A Cyclist Playlist Inspired by Redwood Forests (and Hills)

Dru Ryan
by Dru Ryan
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A Cyclist Playlist Inspired by Redwood Forests (and Hills)

Destination playlists connect tempo to terrain. For today’s route, let’s visualize a ride from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. We’ll take the road less-traveled and replace the flat route along the coast with a fierce climb through the redwoods. The interval-heavy profile has a secondary focus on breath control, favoring timed, hard-efforts over long endurance rides. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology notes a reduction in training duration coupled with an increase in training intensity is more effective than longer, low-intensity sessions. Don’t be afraid to go HARD!


The mental part of cycling is often lost. Kid Cudi’s introspective “Rose Golden” is emo-rap at its best. Focus on breath control as you increase cadence within the 75–90 RPM range. Increase by another 5–10 rpm on “So Nice,” while keeping heart rate under control.


Use the 90-second intro on J. Cole’s “Hello” to set your goals for the ride. More cadence? Speed? Distance? After the 90-second mark, increase your intensity with the song’s tempo. “The Buzz” is a seated climb, requiring increased resistance and lower cadence on the chorus. “XR2” is an aggressive climb with focused efforts in and out of the saddle. The key is to maintain resistance in both positions.


Recover during “Faded” for an aerobic, seated climb. Here, your breath gets under control with resistance trumping cadence. Halfway through the song, a second push starts — add cadence and attack! Outkast’s “GhettoMusick” is similar with sprints on the chorus. The music dictates the push. “Smooth Criminal,” the 2Cellos version, is part climb, part sprint. Use an aggressive cadence between 70–85 rpm, with enough resistance to engage your glutes and hamstrings on the upward part of your pedal stroke. Go all out around the 3-minute mark.


Swedish rapper Elliphant’s “Booty Killer” produces additional focus on breath control. Cyclists employ slow, steady breaths (diaphragmatic breathing) to maintain effort over time. As the beat changes, modify your cadence, resistance or bike position to maintain effort while controlling heart rate. Santigold’s “Disperate Youth” calls for seated intervals, using resistance to add 3–5 miles per hour before returning to your initial speed. “Low” is a similar drill at lower cadence, with intervals performed out of the saddle if desired.


Chuck Brown’s classic, “It Don’t Mean a Thing” is a welcome recovery track before the climb. “Cowgirl” provides nine minutes of tempo that can only be fueled by resistance.  Ride the first half aerobically and the second in the anaerobic zone. “Tropicana” calls for two max efforts — in or out of the saddle.


Cycling, especially during hard efforts, may bring out an unknown wild side. Cool down with Lou Reed’s classic jam coupled with the A Tribe Called Quest track that introduced rap fans to Reed’s “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.”

Pump this playlist and find your wild side — a California dream of an endorphin release awaits!

About the Author

Dru Ryan
Dru Ryan
Dru teaches indoor cycling at Equinox in Washington, D.C. His History of Hip-Hop classes at George Mason University and brief deejay career in the Bronx are two big reasons why his playlists are unique. Ryan‘s cycling claim to fame is having the former road world champion, Peter Sagan, comment on an Instagram photo. Follow Dru (drucyles) on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.


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