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Cyclist's turbo trainer playlist #3: top tunes to accompany your indoor workout

James Spender
9 Apr 2020

Another sprawling set of music tracks to help keep your turbo trainer wheels spinning

Music is so effective at increasing performance that British Cycling bans its riders from listening to tunes during indoor trainer tests.

Luckily these rules do not apply to us – or you – at home, and since seeing high-numbers on a turbo screen has become one of life’s major joys, here is another playlist in our series from Cyclist deputy editor James Spender. Please be aware we do not endorse, nor often condone, any of his choices…

Cyclist's turbo trainer playlist #3: James Spender

Choosing music for any playlist is hard, and lines had to be drawn to prevent this from being thousands of songs long.

Thus I had to invent criteria, and my criteria, a bit like Desert Island Discs, was less ‘stonewall bangers to impress the coconuts’ and more ‘tunes that help me escape’, to mentally leave the confines of my front room (literally, who can afford a garage?) and the drudgery of turbo training indoors.

So see below for the Spotify playlist that I hope might do the same for you, and read on if you seek some of my justifications.

And top fact: I once got a peck on the cheek from DID’s Lauren Laverne as she was presenting Cyclist with ‘Best Specialist Consumer Magazine’ at the PPA Awards. It’s a big deal in journalism, honest. Lauren is quite tall in real life.

Prologue/Tour de France Etape 1 – Kraftwerk

I was at uni, I had piss-all money, but somehow I piece-by-eBay-piece managed to collect parts to build my first road bike – which I still have, an Eddy Merckx Alu Sprint, some say in beige, I say Saharan-sand, and which all parties agree was the last frame welded on a Friday afternoon before the guy went for his leaving drinks.

But anyway, I finished it one May evening in 2004, got up at 6:30am the next day like a kid at Christmas, stuck in my headphones (shoot me down, I was young) and took Eddy for a first spin listening to Kraftwerk’s Tour de France album on repeat.

These are the first two tracks; it is the only album you’ll ever need for turbo training to, hence I have added it in its entirety at the end of this playlist too. It nearly was the playlist.

Tomorrow Never Knows – The Beatles

My Dad got me into music, and this was his band, and so it became mine. And while I like other Beatles songs more, this is their danciest track, written off the back of Lennon doing too much acid. If you ask me, the rhythm track makes this one of the first dance tunes ever recorded and has more than a touch of Chemical Brothers about it.

Perhaps the real genius here is George Martin’s production (again).

Propane Nightmares – Pendulum

I was up Alpe d’Huez with a mate about to do the qualifying round for the Mega Avalanche mountain bike race. We arrived late the night before, Miles parked his car directly outside the hotel with our kit inside. The car got towed.

So the morning of qualifying we had to find, in broken French, where the tow-yard was, leap the fence (we couldn’t afford the recovery fine then and there), extricate our kit and get back to the hotel to change. I remember Miles playing this tune on his tinny laptop whilst I frantically put on body armour. We were 30 minutes late for our timing slot, but that made me put in probably the best downhill ride of my life.

Still, I qualified very near the back of the grid.

Pocket Calculator – Kraftwerk

The first Kraftwerk track I ever heard played to me by this precocious pair of mates in my politics A-Level class, Nils and Jake. Nils was German (go figure), Jake once told our teacher to ‘F**k off, Sue, at least I don’t have crap hair’. What a weird insult. Sue hated him, rightly so.

I Feel Love – Donna Summer

Reminds me of Trainspotting, it’s playing at the club when Renton pulls a schoolgirl and his mate, Spud, wakes up the next day at his girlfriend’s house after a night on the lash that has meant he’s… well, he needs to clean the bedsheets.

Also actually credited as the original dance track.

Brown Paper Bag – Roni Size

The album this is from won the Mercury Music Prize in 1997, so like a 12-year-old try hard I bought it to look music-clever. I also really liked it; all my mates said it was shit. Later, they would be gurning their faces off to drum ‘n’ bass and declaring New Forms the masterpiece that it is.

LK – DJ Marky feat. Stamina MC / Original Nuttah – UK Apache/Shy FX

We used to scrape off the last number of the date of birth on our college IDs, replace it with water-slide decal numbers from Airfix model kits, which perversely used the same font, and hey presto, we were 18 years old!

We’d then lacquer the ID with nail varnish and somehow – probably because they felt sorry for the amateurish lengths we’d gone to – the bouncers would let us into the local drum ‘n’ bass rave, Breakneck, at the end of Portsmouth’s South Parade Pier. I loved drum ‘n’ bass for a long, long time, mainly as it’s so dark and everyone is so in their own world, no cares what you look like dancing.

Few tunes could make me dance as happily-badly as these two.

Body Rock – Andy C and Shimon

A friend that everybody called ‘Twat’ (he used to introduce himself this way) brought this to a house-party on a white-label CD. It had just two tracks, Body Rock and a Body Rock remix, and we listened to it on repeat for hours while another mate, Adam, did a sort of medieval-inspired drum 'n' bass shack-out on the kitchen table until Dean’s mum came home and told us to get the hell out.

Phantom Parts I & II – Justice

I don’t even know what you describe Justice as – kind of arena rock meets French synth mixed with the opening credits of a 1990s school science video. Whatever, this defined a number of Brighton house parties, including one where I woke up with a black hand, having tried to launch a rocket out of a window the night before.

Again, we were young, and I now respect the 25m rule, even for sparklers.

Deluxe – Harmonia

I lay on my back in some Spanish park in a town called Huelva for hours listening to this album on repeat. It reminds me of having all the time in the world: I was visiting my then-girlfriend, who was teaching English there, and she’d go to work in the days while I’d take great pleasure in sitting in the park with two cheap bottles of plonk, music and a book, and having nowhere else to be but in the sunshine.

Years later, I would develop gout, and I would wonder if these lost holidays (there were several like this) could be to blame.

I’ve Been Everywhere – Johnny Cash

Long before Cyclist, I used to be a chef in a fish restaurant, and for a while, I thought that would be my career (I even bothered to get an NVQ Level 2 in catering, which was a great use of time having already spent three years and £10,000 on a philosophy degree). My head chef, Mark, loved Cash, and we’d crank this out on a busy Saturday night.

Sabotage – Beastie Boys

Hello Nasty was possibly the first truly cool album I ever owned (I was, and am not, cool, so this was an accident – come to think of it, it may even have been a Christmas present from a cool cousin).

They used to play this at Indigo, the underage ‘nappy night’ for ‘alternative’ music where I grew up, and we would mosh our little heads off to the point where I once, by accident, made a girl’s nose bleed. She stage dived, I passed her back with too much enthusiasm and managed to push her up and over the people behind me and face-first onto the floor.

Only Human – KH Four Tet

I do a lot of trips with Mike Massaro, who takes pictures for Cyclist. There was a period where this would often come on if he was in the car. Or the room. Or just walking along somewhere.

The Heat Is On – Glen Frey

This is used for the opening scene of Beverley Hills Cop. I remember watching it when I was off school with a spurious case of something, and had my granddad baby-sitting me. I remember him saying, ‘Is this really OK for you to watch?’ (it was a 15 and had lots of swearing, I was maybe 9). I told him yes. He said, ‘Good’, and fell asleep in his chair.

Deputy Editor James Spender's ultimate turbo songs

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