Not just Queen: 10 favourite cycling-related tracks

It's funny how a keen interest in one particular thing can alter the way one views the world.

Since cycling became a passion in my life, I find my eyes and ears sensitive to every hint of pushbike action.

When watching films I first saw years ago, certain scenes suddenly gain prominence – Jennifer Beals rolling along in Flashdance, Paul Newman doing tricks in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – while news items and adverts with bikes seem to jump out at me in 3D.

Meanwhile, it's fun to spot, share or even seek out songs that feature cycling, be it in a passing reference or as the subject matter. There are plenty of them, dating back at least as far as 1892's Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two).

So here, in no particular order, are 10 of my favourite tunes relating to bicycles. 

The Mixtures: The Pushbike Song

Might as well start with a classic that's also Australian. There is so much to love about this song and video: the bizarre bikes they're riding, the hippy hair unfettered by helmets, the visions of 1970s Melbourne and that crazy shot of pedallers atop a truck trailer. It's a song that gets dragged out for many a cycling-themed media moment – and for good reason.

Pink Floyd: Bike

For those who only know Pink Floyd as a concept-album behemoth, this Syd Barrett-penned ditty may surprise. "I've got a bike, you can ride it if you like" is the relatable intro, and although the subject matter soon moves on to a cloak, a mouse and gingerbread men, for me the determined rhythm carries the cycling motif throughout the song. Try it for a tempo next time you're bashing up a hill.


Mark Ronson & The Business Intl: The Bike Song

We keep reading about the decline of vehicle ownership among millennials, and this song from 2010 advances the argument: cars cause harm to the planet while bikes work your calves and you don't need a driver's licence. It's a cheery tune but the video styling is especially fun, including the riderless bikes (let's see you invent one of those, Google).

Lee Baker, Laura Vane: Push Up The Beat

All right, here's a challenge. You may not know the above title – but if you're a certain kind of Australian cycling fan, I expect you'll recognise the thumping intro. Click here if you're stumped.

Queen: Bicycle Race

Yes, yes, I had to. Surely the most famous cycling song of all, what with the mission statement in the chorus, the breakout of bell-ringing before the guitar solo, and of course a video featuring much nudity, which I only saw years after I'd already memorised all the words. It's stood the test of time – as has the movie it dissed, Star Wars.

Tomorrow: My White Bicycle

A song – and concept – that has spanned the decades. The 1960s band Tomorrow are said to have gained inspiration from a Dutch counterculture movement that left white bicycles on Amsterdam's streets for community use. The song was covered by Nazareth in the 70s and, er, Neil from The Young Ones in the 1980s. Meanwhile, there are now some 1000 share bike schemes worldwide – somewhat more regulated, but hey.

Frank Zappa on The Steve Allen Show

This isn't so much music about bikes as an attempt to play music ON a bike, but I couldn't resist adding this footage of a clean-shaven Frank Zappa getting creative on TV in 1963. It's a long clip, but skip ahead to 5:00 where Zappa begins his efforts to evince melody from a treadly. It's worth a listen - maybe just the once.

Tom Waits: Broken Bicycles

Broken bicycles in the rain as a metaphor for faded love - who better to take on that musical task than the rusty-voiced Tom Waits? It was written for the soundtrack of Coppola's One From the Heart, a film I've not seen - the reviews ain't great - but as a standalone song of melancholy it's quite lovely. IMO.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: Bicycle Song

On the other end of the scale to Mr Waits' bicycle-based poetry comes this little number by the Chilis. In amongst all the chopped-up imagery comes the canny rhyme that gives the song a reason for its title: "How could I forget to mention, the bicycle is a good invention." Say no more.

Kraftwerk: Tour de France

We'll end the list with another classic, heavy breathing and all - after finding fame with Autobahn the electronic music pioneers transitioned into cycling. When I revisited it recently I had it on the brain for days. Listen at your peril if you, too, are vulnerable to what the Germans call an ohrwurm.

Well, that's it, and it's quite likely I've left out a favourite of yours. I should also give an honourable mention to Motherf---ing Bike by Sons of Science, which is hilarious but not safe for work (you have been warned). Happy rocking and rolling.

Fairfax journalist Michael O'Reilly has written the On Your Bike blog since 2011.

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