Kraftwerk’s Music and Their Cycling Roots

If you have ever taught a stage of the Tour de France in your cycling classes, you’ve almost without a doubt used a Kraftwerk tune, if only just for the pre-class music. If not…what were you thinking?! It’s such a classic, even if you aren’t a fan of industrial techno-pop! The first few notes of their most famous song, “Tour de France,” are instantly recognizable, and the repeated lyrics of Tour de France make it perfect for every simulation of a stage of this famous race.

Kraftwerk revealed this week in a rare interview with Rolling Stone magazine the huge extent that cycling has played in their music. Cycling Weekly of the UK highlights that interview here (you can find a link to the full Rolling Stone interview in the Cycling Weekly article). 

Although Kraftwerk has used the sound of bikes, and the rhythmic breathing of cyclists, in its music, Hütter says that cycling is also about silence and appreciating the sound of the world around you as you ride, something which is carried over to their music.

“We know that from cyclists, when they listen to our music, they understand; they listen, and they understand how the music is composed. It’s important when you move with your bicycle to listen to the environment, the surroundings, the wind and your own breath.”

Despite the group’s affection for the latest technology, Hütter has little time for cycling gadgets, and especially electric bikes. “Oh, no, no — that’s poor. That’s not real. It’s about your body and your capacities and what you can do, and what training is giving you and improving your training.”

I wonder if Hütter has ever taken an indoor cycling class? I would love to invite him to take mine so I can show him that even in our indoor classes, we can visualize listening to the environment and the surroundings, and certainly focus on our own breath. 

I have a feeling he would enjoy it and recognize how beneficial it can be to improve training for cycling! What do you think?

If you’ve never paid much attention to the lyrics of “Tour de France,” they are listed below with a translation into English, followed by an explanation of a few of the cycling terms and phrases used.

Lyrics for “Tour de France” by Kraftwerk

L’enfer du Nord* Paris-Roubaix
La Cote d’Azur et Saint Tropez
Les Alpes et les Pyrénnées
Derniere étape Champs-Elysées
Galibier et Tourmalet**
En danseuse*** jusqu’au sommet
Pedaler en grand braquet
Sprint final a l’arrivee
Crevaison sur les pavés
Le vélo vite reparé
Le peloton est regroupé
Camarades et amitié

Translation To English:

The hell of the north* Paris-Roubaix,
The Cote d’Azur and Saint Tropez
The Alps and the Pyrenees
Last stage Champs-Elysees
Galibier and Tourmalet
Dancing to the top
Bicycling at high gear
Final sprint at the finish
Flat tire on the paving stones
The bike is repaired quickly
The peloton is regrouped
Comrades and friendship

*L’Enfer du Nord (“Hell of the North”) is the nickname for the brutal Paris-Roubaix race in April, months before the Tour de France.
**Galibier is one of the hardest climbs of the Alps, and Tourmalet one of the hardest of the Pyrénées.
***En danceuse, translated as “dancing,” is the idiomatic description for climbing out of the saddle, because they look like they are “dancing on the bike.”

This is their most famous song, “Tour de France,” originally released in 1983. 

And here is “Electrokardiogram,” another of my favorites to use in at least one stage each year…it just doesn’t get any better than this! With the sound of the breathing and the heartbeats and the lyrics—”Minimum, maximum beats per minute”—it’s just perfect for a profile that takes your riders to their limits.


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