Here are some of my factors and considerations in creating the essential 100 motorcycle riding songs list.
How many: The number of songs is important. Maybe not the precise number, but having a number and sticking to it, is. You could argue that 100 is arbitrary, and it is. But it forces one to make trade-offs and delete one song to make room for one that “just feels more like it belongs.” So, a finite number is important. Ten or even fifty did not seem adequate, so 100 became the goal or in my case, the limit.
Music Categories: While the music is rock and blues, there is a good deal of folk, some country and a lot of pop. Most important to me is imagining the song playing in my helmet speakers as I transverse a favorite motorcycle road. If it fits there, it’s met the first criteria.
Tempo: You can’t have “put you to sleep,” music, so while I love the Moody Blues, Norah Jones and a host of classical and jazz pianists, you won’t find them here. No drifting off!
Upbeat: It’s got to make you happy. No downer songs and no political anthems.
Evangelism: Mostly this is kept to a minimum, but I’ll confess that there are a few relatively obscure, unknown or forgotten artists that are favorites of mine. So, in a “not so subtle” way, I’m likely introducing you to Rodriguez, Prefab Sprout, the Austin Lounge Lizards, Dread Zeppelin, the Reverend Horton Heat and Spinal Tap.
You haven’t got a choice: There are a at least a couple of songs on the list that I couldn’t leave off, even though they don’t perfectly fit for style and type. An example is Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” from his Rumor and Sigh album. A fairly large contingent of my riding friends are British bike aficionados and leaving this song off the list would have caused me too much angst. There are a couple of others like this.
Personal Taste: Some artists and song on this list are due to my idiosyncratic personal tastes. Not everyone likes artists like Iggy Pop or Lou Reed, and I know Dylan can be a tad polarizing, but if included here, I choose some of their most accessible songs, maybe because I think you might like them and be surprised.
Not making it onto the list: There are a few “classic” riding songs, such as “American Woman,” by the Guess Who that for whatever reason, I just don’t like. So, I took them off. I may create a list of songs that were on the list at one time, but no longer are. If I do, it will be at the end of this document.
Judgement: Get feedback and comments from riding friends, especially those who like music. A comment like “Any reason you don’t have ‘The Stones’ on the list,” can wake you up to what would have been a fatal flaw. A motorcycle riding list without a song (or two) from the Rolling Stones could never be taken seriously.
Generations: One could make an argument that a separate list is needed for those over 65, another for those under 30, etc., but that is a cop out, in my opinion. This list has to stand up to scrutiny regardless of the age of the person listening to it. If done right, older people may hear songs from a new generation that they like and vice versa.
The Order: Once you’ve got the songs, you need to get them in the right order. It can’t be random or alphabetical! Here it helps if you’ve spent time as a radio disc jockey, as you you’ll have the sense or idea of how to put together a music set. I spend my college years working at a variety of radio stations, and this is one musical sensitivity I picked up. You want to group songs, but at the same time, you don’t want to put all the same songs together. Think of it like one of those advanced bicycle riding programs that the folks from Peloton create, where they mix in hill climbs with straight sections and even downhill bits. It all has to work together. You’ll find once you’ve got your list together you’ll go over it again and again, until you get the order just right. This is important and the various factors on how you juxtaposition one song next to another, considering tempo, what era the songs are from, results in your telling a story.