Ever thought about the link between motorcycling and mental health?

As we watch history unfold with COVID-19, there has never been anything like this in the lives of Australians today.  Lockdowns, curfews, border restrictions, work from home have all seen us crawl back into our homes and watch the world from afar.

You may be heading (or are already) into lockdown fatigue, endless news feeds, missed loved ones, and perhaps, facing financial concerns, you need to remember how important our motorcycling and trail bike riding is to our life and mental wellbeing.

That said, you do need to be mindful of the new pressures on us and our family – and use your bike in a positive way to de-stress and recharge.

You probably already know that motorcycling and mental health go together – it makes you feel free, boosts your mood and increases caffeine levels (if you are one of the hundreds who head to the coffee shop during a ride)!

So, we thought we would put out a friendly reminder of why riding your motorcycle and trail bike riding is good for your mental health, even more so during these unprecedented times.

Motorcycling and mental health

We spoke to Joe Dunn from Psychs on Bikes and passionate biker, and asked him why motorcycling and trail bike riding is so beneficial in helping us maintain strong mental health during these stressful times.

Dr Joe Dunn is a psychiatrist with over 30 years of experience with careers with the New Zealand Army Medical Corps, various hospitals in Macquarie, Manly and Hornsby and Medical Superintendent of Northside Cremorne Clinic for 23 years.

In 2012, he founded ‘Psychs on Bikes’, a not-for-profit organisation focusing on mental health. Using motorcycles and the motorcycling experience as a catalyst for raising awareness in rural communities, Joe organises meets with fellow psychiatrists and psychologists and rides to these communities to discuss the problem of suicide in the bush.

Here he explains the link between trail bike riding, motorcycling and mental health for riders –

1. The sheer thrill of the ride

‘With the wind and sun in your face, the speed, the exposure to the elements, the view of your surroundings, riding is thrilling. For the younger and braver ones, it is perhaps the risk taking and speed of the ride which gives us an adrenalin rush and makes our stomach churn with excitement.’ says Dr Dunn.

motorcycling and mental health

Getting dirty! Photo by Gabriel Sanchez on Unsplash

With motorcycle and trail bike riding, you get far more exposure to the natural elements of the Australian landscape than as a driver in a car.

At these speeds and exposure to your surroundings, smells become more vivid, noise becomes white as you become immersed in the riding experience.

Mr Dunn adds ‘The isolation of the ride gives you time to think. It is this ability to switch off from what is going on in your world and personal lives that unleashes this sense of vulnerability when your two hands are on the handlebars.’

Riding is so much more than a hobby.

Sounds perfect right? Plan to get on your machine this weekend and use the experience and freedom of the ride to your advantage. Even better, plan ahead for different motorcycle or trail bike trips to give you something to look forward to.

2. The “twisties”

‘We all love the twisties. This is probably the most thrilling part of the ride. We will even seek ride destinations that include these endless loops of turns and curves.’ says Dr Dunn.  ‘There’s a whole lot more to just speed, as the twistie stuff is more popular with the more experienced riders.’

motorcycling and mental health

Do not try this at home – Photo by Max Frajer on Unsplash

The muffled “yell” of excitement in the helmet when you have hit an apex spot-on is extraordinary, or THAT perfect rev-match when shifting down the gears, coincides with the feeling of freedom. What about THAT feeling of your knee kissing the road surface on a tight corner, its more than just adrenaline.

The most popular twisties are riding Old Pacific Highway between Hornsby and Gosford, or the Royal National Park in the Sutherland Shire. There are certainly no shortages of corners on these runs!

What is it about twisties that are so special?

Dr Dunn tells us ‘Twisties puts us in a mindfulness state as you would be hard pressed to think of anything else but the road and riding. You pay attention to one thing and focus on one activity only. During these moments, we are present in the present, allowing ourselves to detach from the past and the future.

‘This feeling of freedom is great for mental health. The ability to detach from life’s stresses is ever becoming more difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as the financial and mental issues that may come with it. Jumping on a motorbike will for sure improve your mood and bring upon a sense of independence.’ Dr Dunn says.

Why not invite some friends or join your local motorcycling or trail bike community?

3. Long distance rides

‘Long distance rides, in particular, helps us to contemplate and daydream, as we are connected to the road, it gives us lots of time to think.’ says Dunn.

Passing town by town with coffee stop-offs helps break up the ride, with a local culture infusion.

‘These longer trips are made for an adventure with a few friends. Rides with others untie us, it becomes a bonding experience, the camaraderie, the adventure, the longevity of time passing.’ says Dunn. ‘You focus on just the ride itself, and everything else in the world is reduced to white noise.’

The silent nods and friendly waves from passing enthusiasts, bikers understand one another. Fellow bikers know the feeling you get on these long rides. How often has a biker waved you down for a simple chat about bikes?

You are not alone

Social isolation is one of the leading causes of poor mental health, so do not be afraid to reach out to your local motorcycle club and join their family! Having an active social life helps prevent mental health issues such as anxiety and loneliness.

In NSW, most planned biker events have been postponed because of COVID-19.  However, there are still plenty of motorcycle, trail bike clubs and social media groups filled with bike enthusiasts looking for other bikers to join them.

‘When Psychs On Bikes plan their long trips, like the one from Cottesloe in Perth to Bondi, Sydney, they have each other to enjoy the ride with the purpose of charitable work. Focusing on mental health, they visit communities in rural and remote Australia providing support, advice, awareness seminars as well as free health checks. It helps you feel good and do some good for others.’ says Dr Dunn.

Get back on your bike!

Make time for a motorcycle or trail bike ride, better still make time with your friends for a ride. It helps give you a positive outlook to have trips to look forward to, no matter how short they are.

If its been a long time between rides, here are some tips for safe motorcycling and trail bike riding for you and your bike.

 

If you or someone you know is struggling or needs additional support from professionals, we encourage you to seek it. Your GP is a great place to start. You can obtain a Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP) and a referral to see a psychologist.

These online and telephone organisations may help you too –

  • Lifeline 13 11 44, available 24/7
  • BeyondBlue 1300 224 636 24/7 or use online chat available on their website
  • Suicide Call-back Service 1300 659 467, available 24/7, or secure online chat.