There are many different reasons to ride bike. It may be for enjoyment, or for exercise. It may be for travel, or it may be to pick up a few things at the supermarket. To me it doesn’t really matter what the reason for getting on the bike is. I enjoy them all.
I also like to listen to music when I ride. Not always, but there are times when a good song just livens up the day. And different types of riding have different songs that just suit them to a tee. So, without further ado, that is to say, without my usual long winded circuitous preamble, here is a list of songs I like to listen to when I ride.
1. Jessica- Allman Brothers Band
I am not a big fan of the Allman Brothers but you just have to love Jessica. This instrumental gem is perfect for those days when I am just free wheeling loose and easy through the countryside enjoying the warm spring sun. Rolling hills are nothing when this beauty is blasting, as I rise from the saddle and push right on through maintaining high speeds, even passing the occasional e-Bike. Move over baby, Jessica is coming through.
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRDivUb5EeA
2. Barracuda- Heart
This powerful Wilson sisters rock tune is a great song for those days when I am riding for exercise. The adrenaline surge begins with the first notes of the guitar solo intro and kicks into overdrive when I slip my hands into the drops at the opening drum roll. The high tempo drives me to push with my all over hill and through straightaways as my heart races.
In addition to being great for training runs, Barracuda is also a favorite for racing through city traffic, powering through sharp bends and racing like a demon as I weave in and out among the cars and buses that I leave in my wake.
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4nWy8pmIM4
3. Roam- The B-52’s
A great song for the beginning of a journey of discovery. Found on many “Top Travel Songs” playlists, Roam is a peppy high tempo 80’s tune that just sends me steaming down the highway.
WARNING! Due to it’s somewhat saccharine nature this song may cause severe irritability if consumed at the end of difficult riding days when you had to grind for every kilometer into a strong headwind. Reserve it for the bubbling-with-excitement moments at the beginning of a ride.
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNwC0sp-uA4
4. Stealin’- Uriah Heep
This hard rock ‘run for your life’ song from the band that everyone loved to hate is one of my favorites for powering up big hills. The tempo is perfect for rising out of the saddle and attacking those long climbs. Thighs burning, heart racing, music pounding. Cool lyrics too. Stealin’ when I shoulda been buyin’.
Note: Don’t take my love of this song as an admission of any foul play. I don’t know any ranchers. (see lyrics in link to catch my drift)
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wRaMwsasl8
5. Take Me Home, Country Roads- John Denver
The perfect companion for a wistful ride through the countryside. This song is ideally suited for blue skies and long winding roads into unexplored territory. And also for those days when maybe you feel just a little homesick for family and friends and a little home cooking. And hey. It’s John Denver, right? The man loved the Muppets. What more can I say?
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTeUdJky9rY
6. Horse with No Name- America
An especially poignant and enjoyable song when I rode through the desert in northwest China last summer. This classic from the 70’s that I first learned while listening to A.M. radio driving back and forth to softball tournaments has long been a favorite. It is a great riding song for any time or climate, but I find it best when I am exploring new places. And yes, after two days in the desert sun my skin certainly did begin to turn red.
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2naehMUQpQY
7. Going Up the Country- Canned Heat
The unofficial anthem of Woodstock is a beauty tune for riding. I just love this song when I’m in some open rolling country and can enjoy a sense of freedom as I race into the great unknown. It is almost impossible to stay sitting down when it comes on my playlist. Invariable I rise from the saddle, drop my head, and push my cadence to the highest limit I can. Joyous.
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hf0Dm-OaTNk
8. Society- Eddie Vedder
“It’s a mystery to me. We have a greed, to which we have agreed.” I could have picked any number of songs from the Into the Wild soundtrack to add to this list, but I decided to choose this anti-consumerist title to represent the whole. Into the Wild is a movie about an American college grad, Christopher McCandless, who stepped off the usual path we follow through life to one less travelled.
The song speaks to me so vividly as it does because of my own path less travelled that I have been living on these past few years. I no longer own a car and have no desire to ever own one again. Most everything I own that matters to me can fit on my bike. Anything else is disposable.
So, when I am riding and this number comes up on my playlist, I dream. I dream of the next ride into the unknown. I dream, and I plan, and I hope, and I always leave behind something. Things that I don’t need. Things that I have carried too long. There isn’t enough room on the bike for those kinds of things. “I hope you’re not lonely, without me.”
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_0M9-_qDaA
9. L.A. Woman- The Doors
This Doors classic is a natural fit for racing along the highways and bi-ways. Its high tempo is a great pace setter, and the breakdown and build up of the “Mojo Rising” section is perfect for the transition from flat riding to hill climbing. And as the tempo builds again the lyrics are like having Jim Morrison as a personal trainer urging me up the hill as he screams, “gotta keep on risin’. Risin, risin.” Finally, the mojo reaches climax and tumbles back into the first verse once more before racing to the finish. Definitely one of the best riding songs there is.
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbfG_-jFDhQ
10. De Ushuaia a la Quiaca- Gustavo Santolalla
A beautiful instrumental song from the Motor Cycle Diaries soundtrack. Motor Cycle Diaries is the story of Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado and a motorcycle ride they took together through South America in 1952. Guevara was transformed by the extreme poverty and injustice that the indigenous peasantry he encountered on the journey were subjected to. It was this that placed him on the path to becoming a revolutionary.
The entire soundtrack is a masterpiece of Latin American musical sounds, but to me this one is the most beautiful. The title alludes to a section of the journey from Ushuaia to Quiaca, two cities in southern Argentina. Ushuaia happens to be the terminus for the Pan-American cycle journey that I dream of. So, you can imagine what I think of when I am riding and listening to it. But, more than that, it is for me a song of discovery, and a song that highlights the romantic nature of the journey. And when it comes right down to it, as a traveller, I am definitely a romantic.
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMSwgG4UOWo