It is true that when you take to the roads you should be listening to nothing other than the silence of your perfectly tuned machine, with only the wind and the humming of the rubber to the road to break the pure silence. Thus the perfect cycling soundtrack. But once your training moves indoors the sounds shift. It is now critical to shape the tempo as you spin, mash, pump and grind along in your own little pain cave. This sonic cyclo-sphere will be the mosh pit that gets you through your intervals and tempo sessions and hopefully guarantees that come springtime, you are ready. You are the hamster- spinning infinitely with only the pellets of your favorite driving Eminem beat as your motivating fuel.
I do not pretend to be a music aficionado or a music snob. Frankly, as much as I love music my collection stopped growing a few years ago and is only enhanced sparingly to date. So I am always careful to dig through and think about the mix. I do realize my selections will date me but I yam what I yam!
It is important to remind ourselves to mix responsibly. I broke my own rules few days ago when I decided to commemorate the Super Bowl halftime show by dumping more than a responsible amount of Katy Perry songs onto our morning mix. Surprisingly, the beat was working pretty well, My friend and I were pretty motivated. It was poppy, peppy and catchy. Sure I felt a bit like a gum snapping teen but for the most part the tempo was keeping us moving. Then she started singing about her skin-tight jeans and my teenage dreams so we decided this might be ok for the local spin class but not for 2 sweating middle-aged men (that sounds wrong just reading it). And definitely not acceptable for the vortex of a 6 am sufferfest.
That’s when it was time to revert back to a good ole sonic shellacking. Most sessions begin with a few classics to warm up to and set the tempo. I borrowed a couple of cliche ditties from inspirational Nike spots. A Bitter Sweet Symphony, or some Ali in the Jungle, or a reminder about Recovery from Frank Turner. But once warmed up it’s time the tempo matches the effort and drives the point. That’ s why I like to load up with a dose of stoner rock. Back in the day it mixed well with bourbon, now I like my Fu Manchu, Kyuss and Unida to mix well with pain. Nothing better than Nervous. I love how it forces you to kick up during the crushing guitar solo to match gear increments till your eyes bleed then hold it in the for an all out effort to the end.
Don’t forget to include some good recovery or tempo breaks while you ride with the Black Rebel Motorcycle club then cruise back up a bit with an ethereal dose of Touched by Vast. Than crank it back up with some Torche or even dose of Mastadon. Of course no boy from the “D” would forget to include Detroit Rock City or a few of Iggy’s timeless gems somewhere on the playlist.
Sure there is always room for some classic rock, G n R, AC/DC, the Who. Or feel free to mix genres and decades. as long as the beat kicks. Sex Pistols? Some alt rock Husker Du and Dinosaur Jr.? How about a smattering of the occasional Foo Fighters, White Stripes, Danzig, Social D. Or a throwback to the 80’s in the pain cave time machine with some Cult, Ministry or one of my faves, Burning Over the U.S.A. by the Screaming Blue Messiahs.
But the one thing my buddy and I agree to most is the need for a great finale no matter how hard the session. It is critical to finish strong. And none finish stronger than angry Boston Irishmen. If a dose of Dropkick Murphys is good for a hockey fight then it’s perfect for the last set of intervals, Shippin’ Up to Boston, A 21 Guitar Salute, or a pissed off wreck of a relationship’s Dirty Glass always works. And for a great pub folk legend, listen to a story about a man named Spicy McHaggis. The pipes were good for leading many into battle so let it lead your spirit through your self-imposed beatdown.
Finally spend the last few minutes cooling down, just be sure to include the perfect 2 wheel ballad as Richard Thompson finger picks a lightning ride on his Vincent Black Lightning.
I love the scene in High Fidelity when John Cusack details the art of making the perfect mix tape. For most of you this is a foreign art form but back in the day, making a mix tape could take hours and lots of planning. These days our access and ease of mixing is only limited by your tastes. I am sure you all have your faves and encourage you to share them during your workouts as there is nothing better then discovering a new favorite that is perfect to add to your set.
So mix freely, mix responsibly, and keep it flowing like box wine at a suburban mom’s Friday night book club.