Theme Ride Thursday: Rock-and-Roll for Rocktober (Because Rock Rules!)

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) leaned heavily toward trance, club, and downtempo styles of electronic music. I still love those styles of 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 intervals, mental strength, or mind-body-focused rides.

However, I have to admit that I have been using rock and pop music much more often now, including in my ICA profiles, primarily because I’ve seen a shift in the demographics of my participants over the years. This shift is primarily due to changing demographics among my participants, which became more apparent after my move to a bigger city a few years ago. It’s clear that this is what my riders desire—they explicitly request it. 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!)

Furthermore, I’ve heeded the requests of ICA members who yearn for tunes their riders recognize, resulting in a broader inclusion of mainstream and rock music in my ICA profiles. (Longtime members, have you noticed?)

Now, with that being said, I’ve always been an ardent lover of classic rock music. Perhaps it’s a reflection of my age—I consider myself a child of the 1980s—but it’s also an indisputable truth that ROCK AND ROLL IS PERFECT FOR CYCLING CLASSES in countless ways!

Yes, those bold capital letters are deliberate—I’m shouting it out loud! 🙂

Some instructors may claim they’re not fans of rock music, and trust me, there are aspects of rock that I’m not particularly fond of either (screeching guitars and indecipherable screaming voices, to name a few). However, if you typically gravitate toward genres other than rock, especially current pop music, I encourage you to consider whether your riders might appreciate it. If you’re unsure about rock’s appeal, take a look at the suggestions below and explore my bucket playlists. I assure you, rock music encompasses a wide spectrum of styles, tempos, and energies that can elevate your cycling studio experience.

If you’ve been avoiding rock music for any reason, I propose a fantastic opportunity to test its appeal with your riders (and yourself, of course): create a Rocktober-themed ride during the month of October. You might be pleasantly surprised when your riders approach you after class, requesting more of the same!

One of the reasons I’m such a fervent advocate for rock music in cycling classes is that many rock songs boast tempos that translate to cadence ranges in the 80s and 90s rpm. The high-energy tracks in this range are ideal for high-cadence, intense intervals (and some are perfect for sprints). The energy emanating from the guitars and drums in rock music can be just what you need to keep those pedals turning when fatigue threatens to slow you down. Additionally, the less intense songs in this tempo range serve admirably for endurance, warm-up, and recovery tracks. You’ll find examples of all of these in the selections below. This tempo range is somewhat challenging to find in today’s mainstream pop and EDM music, which tends to hover around the 110–130 bpm range (with hip-hop and indie genres as notable exceptions featuring tempos in the 150–180 bpm range).

At ICA, we’ve assembled FOUR bucket playlists brimming with rock-and-roll songs: a classic rock playlist spanning the 1960s to the 1980s, a modern rock playlist encompassing the 1990s to the present, a collection celebrating badass women of rock, and a fun playlist housing songs related to rock and roll, or with “rock star” or “rock and roll” in their titles or lyrics. These playlists collectively boast over 1,300 fantastic songs perfectly suited for cycling.

Even more exciting, we offer a plethora of profiles designed around rock-and-roll music. Here are a few you can incorporate into your classes this Rocktober (or any other month of the year!):

Three Peat Intervals—Rock ‘n’ Roll Version: this is a killer profile that your class is going to love! Be careful, it’s very challenging.)
Rock ‘n’ Roller Tempo Climbs: our members loved this ride—be sure to check out the comments for alternative songs to use!)
Two Rocktober Long Interval Profiles: this post contains two separate profiles for Rocktober by Julianne Lafleur)
In Celebration of Guitars—Fast Flats to Climbs: this is a profile I put together for National Guitar Month that is rock ‘n’ roll centric. It features songs with famous guitar licks or that include amazing acoustic or electric guitars.
Pedal and Percussion—Climbing to the Rhythm: similar to the profile above, this one was done for National Drum Month and has mostly (but not all) rock songs. It includes that rock song with those drums.
Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll: This profile by Leslie Mueller was one of her riders’ most favorite! 
Paris–Roubaix—The Hell of the North: This simulation of the famous one-day race in France was first assembled by an instructor who is passionate about this bike race. He is also passionate about rock music, which is reflected in his chosen songs. 

Of course, many of the hundreds of other profiles on ICA also include rock and roll interspersed with other genres. And you can be sure we aren’t done—there will be many more hard-driving rocker rides to come!

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:

Classic Rock

Running Down a Dream, Tom Petty, 4:52, 168 bpm/84 rpm
This song is 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 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/90 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. 

Crazy On You, Heart, 4:53, 130 bpm/65 rpm
Another great song to celebrate female rock and rollers. This makes for a fabulous progressive climb. Start in low Z3 (below moderate), and starting at 0:38 when the beat picks up, gradually add small increases of resistance (I usually add resistance six times) until you are standing for the final push in high Z5 (very hard), sitting back down and rolling over the top as the song fades out at the end.

Modern Rock

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



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *