Fire Up Your Field Tests With the Right Music

Field tests are very important training sessions in your indoor cycling classes because they allow you to set a personalized benchmark of effort much more specifically than any kind of chart or formula. This is true for both heart rate and power, and it also helps your students understand on an intimate level the type of exertion that is necessary and exactly how it should feel.

Hopefully as an ICA member you’ve already printed out the Field Test Master Class. It is a cornerstone of what we believe to be effective coaching.

There is no denying that field tests (and their cousin, time trials) are challenging. They require a lot of both intrinsic and extrinsic coaching to keep your riders powered up for the entire 20 minutes. Your music selections will be important to help drive your riders to give their all. I find that choosing my field test and time trial songs is sometimes one of my bigger challenges. When I travel to present my Mastering the Art and Science of Heart Rate Training workshop, I get asked a lot about suitable music choices. Instructors need ideas for field test songs!

In my field test profile above, I’ve provided 60 different song suggestions. My own preference is for longer (7- to 10-minute), electronic or downtempo tracks, but it can be a challenge to find music in those genres at the necessary bpm of 85 to 100 that have enough energy. We’ve been asked by instructors for more suggestions of the rock and alternative genres. These tend to be shorter, usually less than five minutes. If you’re going to use these genres, for best results you’ll want to weave them together using MixMeister.

With that in mind, Tom Scotto and I have searched our playlists for some of our favorite field test/time trial songs and put them into a spreadsheet for you. I’ve included some of the songs from the field test master class (linked to above) but after I listened to those songs, I left a few out as they weren’t quite as high energy as we need. But now you have them all in one place; the attached file has 72 songs.

Here is the criteria for a field test or time trial song:

  • 85–100 bpm
  • high, consistent energy
  • driving (or at least rhythmic) beat, but this isn’t a sprint!

Remember, a field test is a sustained output for the entire duration; you aren’t ebbing and flowing to the musical peaks like you might do with different efforts. That doesn’t mean the music can’t contain some breaks—it all comes down to how you coach it. But for best results, you want a strong and consistent rhythm throughout. Downtempo songs sometimes lack a little bit of energy but make up for it in their ability to allow intense focus on pedal stroke, rhythm, and breathing. They work well for those who can rely more on intrinsic motivation (if you’ve trained them that way). But for those who really need extrinsic (external, in-your-face) motivation, you’ll probably prefer the more high-energy rock, alternative, or hip-hop songs.

As usual, if you have any suggestions to add, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks!

I’ve got this download as both a PDF and an Excel spreadsheet.


  1. Jennifer, I did indeed see a few there 🙂 Will mail you some more suggestions to augment, if you feel they are OK of course. I was initially very nervous of using them,they are in a musical bucket I call ‘Brit Shouty Men’ (pity there aren’t more shouty Brit women, there are a few notable Americans, good on ’em). Admittedly I found them tricky to mix and ended up doing mostly short cross-fades, even though the bpm was very similar, but when folks are doing their ‘test’, very short gaps in the music flow seemed fine where it wouldn’t in another type of profile.

  2. Thanks both for this, I am always harvesting tracks of this BPM and can never have enough. Albeit short, some Brit tracks can work well in what I call the ‘pleasingly aggressive’ extrinsic category (they seem to keep Brits’ legs moving along anyway!)e.g. New Wave bands such as The Undertones/Jam/Members. Oldie heavy bands like Led Zep and Black Sabbath, almost all around 90-95ish bpm. Some Smiths and also Django Django. Happy to share if anyone interested. Probably showing my advanced age. Sigh.

    1. Author

      ha! you’ll notice some of my suggestions are from that era as well Caroline! Not sure it shows our “advanced age” as much as it shows we are considering the age of some of our students! 😉

      Any specific suggestions you have would be awesome. I’ll take the suggestions here and compile them into an updated spreadsheet soon, so we can all have them in one spot!

      Maybe someone can create a Spotify playlist with these songs. Anyone want to volunteer? It’s a bit time consuming, but if you do, email me and I’ll put the link up for our members.

  3. Another little hint to those who use DJ mixing programs for their playlists (Mixmeister etc):
    you can adjust the tempo of the tracks, in some cases quite a lot, to fit the bill for your ride (if they’re originally too fast or too slow), but this definitely doesn’t work with all – it’ll be a case of try it and see how it sounds.
    And, of course, this will also alter the length of the track.

    1. Author

      Thanks for the tip Richard. I’ve only done it a few times, and the most I’ve changed is by 5 bpm. I’ve never done it to a song with lyrics, have you? Does it change their vocals? If you increase the bpm, or example, do they sound like chipmunks? 😉

  4. Thank you, thank you!!

  5. The P word, Richard?

  6. Wonderful! Link please

    1. ps 85-100rpm tracks of any duration are ALWAYS the most useful…I can’t think why 😉

      1. Author

        You’re right Richard, a lot of these songs are excellent for other shorter efforts too!I probably should have highlighted that in my post.

        It’s just that putting together a 20-minute playlist of high energy higher cadence tracks can be so daunting at times!

  7. Hey Jen and Tom,

    Great post as always

    Here are some songs I have used

    LOTS of Pendulum songs are suitable and bang on 85-88 BPM

    Crush, Granite, Slam, Propane Nightmares, Tarantula, The Fountain

    Also, High Contrast remixes of Something Good (Utah Saints) and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

    Leftfield – Dusted (97 BPM) and Inspection (Check one) – 100RPM

    These are ones I can think of from the top of my head, loads more on my library!

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