Theme Ride Thursday: Remembering John Denver

John Denver was a beloved American singer-songwriter and environmental activist whose music continues to resonate with people around the world. He died in a plane crash in Monterey Bay on October 12, 1997. Each year, fans and admirers come together to remember him on the anniversary of his death.

Denver’s music not only entertained but also carried messages of love, peace, and environmental stewardship. His heartfelt and catchy folk and country songs were characterized by their simplicity, genuine emotion, and a deep connection to nature and the environment. Songs like “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Annie’s Song,” and “Rocky Mountain High” became anthems for a generation and left an indelible mark on the folk and country music genres. There is a place for all of these John Denver classics in indoor cycling. 

I have loved John Denver since I was a kid and had the luxury of vacationing every year in Colorado. His music evokes such great memories.

Whenever I play a John Denver song in a cycling class, it almost always starts a conversation about how much we all love his music. What better time to remember John Denver by playing one of his songs around the anniversary of the day he died so tragically.

Below are some of my favorite John Denver songs to use. What are some of yours?

Leaving on a Jet Plane, 3:37, 121 bpm
Originally released by Peter, Paul, and Mary, this song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. At 60 rpm, this is a classic climbing song. I like to use the chorus to add resistance. It’s also a great song to add to any theme ride on traveling.
Add resistance two times at 0:36 and 0:50; take off resistance at 1:06.
Add resistance two times at 1:36 and 1:51; take off resistance at 2:05.
Add resistance three times at 2:39, 2:53, and 3:08; hold until the end of the song at 3:27.

If you want a faster version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” try the one by K2 Groove. With a bpm of 142 and a steady beat, you can use it as a fast climb, building resistance as you ride.

Take Me Home, Country Roads, 3:10, 82 bpm
This iconic song has an uplifting melody with an 82 bpm tempo. It is a perfect flat road with long jumps on the chorus at 0:30–0:53 (23s), 1:17–1:40 (23s), and 2:03–3:03 (60s). 

Rocky Mountain High, 4:43, 81 bpm
This is one of two official Colorado state songs. This song rose to number 9 on the US Hot 100 in 1973. It is also one of the top 100 western songs of all time. The energetic rhythm of this song is ideal for a fast climb to the top of a mountain.

Thank God I’m a Country Boy, 3:13, 106 bpm
This is a fun and lively song to use as a flat road. It is perfect to add some fun with a listening game and increase resistance at every lyric of “Thank God I’m a country boy.” This happens nine times. The beat kicks in at 0:30 and then the increases are at 0:38, 0:48, 0:58, 1:27, 1:36, 1:46, 2:15, 2:26, and 2:38. If 106 rpm is too fast for some, simply ride it at whatever quick cadence they can muster with good form.

Annie’s Song, 3:00, 146 bpm
Written for John’s wife, Annie, it is a love song that transcends time, perfect for a cool-down. This was his second number-one song.

Sunshine on My Shoulders, 5:12, 147 bpm
Another perfect cool-down song.



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