck in a smelly health-club basement listening to someone scream, “PUSH IT, BABY!” while being deafened by a techno level that rivals a jumbo jet takeoff.)
As for the music tracks of virtual cycling, what there is sounds like fairly lame, canned electronica.
That’s the arrival point here. You don’t need a health club membership or a smart trainer app subscription (let alone a $2,000 high-zoot at-home machine) to have a great workout that will improve your fitness and make you NOT want to hit the snooze button. You don’t even need a huge cash outlay to have a home workout to look forward to.
And you don’t have to share your training with a screaming coach, seizure-inducing flashing lights, and a roomful of malodorous playmates.
Start with …
Honesty up front: There’s no question that the $1,000-plus trainers from Tacx, Elite, Wahoo and CycleOps are amazing, particularly when twinned with a killer app and a huge flat screen. And with Wahoo’s $599 Kickr Climb and $249 Kickr Headwind fan, you can even have real-time grade simulation and wind in your face. But that’s still a $1,000-plus trainer, a $599 grade simulator, a $249 fan, an app subscription and a huge flat screen.
What we’re suggesting for your Sound Workout is simplicity. You can score a nice trainer like the Travel Trac Comp Fluid, the Elite Qubo Fluid or the CycleOps Fluid for under $200. (We’re suggesting fluid trainers over mag strictly for noise level. Mag trainers are loud.) What you’ll get for that price is a steady, road-like feel and ease of use. And the workout you’ll get can be as variable as any online program because of …
One of the many nice things about smartphones is the great music apps they all have. iPhone or Android, they all allow you to make your own playlists; those are the backbone of your Sound Workout.
Before you rack just any playlist, though, know this: The best playlists are the ones whose beats create their own structured workouts. Don’t just pedal to whatever. Pedal to the beat and make it count. And you don’t have to crank up the sound to ear-splitting gym levels, either.
What we created here is a playlist for a Performance Bicycle workout at our Berkeley, Calif., store. It’s an hour long, it starts slow, and the beat mostly increases steadily until you’re flat-out sprinting in the last few minutes before an easy cool-down. It’s also, shall we say, themed.
It is not meant to be the final word in playlists because to each his or her own, obviously. (You may, for example, think geezer rock sucks, but that’s for another blog.) It does, though, give you a general idea of what’s possible (and, on YouTube, easily playable). So here we go with …
Start Me Up, The Rolling Stones (3:35): As the title suggests, this is the warm-up. A fairly mid-level beat that is best done in an easy gear.
Spinning Wheels, Blood Sweat & Tears (4:07): Gear up as you work into this slow cadence. When David Clayton Thomas says, “ride a painted pony” stand for a 10 count in a big gear. Work the glutes.
Will It Go Round In Circles, Billy Preston (3:46): When Billy sings the chorus, double your cadence. You’ll be spinning fast!
Wheel In The Sky, Journey (4:13): Steady as she goes. Stand again, when Steve Perry sings the chorus.
Let It Ride, Bachman-Turner Overdrive (4:30): Push as big a gear as is comfortable here.
Ride, The Vines (2:42): Slight increase in cadence. Concentrate on making circles with both legs.
Slow Ride, Foghat (3:58): Have fun with this one. Bounce on the pedals. You cannot listen to this song on a bike and not smile.
Ride Captain Ride, Blues Image (3:45): Maintain your cadence.
Hitching A Ride, Vanity Fare (3:08): See above. This is totally and admittedly bubble-gum pop but it’s a great song for concentrating on your pedaling motion.
Ticket To Ride, The Beatles (3:14): Stand during the chorus here, too.
Free Ride, Edgar Winter Group (3:08): A bump in cadence. Easy gear spin. Get ready for what’s to come.
Low Rider, War (3:13): This song should be included in any cycling playlist because, well, because. It’s got a great beat for big gears. Mash!
Ride Like The Wind, Christopher Cross (4:29): Cadence, cadence, cadence. This is a transition zone because the next two are leg-rippers.
Ride My See-Saw, The Moody Blues (3:47): And you’re really starting to spin here. This is hard, but not the one that’s going to gas you. That’s next, thank you very much.
See See Rider, Elvis Presley (2:36): Try your best to keep up with the King. You might not make it the full length of the song but go for as long as you can. And no cheating by pedaling only on the back beat. Go for it.
The End, The Beatles (2:22): The Fab Four get a second crack here, and this one is simply about warming down until you’re done. Just relax and imagine yourself taking a leisurely stroll across Abbey Road.
So that’s the Sound Workout, a little travel down memory lane while you pedal.
YMMV, of course. Do you have a favorite playlist? Or a song or two that you love pedaling to? Let us know in the comments section below. And if you experiment and come up with a new, killer set of tracks, ditto.
Share your inner DJ. And ride on.