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The Bicycle Diaries: 10 Pedal-Powered Songs

We don’t need a bicycle holiday as an excuse to put together a list of bike-themed songs. Every day is bicycle day, for me at least (and we don’t necessarily mean this kind of bicycle day). I’ve never driven a car in my whole life (except for the bumper cars at the amusement park when was seven) so my bicycle is pretty much my main mode of transportation.

My suburbanite friends, back when I relocated to the US, warned me I’d have a really hard time finding dates if I only rode a bicycle. They were wrong. You know how popular wisdom says: the bigger the car a guy drives, the smaller his thingy between the legs is. Well, when you ride a bicycle you’re basically sending out the opposite subliminal message to all the ladies. Trust me, it works.

I ride my bike back and forth all the time, so I thought I should put together a playlist of bicycle-themed Latin songs to listen on my headphones while I pedal. Queen, Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk, all have done classic tunes inspired by the two-wheeled vehicles, but what about on our side of the spectrum? Any Latino bicycle lovers out there? This is what we found.

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nicole10. “Bicicletas
by
Nicole
[Chile]

I actually think every list deserves about one throw off, silly, or cheesy song (as long as it fits the theme of course); ya know, to maintain diversity. And even though this sounds like an odd selection relatively to the remaining bottom nine, this post-Timbiriche-esque track is perfect for listening to it on your tricycle, that is if you’re five years old. Chilean singer Nicole compares her life to a bicycle and sings all these little analogies about it. Later on in her career, she was then produced by the legendary Gustavo Cerati. Yah, it’s worth the mention. -IR

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sergio marakoff

09. “Tranqui Tronqui”
by Sergio Makaroff
[Spain]

Getting your bike stolen is kinda like a right of passage for all urban bikers. No matter how many chains and locks you put on it, eventually one day you’ll go to the place were you left it and it’s not there anymore. Maybe they left you the front wheel as a souvenir, but your bike is gone baby gone and it’s now probably being sold for sixty bucks at the local swap meet.

So, like Sergio Makaroff says, don’t get too depressed about it, life goes on, your bike might be missing but your friends are still there… and they all have bikes you can borrow. -JD

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La+Buena+Vida08. “En Bicicleta”
by La Buena Vida
[Spain]

Right around the mid-’90s, Spanish indie heads La Buena Vida chronicled the blithely experience about riding bikes along the shores of San Sebastián, their hometown — peddling right next to a bunch of others with a big toothy smile, while holding hands with other bicyclists. Yes, enter the bliss of life. That’s their motto, duh.

This spring-like, twee pop tune became an instant hit, and the band made it be known that not only because the band’s name already implied living the good live, they showed you how, like in this song.  -IR

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spanglish fly07. “Me gusta mi bicicleta”
by Spanglish Fly
[New York]

New York’s boogaloo revivalists Spanglish Fly released this bilingual bike-loving soulful tune earlier this year (you can actually get it on 7” vinyl from Electric Cowbell). On it the girl singer basically says that if you wanna get with her you better learn how to ride a bike. That’s a message to all you environment-polluting car drivers out there sitting in traffic for hours at a time, convinced that your four-wheeled metal box somehow makes you more desirable to the ladies. -JD

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Popcorn+Pop+Corn06. “Dame mi bicicleta”
by Popcorn
[Colombia]

One of the crappiest things about a breakup is when your ex wants to keep all your shit. Some people will complain about that ex keeping their dog, their convertible, their kid, etc. But in this case, these guys are bitching about a bike. And it seems like that’s the only thing still connecting the two, even though one of the guys of Colombia’s pop punk Popcorn urges to bail, or so he shouts.

It’s not to say that a bike is not worth fighting for. Sure, many people put in so much work into them, and some vintages are rare to find as well. So yeah man! Fight for your shit, or take it as a loss. Meh, whatever. -IR

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bicicleta intergalactica05. “Bicicleta Intergaláctica”
by
Bacalao Men / DJ Afro
[Puerto Rico / Venezuela]

Besides being the guitarist and main composer of Los Amigos Invisibles, DJ Afro is also a DJ (I bet you guessed that) and he did a bunch of cool Latin house remixes for other artists which he compiled on this pre-Nacional-deal album titled Will Work For Fun (apparently his remixing services were that cheap). “Bicicleta Intergaláctica” is included on that comp and it’s also my favorite track on it. It’s pretty simple but extremely catchy and it’s perfect to listen to while you ride your bike. Once you hear it, you just can’t stop repeating the “pa’ acá, pa’ allá” part. -JD

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cafe-tacvba04. “Bicicleta”
by Café Tacvba
[Mexico]

You know those tons of analogies that compare life like a game of chess? Making the right move, being logical with your actions, thinking ahead of the game, etc. Well, this ditty by Café Tacvba does something similar, but with riding a bike. It’s definitely a whimsical approach as opposed to a strict game of winning or loosing. While riding your bike, you also gotta look ahead, but it doesn’t really matter which way you go; up, down, straight, back, in circles, no one cares here. It’s about having that cheshire cat attitude. But there’s only one rule: no holding and no falling. -IR

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leon gieco03. “El angel de la bicicleta”
by León Gieco
[Argentina]

During the 2001 revolts and bloody repression in Argentina, the Police killed this one guy named Pocho Lepratti, right after he came out and warned the cops “don’t shoot here, there are kids eating.” He was a political militant and bicycle rider who was working at a public school.

Iconic Argentine folk singer-songwriter and leftist militant León Gieco dedicated this cumbia villera (done in collaboration with Los Pibes Chorros) to that guy, paraphrasing his last words as a chorus and employing the imagery of the angel on wheels that had since become a popular stencil all over the city in homage to the fallen Pocho. -JD

Divider2juan luis guerra02. “El Niágara en Bicicleta”
by Juan Luis Guerra
[Dominican Republic]

There are a lot of Latin American countries that have an insanely high vocabulary for slang, “dichos,” or ways of phrasing sentences that are very distinct to the adjacent country (some more than others). It may be almost impossible for a non-native to understand when a group of people from a specific region talk within each other, even if it’s all still in Spanish. Take my co-worker Joel for example. When he speaks Dominican, I probably now grasp about a good 75% of what he says (before it was 32%), and I know it’s the same case when my Argentinian girl hears me talk in Mexican with my mom.

Literally translating to “Niagara Falls on a bicycle,” in Dominican idioms, this means overcoming an obstacle or a difficult situation. Who woulda thought!? And yes, I wiki-ed it. At first impression, based on watching the video, I thought it was about falling off your bike and going to the hospital. But as I took a closer look, it’s about how it’s difficult to obtain medical coverage and really getting treated if needed. Juan Luis Guerra always being socially conscious about the happenings of his native country aims to shed light on the lack of resources that are available in the health care system, chronicling his experience when he took a trip to the hospital. -IR

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martin buscaglia01. “Oda a mi bicicleta”
by Martin Buscaglia
[Uruguay]

Bicycle riders of the world unite! Uruguayan singer-songwriter Martín Buscaglia released this song in his latest album, Temporada de Conejos (Lovemonk, 2010). For the video, he invited his fans all over the world to shoot short homemade videos of themselves riding their bikes while singing the song, and then send Buscaglia the clip to be put together as a video collage. On the lyrics, Martín says the song will fulfill its purpose the day he randomly runs into somebody riding a bike and singing the song (or at least whistling the tune). Here we want you to listen and fall in love with this song (and your bike) in order to increase the chances of our friend Martín achieving his goal. -JD