Music is a powerful tool. Play a song and you’ll be taken right back to a moment in your life, you could probably even recite the song’s lyrics word for word. Music can help to focus the mind, cheer your mood, make you feel sad, hype you up or pull you through some of the darker moments on the bike – every emotion can be evoked from just three minutes and 30 seconds.
That’s why you can often see professional athletes with their headphones on before any big event – focussing on what's to come. Cyclists in particular are seen before big races, legs spinning, headphones on, completely focused, tempering any nervous energy. But what are they listening to? Do they have a song they swear by and have on repeat? Or do they just press shuffle on one of their playlists and go over their ride tactics?
We asked those who featured in our Mind issue of Rouleur about what songs pump them up or pull them through when they are on the bike, preparing for a race or sweating it out on the turbo.
- Gabriel by Roy David Jr
- This Must Be the Place by Talking Heads
- It's Plenty by Burna Boy
"I love songs that remind me of summer, and Gabriel does the job of that perfectly. Talking Heads' song makes me feel like a true voyager making my way to each destination, so it really hits good on a long travel day between races and stages. Finally, Burna Boy because if you play this song and you aren't smiling by the end of it then you have cold blood running through your veins!"
- Strobe by Deadmau5
- Golden Cage (Fred Falke remix) by The Whitest Boy Alive
- Headlines by Drake
"When I was racing, my warmup was a series of progressions and Strobe is just this epic electronic progression. I actually listened to the extended version, which was 11 or 12 minutes long, all leading up to this crescendo with some polyrhythms in there. It’s a really moving song if you are focused on it, especially if you are doing a similar progression with your body.
"Listening to Golden Cage always takes me back to earlier in my career when I was doing the track. It gave me a lot of energy. Looking back on it, there are perhaps some interesting correlations between how I felt at the time, and how I felt trapped in my own environment. That didn’t really resonate at the time though, it was really just more the energetic quality of the song.
"I didn’t really want to enter Drake into the mix, but it was the only other song I could think about. There is a certain level of attitude in Headlines by Drake that is nice to tap into before going into a serious physical endeavour. It’s got a sort of boxer entrance kind of vibe, only faster. But really I think it was the attitude that I was tapping into."
Safiya al Sayegh
- Paradise by Coldplay
- Never give up by Sia
- Walking On a Dream by Empire of the Sun
"These songs hit a soft spot in me. They get me motivated to reach big things."
- Motivational music with a bit of Johnny Cash thrown in
"I like motivational music but I don't know the names. I like music – I like all kinds of music, rock, pop, and sometimes blues, I even like country. I like Johnny Cash for example as I like Westerns. But I don’t listen to music by name or artist."
- 1000 Miles Away by Hoodoo Gurus
- Growing Up in Londinium by Daniel Pemberton
- Going the Distance by Bill Conti
"My first choice by the Hoodoo Gurus is a travellers song released in 1991, and it's one of reflection, escape and distance – the journey of life which ultra-cycling is all about. The song has a rhythm that is relaxing and great for long days in the saddle when you want to maintain steady momentum.
"Growing up in Londinium has a high tempo beat that is motivating for riding sections when you are wanting to make up or gain time, or when you are in need of a lift. The third song, Going the Distance, is characterised by big music and an assertive beat in which endurance, resilience and confidence against the odds resonate – all key elements to ultra-distance riding."
- Enter Sandman by Metallica
- Interstellar Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer
- Still Waiting by Sum 41
"Metallica is my favourite band of all time, so a song by them had to make a feature. Enter Sandman is a varied pace song that works really well during those turbo sessions!
"The Interstellar Soundtrack was a bit of a cop out as it's not a single song, but the entire soundtrack makes for great Zone 2 listening. Talking of Zone training, Still Awaiting is an ode to my teenage self, as I grit my teeth in Zone 4 and 5!"
- Cut Em In (feat. Rick Ross) by Anderson Paak
- Blow the Roof by Flux Pavilion
- International by Chali 2Na
"I really love the first song by Anderson Paak because of the beat, cadence and drop. It's really fun to replicate the cadence when I am flying along a flat road. The second song is a much needed song during those indoor trainer interval sessions. It really gets the adrenaline pumping and helps me to suffer through each interval. Max volume is needed!
"International by Chali 2Na reminds me of when I played soccer in college. It was a pump-up song for the locker room, and now reminds me of all the fun times I had with my teammates pre-game. You'll definitely find me dancing on my bike to this song and being an absolute goofball during an endurance ride."