It’s Real & Not Just An Excuse To Go For A Ride!

Most of us have said at one time or another that we are taking a mental health day. What we really mean is that we have elected to take a day off from work to de-stress.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about all of the demands on our time each day. We have deadlines and pressure from work, family responsibilities, and commitments to organizations and groups that we belong to or support.

But… 

When is it time to step back from all of these demands and simply be alone with your thoughts by allowing your mind to focus on a single thing rather than multitasking in an attempt to accomplish your ever-growing to-do list?

The answer is when you are on your motorcycle.

Driving vs Riding

Some people might argue that riding a bike is no different than driving a car. But most of those people would not be experienced riders, I’m guessing. Honest drivers will admit to an unbelievable amount of multitasking leeway while driving.

They are listening to the radio and fiddling with the station selection and volume, talking on the phone with or without a hands-free application, eating, talking to passengers in the car, applying makeup, shaving, reading or responding to texts or email, and even making notes about a work-related issue.

I have actually witnessed all of these occurring in a vehicle that is near me in traffic or one I am riding in. The truth is that driving is not what most of these people were focused on and so driving requires a lot less concentration. Riding a bike requires much more focus and concentration.

Riding Not Driving Offers A Benefit

Riders are not only using the thought processing portion of their brain to make decisions about the road around them and how to react to the changing conditions, but they are also using another part of their brain to control all of the balance and coordination required to ride. Scientists believe that this added concentration actually increases brain function and health. 

Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, the author of Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain, explains that:

“Riding a motorcycle changes the simplest of commutes into an event that challenges the mind in ways that driving just can’t. In a ‘use it or lose it’ sense, riding a motorcycle appears to be a great form of exercise for your brain and a way to help reduce the impact that aging can have on cognitive function”.

Riders Benefit From Being Outdoors Rather Than In a Car

There have been dozens of studies to determine how humans benefit from being out in nature. Findings point to everything from reduced stress levels to lower blood pressure and increased energy levels.

The Healing Power of Nature

One study found that being near trees or even having a clear view of trees, provided a sense of calm to the participants. The outcomes of many studies related to the impact of nature on the human mind and body have even resulted in hospitals proving views of trees and nature improve the healing in hospital patients.

Other studies found that children who suffered from ADHD showed reductions in their symptoms after being out in nature. And while drivers can still see trees and other natural features from inside a car, riders get far more exposure to the natural world as they are riding a motorcycle.

Rider Immersion

Part of the reason that most motorcycle riders benefit more from nature than car drivers is the fact that riders are far more immersed in nature. A rider feels the wind, sun, and temperature, while a driver maintains a climate-controlled environment inside the car.

Being immersed in the outdoors and changing climates helps a rider connect to nature using all of the senses. This experience increases the mental and physical benefits that he or she gains from being outside.

The World Inside Your Helmet

There are a few reasons that I always wear a helmet when I ride. The first is simply the protection that it offers in the event of an accident or from debris that could come hurtling toward my head (and don’t forget ATGATT!).

It is also a good way to protect my eyes from dust and bugs that always seem to find their way around my glasses and into my eyes.

Relax With Some White Noise

But the last reason is because of the sound that my helmet muffles when I am riding. I still hear all of the sounds of vehicles around me and the sound of approaching sirens on emergency vehicles, but everything else in the world is reduced to white noise.

I always found the solitude of being inside my helmet to be peaceful and relaxing, but I just associated that with the enjoyment of riding my bike. However, it turns out that there are some very real benefits to the white noise that I enjoy inside my helmet. The sound has actually been proven to be relaxing and helpful in stress reduction.

In addition, white noise helps to increase your attention and develops mental clarity. So in a very real way, wearing a motorcycle helmet can make you a safer rider, as you are more focused on your riding and are less prone to distractions from outside stress.

Great Time for a Ride!

We don’t all have the luxury of taking a day off to de-stress when life becomes too busy or overwhelming. But it seems that riders have always known that even a short ride can bring with it an amazing amount of relaxation, stress reduction, and clarity. And now, there are plenty of scientific studies that support what we have all known for years.

