Profile: Four Climbs—An Exploration of Musical Genres

As indoor cycling instructors, we have a unique opportunity to break the monotony of our participants’ sometimes limited musical preferences. It’s common to have riders who gravitate toward the familiar beats of pop, dance, and rock, leaving a treasure trove of musical genres unexplored. If that’s the case where you teach, I challenge you to make it a mission to inspire your riders to broaden their musical horizons; what better way to do that than by crafting class profiles that traverse diverse musical landscapes?

It may also be the case where you have riders who love other styles of music that aren’t played often in cycling classes; they love the workout but just resign themselves to the fact that they probably won’t be hearing their favorite tracks.

It’s worth considering that in some cases, it may be the instructor, rather than just the participants, who possesses a limited musical preference.

The Power of Variety in Your Playlist

I believe in the power of musical variety. In most of my playlists (certain specific theme rides are the exception), I make it a point to cater to the diverse tastes of my participants and to offer a broad spectrum of musical styles in my classes.

One of my favorite approaches is to create profiles centered around the exploration of different musical genres. This concept isn’t confined to a specific class objective; you can apply it to long climbs, short high-intensity intervals, longer threshold intervals, or anything in between. It’s all about infusing novelty and excitement into each ride.

Introducing my profile called Four Climbs: An Exploration of Musical Genres. In this profile, we embark on a musical odyssey that encompasses an array of genres. I’ve selected songs from pop, classic rock, indie/alternative, world, electronic, hip-hop, and country to craft a playlist that surprises and delights.

Once when I was teaching this profile and explaining the objective and theme, one of my riders piped up and let me know that she had no idea what the word “genre” meant! Oops, it was presumptuous of me to believe everyone was as keyed into music as I was. This is a good lesson for all instructors!

You can explain what genre means and how it’s important to the theme of this ride by using the Grammys as an example: 

Genre, from the French word meaning “kind” or “style,” refers to the distinct styles of music. At award ceremonies like the Grammys, recognition is often categorized by genre, with awards like “Best Pop Performance,” “Best Rock Album,” and “Best R&B Song.” Musical genres encompass a wide range, including rock, pop, hip-hop, indie, punk, country, bluegrass, jazz, classical, folk, and more. Pop, for instance, can encompass contemporary styles like emo and K-pop, while rock boasts sub-genres like heavy metal, Southern rock, and alternative rock. Electronic music, as a broad general genre, comprises various sub-genres such as house, dance, downtempo, psychedelic trance, Goa trance, drum ‘n’ bass, global, chill, ambient, and many others. In the modern music landscape, artists often blend multiple genres, leading to combinations like pop and dance infused with elements of drum ‘n’ bass.

The beauty of this concept lies in its adaptability. I’ve experimented with numerous versions of this playlist, each time switching out genres or songs. Sometimes, I opt for three longer climbs to dive deeper into each genre of music, while on other occasions, I incorporate five shorter climbs or intervals to maximize the variety of genres covered.

This isn’t the first time I’ve created a profile based on different genres on ICA; here is my first foray into a similar ride from back in 2015 that I called Multiple Personality Climbs. Make sure to read the comments—it was very well received! 

Feel free to put your personal touch on this ride by including your favorite songs from the genres I used or switching out some genres altogether.

As an example, and to give you another option for your ride if you prefer Motown, one version of my profile includes the following three Motown songs that I used for a 7-minute climb followed by a recovery: 

  • I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye. 3:14, 118 bpm/59 rpm, Z3/Z4. Seated climb, Stand at 2:49 to end (25s).
  • Higher Ground, Stevie Wonder. 3:43, 123 bpm/62 rpm, Z3/Z4. Stand at 1:25–1:47 (22s) and 2:49–3:33 (44s).
  • Son of a Preacher Man, Dusty Springfield. 2:29, 93 bpm/rpm. Downhill recovery in Z1; optional to increase to Z2 after 1.5–2 minutes.

This is a great profile to pull out on International Music Day (September 21), although you can celebrate different styles of music 365 days a year. My hope is that you’ll take this concept and run with it, creating profiles that immerse your riders in a world of musical diversity. Open their (and your) ears to the wonders of different styles and rhythms. Share your experiences in the comments—tell me what you did, what genres might have been the most challenging to employ*, and how your riders embraced it.

In the end, it’s not just about the physical workout; it’s about the emotional and sensory journey we take together on our bikes. Let’s keep pushing the boundaries of our musical horizons, one pedal stroke at a time.


*It was country music for me, but the response was positive so now I include country songs more often!

Download the profile and playlist below. 

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