Have you ever paused to notice how content dog look with their head out the window? They have the wind in their hair, the world is whizzing past and they’re panting happily. That’s exactly how I feel when I’m riding motorcycle. Maybe minus the panting. It’s freedom, the open road, the escapism and speed.
There are 1.3 million bikers in the UK, but a terrifying one in four of the population experiences a mental health problem every year. It’s even being described as an epidemic. According to the World Health Organisation, “by 2030 depression will be the leading illness globally”. The cure? More motorbikes! Seriously!
There’s a thriving industry focussed on supporting mental health through adventure therapy. You leave normal life behind, venture off into the wilderness and participate in emotionally and physically challenging, sometimes risky, outdoor activities. The idea is that exposing yourself [not like that] to nature’s elements grounds you. No hustle and bustle of life, it’s just survival. And that’s exactly what I get from riding.
There is something so spiritually replenishing about being out on the edge of wilderness on a motorbike. The emotions, the nomadic sense of adventure, tackling the terrain beneath your wheels, where you can be threatened by nature and intimidated by the landscape. Gnarly assents, deep-water crossing, the exhaustion of hauling the bike out of an unexpected bog. You’re sweating and covered in mud, but you’re alive and you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
But what about road riding? You’ve still left life normal life behind, have nothing but the open road ahead, and it’s all about the ride. Sweeping turns, long stretches to open up on and the rainstorm you outran for the warmth of sunshine. Solitude. Life feels good. You’re completely enveloped in sensations you can’t ignore.
There’s a sense of self-preservation that is often absent in daily lives. That turn you took a little too fast, that negative camber that nearly had you off, the flood of endorphins. Your mind is solely focussed on the moment. It’s a thrill all bikers have in common.
Imagine if more people could experience that? Just think of the NHS cost savings. I would have loved my GP to prescribed me a course of track days for post-traumatic stress disorder. Sod counselling, ride a motorcycle.
Thank you for reading my pause for thought as heard on BBC Radio Oxford
If you’re new to my page – it’s more than just dirt bike riding, Harley’s and racing, I’m on a mission to prove that nothing is impossible if you want it bad enough. See more about my story plus read about my life changing accident, which started it all.