Riding a motorcycle provides a great many mental health benefits that are much needed with our busy lifestyles and hectic schedules. There’s no reason without proper safety precautions and full gear that you too can’t benefit from everything that riding a motorcycle can provide for you. It even continues to provide many health benefits riding later in life

So be sure to make time for a break now and then to get out on your bike and enjoy the benefits of nature, white noise, and the clarity that comes only when you are out on two wheels.

37 Comments

  1. July 18, 2019
    Reply

    Kathy thanks for authoring this great article. I agree with your observations and have enjoyed riding my entire life. I just recently discovered the world of electric bike and it has offered the very same benefits and more. I can now ride whenever I want, no trailer, no truck, no gas, no valves to adjust and no noise. So riding in and among neighborhoods at night in vacant lots or fields is wonderful.

    • rangan
      May 7, 2020
      Reply

      Couldnt agree more. 68yrs and still riding. God bless

      • J pace
        June 2, 2020
        Reply

        Until sum dumbf**k puts u in hospital rode from 1967 till 2005. My miata is just as much fun

  2. Alec Burns
    December 30, 2019
    Reply

    It’s good that you point out that motorcycle riding can be beneficial to your mental health. I’ve been looking for a new hobby that can improve my mental health, and I’m considering buying a motorcycle. I’m going to look for a good motorcycle dealer in my area from which to buy one.

  3. Bob Newton
    February 11, 2020
    Reply

    It’s good that you point out that riding a motorcycle is a great way to reduce stress. I’ve been looking for a new hobby to help me relax, so I’m considering buying a motorcycle. I’m going to look for a good motorcycle dealer in my area to use.

    • February 14, 2020
      Reply

      Hi Bob!

      I think you’re going to absolutely love riding. Find a good beginner bike to learn on and take a riding course if you’ve never been on a motorcycle before. It lays a good foundation to build on.
      Check out our sister website bestbeginnermotorcycles.com for lots of tips to help.
      Cheers.

      • Preston Atamanczyk
        March 25, 2020
        Reply

        I have been riding off road motorcycles for about 39 years, and only about 2 of those years have been on a steeet bike. But I can attest that everything Kathy said is ABSOLUTELY true! It’s even easier conecting with nature on a dirt bike, since we ride on the desert and in the mountains. I love the experience of everything else disappearing and focusing exclusively on the ride!

      • Gavin bessford
        April 27, 2020
        Reply

        It’s more than just what’s mentioned in this article, there’s also a comraderie that you don’t get with car drivers… Riders acknowledge each other whether it a wave or a simple nod, and if youre stuck at the side of the road barely 5 mins passes before another rider stops to see if you are OK or need help(don’t see that with cars), if youre a line rider and pull up at Cafe, bar etc then the other riders will talk to you as if you’re a long time friend

        It’s a brotherhood

        • Alwyn du Preez
          May 4, 2020
          Reply

          Hi Gavin and all the other motorcycle riding fraternity. I read all the replies to this particular article. For me cameradery pitches high on the list of reasons to ride a motorcycle. I live in Port Elizabeth South Africa ( also 300 days + in a year. I started riding when I was 28 years of age. I hit the quarter century mark end of last year. This terrible state of lockdown hits us really hard! I sold my old cars five years ago. My wife has a car, so I’m fine in that regard. I bike wherever and whenever I travel. Come rain or shine. I have two older BMW’S. An R 1150 GS ( 1999 with 105 thou km) and a R 1150 RT ( 2004 with 163 thou km on the clock. I organize adventure tours with my motorcycle friends – 3 to 4 tours per year. Some dirt road tours, others tar road. I belong to a group of enthusiasts who go on a breakfast run every Saturday morning. It’s life, OUR LIVES!??? And now we are not allowed to live it how we want to. Aarg!

  4. Everett Nelson
    February 18, 2020
    Reply

    At age 81 I still enjoy my Motor Bike riding, having moved into a Retirement Village in Drysdale we have started forming a Motorcycle Riding Group and so far all
    4 of our members have had one good ride and hoping to do the Great Ocean Road ride to Lorne this month some time, weather permitting.

    • February 18, 2020
      Reply

      Safe riding, Everett!

