What’s the best music for hard bike rides? I generally use a mix of hip-hop and electronic music to keep my cadence up. But if I’m facing a brutal climb or lung-torching set of intervals, only one thing can keep the pedals turning: Rage Against the Machine.
Rage (I’ll refer to them as “Rage” or “RATM”) has always been the perfect Molotov cocktail of punk rock, hip-hop, and thrash metal for me to extract every ounce of effort from my muscles. No workout playlist is complete without them.
Sadly, yesterday, drummer Brad Wilks, announced that the band had broken up for the third time and that they "will not be touring or playing live again." I may never have the chance to see them play live again, but at least they’ll live on in my (bone-conducting) headphones during my hardest rides.
To commemorate this loss, I’d like to share my favorite piece of trivia about RATM — they love mountain biking! Don’t believe me? Just check out the liner notes from their final album, Renegades:
Sorry, this is a crappy scan. If you can zoom into the "comrades" section though, Rage thanks several mountain bike components: 20mm front hubs, Chris King headsets, hydraulic brakes, Intense Mountain Bikes, Santa Cruz Heckler, Schwinn Bikes, SPDs, and XTR.
If you’re a mountain bike and Rage fan, and this is your first time seeing this, I hope your mind is blown.
Crazy Bassist = Crazy Rider
My favorite Rage album (left) | Bassist Tim Commerford riding (right). Photo: Anthony Smith/Bike Mag
Readers always love lists about which celebrities are secretly also cyclists. I even wrote one about motorsport stars who enjoy cycling. But RATM tends to get omitted from the lame lists put together by the likes of Bicycling.com or Us Weekly. It's probably because they’re just too HARDCORE for hoity-toity traditional media 🤘.
Seriously though, I doubt most casual listeners can name all four members of RATM, and if they can only name a couple, it’s most likely frontman Zack de la Roche or guitarist Tom Morello. But the member we’re interested in today is the bassist, Tim Commerford. Not only do his driving bass lines help give RATM songs their signature feel, but he’s also the cyclist of the group.
Commerford credits cycling with keeping him in shape and allowing him to continue performing into his 50s. Photo: SQ-lab
Like many rockers, he’s a little bit crazy too. Commerford is the member who climbed onstage at the 2000 MTV VMAs to protest Limp Bizkit winning Best Rock Video. This impulsive display was one of the catalysts for RATM breaking up the first time.
This craziness tends to work out in mountain biking though. Check out his dirt jumping skills in this backflip contest he did with freeride and slopestyle legend Cam McCaul:
The dude can backflip. It's hard to be any cooler that that.
But here’s what I consider the hilarious pinnacle of the weird intersection between RATM and cycling. After playing for RATM and Soundgarden, Commerford worked on a solo project called Future User. In 2014, he released the song “Mountain Lion,” which is about drug and steroid use and featured cycling-related lyrics like “when I begin to zone / I hear the velodrome.”
Then, for the music video, he convinced his riding friend, LANCE ARMSTRONG, to make a cameo at the end of the video. Commerford hides in a van to inject some blood bags and PEDs, and he receives a voicemail from Armstrong trash-talking him before their next ride. This was AFTER Armstrong was busted and banned for life for doping (NSFW warning for some blood and language):
Commerford told Rolling Stone: "We'll jokingly leave each other voice messages like, 'Dude, I'm gonna crush you the next time I see you. I'm gonna take you down.' I thought it'd be cool to put one of his voice messages in the song. When it came time to make the video, I asked him to recreate the voicemail and he was totally cool with it."
Is Rage + Bikes a Good Thing?
Hey! Commerford supports his local shop. Photo: Anthony Smith/Bike Mag
Commerford clearly enjoys materialistic things like bikes, plus fancy parts like Chris King headsets and Shimano XTR. He even told Bike Mag: “I think I’ve got every version of (Shimano) XTR that’s ever been made. I’ve always loved XTR. To me, having a set of XTR cranks is like having a Rolex.”
Is this at odds with the anti-corporate, anti-capitalist message behind much of RATM’s music? Maybe. But I’ll leave the political commentary to someone more astute than me. My mission is to get more people riding and loving bikes, and if Rage helps more non-cyclists think bikes are cool, that’s a good thing in my book.
Reggie Miller discovered cycling after borrowing one of Commerford's bikes. Photo: Moots
I will say, Commerford riding bikes has resulted in something else very cool. One of my favorite basketball players growing up was Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers. After retiring, Miller went on a mountain bike ride with Commerford, and he was instantly hooked. Miller has since become one of our sport's greatest ambassadors, but that’s a story for another day...
Rock out to Rage track on your rides, but stay safe on the road or trail:
My favorite Rage track for crushing threshold and VO2 Max intervals (NSFW warning for language):