The hills are alive with the sound of Kraftwerk

April 27, 2014 at 10:41 pm | Posted in cycling, music | Leave a comment
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Some embrace the technological side of training. Until they’ve uploaded their Garmin file and downloaded their power data, their ride didn’t really happen. For the rest of us, impecunious, ill-equipped yet improvement-hungry, there are more basic measures such as rate of perceived exertion, where you judge which zone you’re in based on your words:panting ratio in conversation.

However, if you mostly cycle unaccompanied, these scales are inadequate: riding along talking to yourself tends to attract unwanted attention. Happily, Top Boffins at the University of Richmond and Ealing (URE) have come up with an alternative for solo bikers, the Richmond Assessment of Vocal Exertion – Objectively Normalised (RAVE-ON). This protocol is easily administered by even the most unscientifically-minded: simply match your level of effort to your ability to sing a set of well-known tunes.

No pictures of Whitney on a bicycle were available. So here’s Kate, instead

Level 0. Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You

Level 0 is rest. Pumping up your tyres. Shaking up your Science in Sport. Going for fifteen last-minute wees. Full of hope for the joys of the ride ahead, you may wish to sing your bike a love song. This one will do nicely. (Classical fans may substitute Handel’s melancholy ode to kit malfunction, Dove sei, amato bene? (‘O, where are you, other armwarmer?’) if they prefer.)

Marc contemplates how much cooler he’d look leaning up against a bike


Level 1. Soft Cell – Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

Level 1 is your warm-up. Long on drama, short on breath control, emulating Marc Almond’s singing is ideal for maintaining a steady pace while perfectly articulating the abject horrors of raising your heart rate, trying to persuade your legs to go round, and resisting the urge to get off and go home at the end of your road.



Level 2. Kraftwerk – Tour De France

At Level 2, you’re properly warmed up. Your breathing settles easily into that familiar HUHH! HAHH! rhythm, yet you can still control the legato phrasing on ‘Sprint finale à l’arrivée’. Make sure your accent remains Audrey Tautou-esque: veering into ‘Allo, ‘Allo territory is a tell-tale sign you’re working too hard.


Level 3. The Jam – Eton Rifles

Level 3 is getting harder. The three-to-five-word phrases typical of Paul Weller’s oeuvre are all you should be able to manage as your breathing shortens. Staccato delivery and narrow vocal range also characterise this level, particularly when climbing out of the saddle. On the plus side, spitting and growling are likely to be interpreted by passers-by as simply part of your gritty rendition.

Level 4. Bee Gees – Staying Alive

At level 4, you’re working hard. You can still produce most of the chorus (hah! hah! hah! hah!), though the sustained efforts of the verse should be beyond you. As a bonus, many men find working at the top end of level 4 enables them to achieve the hitherto inaccessible falsetto range.


Level 5. James Brown – I Feel Good

At level 5, you won’t be identifying with the themes of this song. Instead, you’ll be laughing hollowly at the idea of ever feeling normal, never mind good, again. In fact, your reproduction of this song will be limited to the initial OWWW! Which is, in itself, probably the best summary of the state you’ll be in.

temple newsam lying on ground

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