      • Lawrence Fernandez
        April 25, 2020
        Reply

        I always wanted to ride a motor bike and at age of 63 a friend gave me is old rideing gear and asked me to check if it fitted me o tried it and fitted me perfectly,now all I needed was a bike helmet and boot she even took me to bike dealer,I paid a deposit for a Honda 125,that evening after work I told my family I bought a motor bike,,the first thing that came out of my children was dad have you got a death wish,they said that I should pay off the mortgage and then get a bike,this made me more determined to ride my bike I had a few lessons on a scooter, couldn’t I couldn’t ride to save my like ,I got my c b t and started to ride my bike I had a lot to learn and many accidents but never gave up riding made me so happy, the happiness I was yearning for I passed my full bike test after many attempts now I am rideing Suzuki gxsllsxs750,heaven is rideing my bike

        • juan carlos
          June 25, 2020
          Reply

          congratulations, great choice !!

        • A V C Menon
          June 30, 2020
          Reply

          I have been riding bikes from a young age and now at 68 I went ahead and bought a harley and boy it’s me, myself,the surroundings and my bike, it’s total bliss. What have been said by other bike enthusiasts is true age does not matter

    • Siva Kumar M
      April 21, 2020
      Reply

      That’s very inspiring ! Enjoy your ride and be safe.

      • Glenn Jobson
        April 30, 2020
        Reply

        At nearly 65, I also am on my L’s. My step son needed the cash so I bought his CBR250. Now that I bought it, I figure I might as well learn to ride it. Scared as hell, I did the course. Fell off a few times but determined to keep going. Hated the cbr250 so bought myself an S40 Boulevard cruiser. Having a ball and totally agree with everyone. Lower stress and good all around well being. And the comraderie is definitely a good feeling! Now I’m looking at my other stepson’s Softtail 1440cc heh! Heh!

      • Leo
        May 3, 2020
        Reply

        Remember, there’s only 1 down…the rest is up…

    • Alwyn du Preez
      May 4, 2020
      Reply

      Everett, I live in sunny South Africa. Or country affords excellent weather and places motorcycling and cycling. I do both . I’m on my way to 76 rears of age and am grateful that I can do both these activities. I live in Port Elizabeth South Africa. I belong to a group of motorcycle enthusiasts. We go on breakfast runs every Saterday morning. We are all in our late sixties and in our seventies. Roy Cawood is 85. Lockdown hits us badly suffice to say ?????PS Our WhatsApp group sports 26 names. ALL WE WANT TO DO IS RIDE OUR BIKES!

  5. Tony
    February 22, 2020
    Reply

    I live in Johannesburg, South Africa
    I am 71 and have done a few million kilometers over the 55 years I have been riding (mostly BMW’s but now a Triumph Bonneville) I literally live on a bike
    Its the best activity in the world giving you the chance to completely escape from the drudge that the average person exists in
    In this Country I can assure you that it works your mind, anticipatory and reactionary senses to the full – the drivers here are probably the worst in the world, but this does seem to make you continually think of every scenario that may come your way when riding

    I put a lot of my lifestyle enjoyment down to biking and hope I never lose the ability to ride

    Regards and good luck to all who take it up

  6. Brian
    April 20, 2020
    Reply

    There is a reason that motorcycle riding is called “Two-Wheeled Therapy”.

  7. Shannon Harris
    April 20, 2020
    Reply

    I concur – wholeheartedly. All these benefits are enhanced on a bicycle, plus your balance is tested further when YOU provide the propulsion and do not have the gyroscopic assistance of an engine driven flywheel. In addition a helmet and gloves are the bicyclists only concession to safety, and I have witnessed you tube footage of ‘gun’ – ‘descenders’, in ‘The Tour’: achieving 135 km/h. I have experienced a quickening in brain function whilst motorcycling (compared to driving a tin can), and the delay in the response of the vehicle traffic around you. They confer the slowness of a tortoise, in their deliberation – it goes with the territory. Less haste, more speed. And speed, is a gorgeous addiction. Not every tin can driver was the bottle or where-with-all to ride a motorbike, or in traffic, or with others, of fast. They miss out. Imagine if the car/bike ratio was reversed? And how good for the planet, and common courtesy. Stay upright.

