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10 Songs for Mountain Biking

mountain bike
Shauna Farnell
Every life experience — be it crying on the bathroom floor or jogging along the river during a multicolored sunset — has a soundtrack. Mountain biking is no exception. Hauling yourself up a rocky incline requires a certain kind of music, and Sufjan Stevens simply doesn’t cut it. The ideal mountain biking songs are fast and aggressive. A pummeling onslaught of anger and guitars can inspire riders to hammer on the pedals and charge over rocks and roots. With this,'s first-ever Super Specific Weekly Playlist, we list 10 songs for biking up a mountain.

TV on the Radio/Wolf Like Me/Return to Cookie Mountain


‘Wolf Like Me’

TV on the Radio



Admittedly, the lyrics of this tune are tough to decipher over the deafening sound of your own grinding teeth, but there’s no question that thinking of yourself as a wolf will give you a devilish boost. When you’re ready to fall the f— over with weariness, and your playlist turns over into the thumping drums of this intro, you’ll stand up, sack up and maybe even let out a howl. The words of inspiration might not apply directly to your painful slog — “when the moon is round and full gotta bust that box gotta gut that fish” — but you will want to bust a gut and box that spit.


L7/Shove/Smell the Magic






You’re focused. Your heart rate is cranking. You are shoving your way through the woods. S— better get outta your way. So simple in just four short verses, this classic, twangy, raw number from the female quartet’s 'Smell the Magic' record is superbly energizing. It doesn’t matter that the content has nothing to do with two wheels or mountains (“some guy just pinched my ass / drunken bums ain’t got no class”). It’s full of feeling and adrenaline-laced rage. Better than a Cliff Bar any day.


Metric/Empty/Live it Out






The intro of the first track off the Canadian rockers’ 2005 release is nearly inaudible, given its sorrowful yet speedy guitar strains, and Emily Haines’ sweet, melodic proclamation, “There was no way out / The only way out was to give in … how I love to give in,” is the perfect set-up for the wall of noise that hits you when the song seriously starts attacking. You won’t know entirely what she means by, “I’m so glad that I’m an island,” but as you’re cranking away and sweating, the sentiment seems spot on.


Ramones/My Brain is Hanging Upside Down/Atomic Boy


‘My Brain is Hanging Upside Down’

The Ramones



Appearing on 1986’s 'Animal Boy,' this track was originally entitled 'Bonzo Goes to Bitburg' and written to protest then-president Ronald Reagan’s visit to Germany’s Bitburg cemetery (housing the bodies of SS soldiers). Presumably, Reagan is Bonzo. But that means nothing at all when you’re sucking wind. Right-side up as you may be (hopefully), the chorus, “My brain is hanging upside down / I need something to slow me down,” will somehow, magically, make you pedal faster. Try it.


Frank Black/You Ain't Me/Cult of Ray


‘You Ain’t Me’

Frank Black



Who knows what this tune — arguably Mr. Francis’s most dynamic solo number from arguably his best solo record, ‘The Cult of Ray’ — is really about? If your bike ride is full of brooding moments of clarity and a delirious sense of reverie, which you probably have endorphins to thank for, then filling your head with that delicious, highly distinctive intro guitar riff will have you singing along out loud, delighted that nobody is you.


Siouxsie and the Banshees/Painted Bird/Kiss in the Dreamhouse


‘Painted Bird’

Siouxsie and the Banshees



One of the Banshees’ most romping tunes, this is an unsung classic that you should really incorporate into your regular high-heart-rate pursuits. Maybe it’s the anthemic lead guitar or all the mentions of dowdy flocks, whippoorwhills and “freak beak shrieks,” but there's an unmistakable force in this 30-year-old song that will make you sprout wings.


Babes in Toyland/Bruise Violet


‘Bruise Violet’

Babes in Toyland



Have you ever played air drums on your handlebars? You will. Maybe you thought '90s screech rock was something to merely get you through your teenage rage, but no. The all-girl trio was famous for its fury-filled tunes, but this one is in a league all its own. It’s true that anger is an energy, and when Kat Bjelland is bellowing about someone (Courtney Love, it was rumored, for stealing Bjelland’s bleached baby-doll look) who has “glue instead of spine,” the energy — angry as it may be — is contagious.








This, people, is your mantra. Santi White presumably wrote this song — from the genre-leaping artist’s first studio album — about trucking through the streets of New York. There is talk of pepper spray and getting tickets from “joker cops,” but the only part you need to hone in on — which will essentially transform you into a high-performance machine — is “I’ve got to be unstoppable / I’ve got to be unstoppable.”


Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Y Control/Fever to Tell


‘Y Control’

Yeah Yeah Yeahs



There's something about the mix of high treble-rich guitar notes and Karen O’s resolute voice that simply makes this track feel big. Featured on the New York indie kids’ full-length debut, ‘Fever to Tell,' the song isn’t exactly uplifting. In fact, it's about being controlled. (“I wish I could buy back the woman you stole.”) But pump this in your ears, and you will be thrashing around in your saddle, recharged for those last steep climbs.


Arcade Fire/Headlights Look Like Diamonds/Arcade Fire EP


‘Headlights Look Like Diamonds’

Arcade Fire



You probably won’t see many headlights at the top of the mountain, but the summit itself will take on an unmistakable glow if you’re rocking out to this track. Frenzied and chaotic yet gorgeously focused, this one’s off the Canadian ensemble’s 2002 self-titled EP. After a twinkly start and spectacular build-up, it’s Win Butler’s stifled yells (“hah!”) — preceding Regine’s lovely vocal harmonies and capped with the slam of a symbol — that deliver ‘Headlights’ into your already-worked system like a thunderclap. Save it for the homestretch.


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