Tough climbs to '80s Czech disco & Kabat

A while back my former editor-in-chief overheard that in my off-hours I had gotten into a new sport, at least newer in the Czech Republic: he scratched his head when someone mentioned what is was called. Spinning? Spinning what? he asked. The first thing that came to his mind was an old crone spinning on a loom like in some old Czech fairy tale. Not that long ago, six or seven years, spinning - or indoor cycling as it is also known - was mostly unheard of in the Czech Republic: now you won't find a gym that doesn't offer several rows of bikes and several hours of lessons each day.

What is it exactly? Basically you cycle on an indoor bike for an hour to music, with various songs suggesting various terrain: a fast song might be a sprint out of the saddle; a slow ballad a steep hill to pedal up, always increasing in pain! There is little hope for reprieve: an instructor shouts at you for the whole lesson to keep you on your toes, and some even walk row to row to make sure you haven't been slacking. The whole time, of course, you pedal to the tune.

Here, that usually means not only the latest US or UK hits but also Czech 80's disco or more current hard rock by musicians like Daniel Landa or Kabat. Listen to that lesson after lesson you'll be surprised if you don't find yourself humming some of those songs later on the way home. As a result, friends have even noticed my recent re-discovery, well, not of disco, but of harder Czech music: I explain spinning is to blame. I now know some of those songs by heart. If it's Kabat, you can expect growly singing, catchy riffs, a fast chorus.

If it's Czech disco: think Michal David, songs like "Non-stop" that make me at least, on the bike, double over in agony. Now I know that many Communist-era hitmakers like David have seen a resurgence of popularity as today's 30-somethings grow increasingly nostalgic about their youth: those artists get played a fair amount at the gym. That's the way it goes.

After a while you develop Pavlovian reflexes to some music or you know instantly what kind of ride a particular song would be. My friends don't get it. The whole point of riding a bike, they say, is not to ride to music but to ride outside: to see the wonders of the rolling Czech countryside; to see Baroque churches, to plan elaborate routes with stop-offs at the best country pubs. They say riding a stationary bike means getting nowhere fast. I beg to differ. If it wasn't for spinning I would have never have gotten at least a little bit in shape, and I wouldn't have broadened my knowledge of some of those Czech bands, like them... or not.

Now I am "in the know": last week when the hard rock group Kabat won a spot in the semi-final at the Eurovision Song Contest in Finland with their song Mala Dama (Little Lady) I for one wasn't surprised. Why? It isn't a bad song, especially if you hear it a few hundred times! For one thing it's actually quite melodic despite their hard rock sound, for another the lyrics aren't bad either. But, my main reason for liking it is, because I secretly know that along with everything else it is, it's also one tough "climb". Good luck in Finland.