    • Kathy Koewler
      April 22, 2020
      Reply

      Hello Shannon-
      Speed is by far my addiction of choice. Two wheels are the best but four can have its exciting moments. I honestly believe that if the car/bike ratio were reversed, there would be many other issues worked out in a very short time. I predict it would be a thinning of the herd on steroids. Then those of us who are left will be able to feed our need for speed.

      All the best to you and stay safe!

  8. John Evans
    April 21, 2020
    Reply

    G’day Kathy,
    I greatly enjoyed your article on us oldies riding “for our health”
    I am now 82 and not into riding as much as I would like. When I hit 85 I will be obliged to take a test, but if I don’t have a bike I will lose my bike license. So I bought a Piaggio 3 wheel scooter, I am now disabled by Polio, being automatic and locking upright when I stop I can manage it. I can even carry my crutches under the seat!

    My ride started out at age 17 with a 1949 BSA B33 after I was forever corrupted by a squirt down the road on a Vincent Black Shadow.

    Being dirt poor my next bike was a 1951 Jawa 250. After major surgery it went quite well. The inlet tract was remodelled and a larger carburettor fitted, one quarter inch was turned off the cylinder head.

    Eventually I could afford used BMWs. When I had an ex police K100 BMW began putting on BMW Safaris. I conned them into believing they needed a Medical Practitioner on the Adventure Route as it was pretty rugged and in remote areas of Australia. They kindly provided a near new R 1100 GS fitted with top box and panniers, they came loose pretty quickly on the Adventure Route, it was rough!

    I did a few more Safaris, eventually having to drop back to a little Funduro due to increasing weakness in my legs from Polio.

    I continued riding the K 100 until an old patient thought I was a gap in the traffic and turned in front of me, writing his car and my bike off, nearly me as well. I got 11 fractures 7 of them spinal.

    I thought I’d try the Piaggio, it’s a success, but I don’t feel as secure on a scooter where I can’t grip the tank with my knees. I miss dirt riding up in the hills so I’m considering a Rokon, the fat front tyre seems to give it a problem in rough rocky stuff.

    If I make it to 90 I’d like to be still riding.

    John Evans

  9. Kathy Koewler
    April 21, 2020
    Reply

    Hello John,
    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. It is a testament to what one can achieve when something is an important part of your life. It also helps to see how others have made the choice to adapt or adjust their riding to meet with the challenges that most of us face later in life. There comes a time to balance the young at heart feeling with the reality we know in our brain. I keep in mind that I will need to move past my sport bike at some point. And with that in mind, I need to appreciate each and every ride I get on her. I never want to look back years from now and say that I wish I had made more time to ride and enjoy the bike or the sense of freedom that it offered me. And most of all, I want to follow your example and enjoy new adventures in each phase of my riding experience. For me, the key is being smart and honest with myself to remain safe and capable. Thank you for the inspiration and all the best to you! I hope you reach the century mark and are still enjoying some fantastic rides!

  10. Joe O'Hanlon
    April 23, 2020
    Reply

    I agree with the basic logic of the article. As a Manx man, grew up with bikes around, remembering my gifts TT race in 1948 as a 6 year old. Have risen bikes on an off over the years, presently with a couple of old classics. However, with a life’s experiences behind me, The benefits may seem inadequate when viewed from a hospital bed. Cheers, watch your speed and ride safe. Joe

  11. Ron
    April 23, 2020
    Reply

    excellent. account of some of the positives and aptitude required for motorcycle riding.
    I have been riding since 1973 mostly. sports bikes.I have a Harley 1200 sportster for leisurely rides and two classic Kawasaki triples an H1 500 and restoring an S2 350 imported from Stateside to the UK.
    all are great fun and demanding in their own way.
    we are currently in lockdown in the UK so pleasure riding is out.due to COVId 19.
    will have to make do with polishing them for now.
    More importantly folks take care and stay safe.
    big thanks to all in our. communities for keeping us safe.especially the clinicians.

