Class Profile: Four Climbs: A Saxophone-Infused Musical Odyssey

If you’ve confined the saxophone to the likes of Kenny G and smooth jazz, prepare for a musical revelation. In our Theme Ride Thursday for National Saxophone Day earlier this month, we provided you with a bucket playlist of 200 saxophone-infused tracks, a playlist that spans an array of musical genres, including rock, pop, R&B, soul, folk, indie, house, and dance music, among other genres.

I was unable to create a ride in time for this instrument’s special day, but that didn’t stop me from embarking on a musical journey with my playlists! My riders all enjoyed my guitar-themed ride, my drumming ride, and my piano-filled ride, so I knew they would embrace a saxophone-inspired ride. I have one very fit older rider in his 70s who was a band manager in the 1960s, including for the group The Yardbirds. He raves about my music-themed playlists, but he’s certainly not alone.

Let me describe the process I use to narrow down from a large bucket playlist (in this case, about 200 songs) to my ultimate profile playlist. My first step was to distill this vast selection into a more manageable “sax dump file” comprising approximately 50 songs that resonated with me the most. This reduced playlist made it easier for the final selection, and not only included my personal favorites but also ensured a diverse mix of genres, tempos, and energy levels.

The next step of my meticulous planning phase included jotting down each song (from the “dump file”), its length, and its tempo. I then noted which songs were ideal for a climb, a recovery, an energetic or a gentle flat road, a warm-up, a cool-down, and more. After analyzing my options, a profile objective became apparent—the tracks I liked most looked like they would be best used in a climbing profile interspersed with a flat road. These latter songs weren’t short, so in my profile, that “flat” would start off as a “downhill” recovery for the first half of the song, and then increase slightly in intensity for the second half as the downhill leveled off to a flat road. 

I then created a new Spotify playlist that would become my profile soundtrack. Certain tracks were non-negotiable; for example, “Careless Whisper” was destined to be my cool-down from the outset and was the first song I added. Iconic artists like David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen were also guaranteed a spot; my challenge was to decide which of their fantastic songs with saxophones would make the cut. Whether I needed a climbing song or a flat road song to round out my profile would help me make that choice.

Admittedly, finalizing the playlist was a labor of love, requiring more time than I usually spend on my playlists, mostly due to the sheer abundance of excellent options. I found myself constantly fine-tuning the playlist for hours over several days. The result, however, was worth every moment of indecision. The playlist predominantly embraces the sounds of the ’70s and ’80s rock and pop, with a few modern indie and club tracks (and one modern remix of an R&B classic) strategically placed throughout. 

I want to interject here one small bump I had in putting this playlist together; this highlights a difficulty that I’m sure you’ve also faced at times in your playlist creation. If you recall, in my post for National Saxophone Day, I stated that Pink Floyd’s “Money” was de rigeur for any sax-themed ride. And yes, along with “Careless Whisper,” I originally slid that song into my playlist-to-be as one of my must-have songs. Alas, try as I might, I couldn’t make it work due to its length so I resorted to leaving it on the cutting room floor. (The good news is that I used that song not long ago in my Ride to Riches profile for National Be A Millionaire Day.)

Now let’s talk about the profile. After the warm-up, which gradually ramps up to threshold (FTP) at a higher cadence to a super Supertramp track (another group that has many songs with great sax!), there is a series of four climbs; each climb proceeds from a slower cadence to a higher cadence. Most of the first songs of the uphills are a steady seated climb, and the remainder of the climb has more switchbacks, standing surges on the chorus, and attacks. The downhill recovery songs transition to a gentle flat at a higher cadence to lead to the next climb.

While I don’t always ride at the intensity I’m asking of my riders (especially in higher-intensity intervals), when I taught this profile this week, I rode at the prescribed intensity and I can tell you honestly—it was downright challenging! Not impossibly hard, mind you, but one of those workouts where you are super proud of yourself when you’re done. Throughout the class, I reminded my riders to save some energy for the final climb…because it’s a doozy. I’m sure glad I did, otherwise I might not have completed that last uphill attack! 

In the StagesStudio profile layout above, the blue is Zone 1, easy, for warm-up, recovery, and cool-down. Green is Zone 2, somewhat easy. Yellow is Zone 3, moderate (which, when held for a longer time, becomes quite challenging). Orange is Zone 4, hard. Threshold (FTP/LT) is in the upper third of this zone. Red is Zone 5, very hard. While there isn’t a lot of red in this profile, it’s the placement after an extended hard effort that makes it downright challenging. The final climb has a 10-second final push in maroon Zone 6, very, very hard. Riders finish the ride completely spent. 

The end result exceeded even my own expectations. I hope you and your riders enjoy this exhilarating profile as much as mine did and that your participants cheer on your saxophone-infused musical journey. 

As usual, if you want to change out any of the songs, feel free to put in your favorite sax tracks, or explore our saxophone bucket playlist for ideas. Of course, if we’re missing your favorite song(s) in that bucket playlist, let us know. To shorten the ride, you may have to transform this into a three-climb profile. You’re going to be faced with a difficult decision of which songs to leave out! 



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