Imagine you came up with an idea for a great class. Maybe you saw a drill on the ICA page or somewhere else, took inspiration from Sufferfest or maybe even an outdoor ride you did. You have the structure in mind so you put it down on paper and break it down into proper segments. All that is left is to choose your music.
I have learnt from experience that you can get any group to do any drill and follow any class structure, no matter how challenging, if you only get the music right.
Now this post is not about analysing which music genre is better for what type of ride, or what kind of music is the best for indoor cycling. It is more about using music as a tool in your indoor cycling class yet more importantly figuring out its role in a particular class.
I teach a variety of class profiles. Some are based around the music – like one of my favourite rides Across the Music where each sing is from a different genre including Irish music, the Prodigy, dancehall, Elvis, reggae and classical. Then I have cadence drills, endurance rides etc.
Last week I created a class based on my recent cycling holidays. Warm up is followed by two 12.5 minute hills with 5 min break in between in 45 min class and 10 min in the 60 min version. The first climb is 62-66 RPM the second is 80-83 RPM. The point is to feel the difference between the long but steady climb where your breathing is under control vs the much more challenging long AND fast climb.
I teach 45 & 60 min classes so I prepared two versions based on the class duration. However, I also teach on different bikes. There are the old school ones with no monitors and the beautiful Matrix IC7. I created 2 versions of each of the classes and called them: With Data & No Data. Why, you ask?
THE WAY OF THE PAST
First, let’s consider the old school Spinners. When you have no data, you cannot make reference to any numbers as far as cadence is concerned. You say what the speed feels like but what is crucial in this particular class, you want people to keep the steady cadence, therefore I had to ensure the songs had clear, easy to follow beat.
I referenced RPE throughout the climb highlighting that their legs were getting much more beating than their lungs.
Then we moved onto the second climb. With riders already a bit tired from the first one, I had to make the right choice of the faster songs. With no numbers, power zones or HR zones to follow or distract them from the grueling 12.5 min, I chose songs that would be a bit surprising (Happy), a guilty pleasure (Wake me Up Before You Go Go) for some and with motivating lyrics (Rebel Yell). If you were not keeping up, you knew it straight away.
I’VE GOT THE POWER
I also get to teach this class on Matrix IC7 and Satges bikes with power meter and all the metrics: RPM, power, distance, speed in km/hr and yes, the calories. As a rule I love riding to the beat, however these bikes allow me much more freedom with the music. For the slower climb I would still find a clear beat songs but for the faster one I could be more adventurous and pick songs that would be anywhere between 80-90 RPM or even a bit faster.
I would simply give riders more freedom particularly appreciated by outdoor riders: find a number and stick with it as long as it’s above 80 RPM, intensity/resistance feels like a hill and you can maintain it for 12.5 min. My outdoor riders love having the choice as they would veer towards min 80 to 90 RPM in training for the outdoor rides.
When I am not constrained by the beat I can find long songs without lyrics which gives me more opportunities for clear coaching, asking the riders questions, bringing their attention to various metrics on the console and distracting them from the aching legs and burning lungs.
I would ask them to look at the km/hour number in the first and then in the second ride: what is your speed? How does it compare to your outdoor speed? Do you know average TDF speed on a flat? On a hill? Look at your Watts. Are you close to your threshold? If you stuck a light bulb onto your bike, how bright would it shine now? If you love calories look at that number – whatever rocks your boat.
Using the lap function they could check their averages after the first climb and compare them to the second. How much distance did you cover?
As I always give option to stand when needed, I asked them to pay attention to what happens to the power, RPM and speed when they stand up – are you faster.stronger seated or standing? It’s a great learning curve.
Finally, Matrix IC7 have the Coach By Colour function so with the threshold values entered I could lead the climbs by colour and the beat or regardless of the beat of the music.
When I want to bring riders’ attention to the metrics I select music with no lyrics so I don;t have to talk over them and my message is clear.
Instructors Take Away:
- Music is important – always remember who comes to your classes and more importantly know what bikes you are riding (especially if you agree to cover)
- If you have a Ferrari, don’t just ride it to the corner shop to pick up milk… If you have a bike with a power meter, USE IT. Encourage people to track their progress by paying attention to their numbers.
the Coach by Colour option