    • Kathy Koewler
      May 4, 2020
      Reply

      Hello Ron!
      Thank you for your comment and for your loyalty to WBW! Here in the states, at least in Arizona, I am ale to ride. But the state has seen fit to use this time to repair almost every road around me, so they have spoiled some of my fun. But it has made me more aware of how much I enjoy and benefit from getting out and just cruising around. It is a fine balance inside my helmet- I am in my own world, but must also stay vigilant in watching those around me. It sounds very contradictory, but somehow it is very relaxing and energizing- or maybe it is the 1000 cc engine that provides that part of the rush, but it is not something that can be found anywhere but on two wheels.

      Hopefully, you will be free to jump back on your bike very soon for some much needed two wheel therapy!

      All the best and stay safe!

  12. Jeff
    April 30, 2020
    Reply

    All I can say is that I’ve been riding moto’s for 48 years and still living the dream.

    • Kathy Koewler
      May 4, 2020
      Reply

      Hi Jeff-
      Thank you for your loyalty to WBW and for your comment. I hope that everyone who is riding, regardless of their age, bike, or location feel the same way. It really is living a dream and something to be appreciated each time you have the opportunity to throw a leg over your bike and take off!

      All the best to you and stay safe!

  13. steve bradley
    May 3, 2020
    Reply

    I’ve been riding since I was 15 I am now 62 and ride my Triumph Bonneville as much as I can l love it and I think it’s such relaxing and keeps me sharp and healthy be safe and secure.

    • Kathy Koewler
      May 4, 2020
      Reply

      That is awesome to hear Steve! Sadly, too many people believe that bikes are just for the young. ButI firmly believe that bikes are for anyone who is young at heart, or wants to find their way back to that feeling. Keep enjoying the Triumph and stay safe!

  14. Burj
    May 4, 2020
    Reply

    I can’t agree more with the article, however I just want to say Its the nature that do all that healing (it do much more than just healing, it gives us life, its nurturing us, it provide everything that we need) but bikes are good way to experience it as it removes a lot of barriers that we put between us and mother (and father) nature. It removes shackles…
    with or without bike please enjoy the nature and life every possible second and please take care of nature the way you take care of yourself as you are nature and nature is you.

    Safe roads to all the bikers out there, we might meet somewhere on the road.

  15. Kathy Koewler
    May 4, 2020
    Reply

    Hello Burj-
    Thank you for your comment and for being a loyal WBW reader! I agree that nature is a critical source of rejuvenation. There is a sense of calm that comes from realizing that each of us is just a speck in the grand scheme of nature. And maybe even a little sense of relief that we each need to play our role and do our part, but that our role is less significant than we sometimes believe. Nature has it all under control but we are free to visit and enjoy. And that is where two wheels come into the picture for many of us. My spirit animal is a sport bike because I want to experience the world at top speed, like a falcon in a steep dive. But the great part is that we can each choose our bike to immerse in nature in the manner that best suits us!

    Stay safe and all the best to you, Burj!

  16. Mick Morris
    May 6, 2020
    Reply

    I found reading all these bikers stories very interesting,people of all ages and from all walks of life,I am 68yrs old I’ve met a lot of nice people along my way and thinking I should be hanging my boots and helmet up I’m far wrong ,Stay safe all the best hope to meet along my way.

  17. Jason
    May 8, 2020
    Reply

    Some body buy me a bike

  18. Garry Pascale
    May 30, 2020
    Reply

    At the age of 14 started riding a ct90! Living in a rural area didn’t have a lot of friends and still don’t at the age of 66. Motorcycling has introduced me to a lot of nice people. Running a farm for 39 years most of my riding was on dirt. Retiring at 56 , bought a small rv , trailer and bmw. Since then done all 50 state both in rv and with motorcycle. Both of set of wheels have been the best therapy any doctor couldn’t give me. Seeing and riding to some of the spots on motorcycle that I’ve been to might not be for all but it been the best mind cleaning that one can do. Just hope I got another 20 years to keep on biking. Wear gear and ride safe!!!

  19. Daniele Crivello
    June 22, 2020
    Reply

    Thank you for the excellent post!

    Oh how I agree! My ride from Canada to Ecuador last year was the best thing I could ever do for my mental health. Besides spending quality time within the helmet and connecting with the communities I travelled through, I turned the journey into a fund raiser on a website called Steelbreezeventures.com. Some of my rides are on YouTube but the real magic happened within.

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