Ride a stationary bike at home or the gym and you’re likely to maintain the same medium-intensity speed the whole workout. It won’t get your heart revved—and it’s boring to boot. Even if you’re a group-cycling regular, it's tough to re-create the class experience on your own. Cycling instructors carefully make each playlist—paying close attention to each song’s beats per minute so riders pedal at various speeds throughout class—to imitate the sensation of going uphill, downhill, and fast on flat roads.
“When I create a playlist, I create a journey,” says Holly Rilinger, creative director of Cyc Fitness in New York City. She practically has a cult following for her high-energy, beat-based classes. To start her classes, Rilinger plays a song with a beat that eases students into the ride and lets them leave the day behind. Then throughout the class, she alternates between intense intervals and more slow-paced, chill moments. “When you have depth to your playlist, it allows you to switch gears,” she says. “The music is the wave that you ride. It’s your road map and your guide—it’s everything.”
Rilinger created the playlist below for an amped-up, rolling ride. Cue up these tracks to get a taste of her fan-favorite workout—and get a quality bike session anywhere.
1. "HEADING HOME (FEAT JOSEPH SALVAT)" BY GRYFFIN
Bumping at a quick 120 beats per minute, this song makes for an ideal warm-up. “Close your eyes, detach from your day, and pedal fast to spring ahead of the beat twice,” says Rilinger.
2. "LOVE ON THE BRAIN (DON DIABLO REMIX)" BY RIHANNA
Once your muscles are a little warm and your heart is pumping, settle into this 80-beats-per-minute song like a slow jog. “Get out of the saddle [seat] and groove to it,” says Rilinger. Make it more interesting: Lean back a bit to tap your butt against the seat with the beat, she says.
3. "INTO WAVES" BY A LITTLE NOTHING
At 60 beats per minute, this song is perfect for pedaling through a heavy climb (meaning, you should increase your bike's resistance here), says Rilinger: “Ride sitting or standing, up out of the saddle. Push during the chorus.”
4. "PAPER AEROPLANE" BY ANGUS & JULIA STONE
Think of riding along a flat road while pedaling to this song, which clocks in at 128 beats per minute. But don’t just sprint: Rilinger challenges you to crank up the resistance three times, for 30 seconds each interval, and try to keep pedaling to the beat each time.
5. "THUNDER" BY IMAGINE DRAGONS
You’ll slow it down a bit again with this 80-beat-per-minute song. Slowly dial up the resistance, riding in the saddle or standing up to jog as needed. Says Rillinger: “This song is everything—get lost in it!”
6. "IN MY MIND" BY MATY NOYES
Consider this song a fast jog. Pump up the fun by standing while you pedal and leaning back to tap the seat with your butt on the beat.
7. "SPACESHIP" BY COMET BLUE
Rilinger loves using this song, at 60 beats per minute, to mimic the climb up an incline. "Push against the beat during the chorus or add resistance and keep the beat,” she advises.
8. "SHAPE OF YOU (NATHAN C REMIX)" BY ED SHEERAN
Get ready for the grand finale. This upbeat tune will get you going like you’re sprinting along a flat, fast stretch of road. “Get out of the saddle and run when you feel it,” says Rilinger. “Lose your breath. Cross that finish line and live!”