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Health Benefits

Post Received 16 May 2021

By Ian Douglas (cartoons by Ian too)

It is self-evident that doing something that you enjoy and find rewarding is better for your wellbeing than the opposite and if it has a sense of purpose then all the better as we humans find a measure of achievement satisfying. You might even go so far as to say that these sentiments are essential ingredients towards a sense of happiness and well-being.

If that something involves messing with chemicals, sharp tools, dust and fumes then perhaps this takes away from the above positives. Furthermore, if it also incorporates venturing out into a high-speed environment of heavy objects then the plus side is somewhat reduced. So, what we are talking about here is a balance of enjoyment and risk.

There is no doubt that motorcycling is dangerous. High visibility, experience and caution reduce the likelihood of accident, but it is still there. There are no two ways about it, a metal box with airbags and protective reinforcement will do better than a machine with a person straddling it no matter how many padded suits or how expensive a helmet, gloves or boots.

A cartoon traffic jam with all the stress and problems this causes in writing

As far as physical health is concerned you are probably better off without a motorbike but then there’s mental health too. A ride out on a beloved motorbike does wonders for your mood, as it is often said that it puts a grin on your face - it can be a great deal of fun. It lifts the spirits and induces a feeling of freedom and release. We forget our troubles.

Confined in a housing development with occasional walks to the town centre has a claustrophobic, slightly depressing effect. Modern housing layouts are conceived so one rarely gets a glimpse of surrounding countryside which, although there, is blocked out. Fetch the bike out, a bit of manoeuvring and you are out of the man made into the natural world.

You might say that an escape from a built up area can be just as easily achieved via the use of a car, but it is not as thrilling. Cars must be parked up and they are altogether more restrictive. I simply cannot get excited about an outing in a car. In fact, if the destination is not particularly attractive or the trip really necessary then I’d just as soon not bother.

Motorcyclists sometimes say that they go out on a ride to clear their mind of stress. That only works of course if you pick the time, weather and route to promote a good outcome. Nevertheless, it is largely true, provided you do not have the misfortune to meet a Jeremy Clarkson the prospect is that you will be reinvigorated and find the experience relaxing.

A lady suggest to her partner that it's time to ride the motorcycle, or therapy time

You need to have your wits about you on a motorbike, you cannot afford not to be alert. There is now evidence to suggest that the level of concentration required to ride a motorbike maintains cognitive function and helps you stay young by invigorating your brain. This claim was made by a Japanese scientific research team in collaboration with Yamaha.

Dr Kawashima of Tokyo university lead the experiments that showed that riding a motorcycle facilitates brain fitness. Two groups of middle-aged men were initially assessed for cognitive function. One group then rode motorbikes to work daily and the other used other methods of transportation. Cognitive re-tests found the bikers scored notably higher.
There are also some surprising physical attributes to motorcycling. Contrary to popular belief motorbike riding is not as sedentary as car driving, where the body is at rest. Legs and frame are brought into play as tensing and shifting is necessary to balance. Core strength is stimulated by wind resistance, thighs, back and neck muscles get a low impact workout.

I would miss my motorbike if it were taken from me for some reason, perhaps due to a medical problem. I find myself just being happy to see it sitting in the garage and I even enjoy polishing or repairing it while the poor old car stands outside, neglected. Fantastic to hear it running and even better to follow the exhaust note through the gears.

I would feel relative deprivation if, on a quiet warmish day, I couldn’t toddle off somewhere, usually a remote town that I find picturesque with a pleasant café. I would be taking the back roads, trying to include a few restful places on route. If I can stay out of trouble it is a great tonic especially with the added plus of body toning and mind exercising.

Share you motorcycling musings - click here.

Reader's Comments

Bogger said :-
Bikes can definitely be therapeutic. they can also be the exact opposite and do your head in when they are not behaving and you can't find the problem.

I've had a couple of bikes over the years that have driven me to distraction. When I did finally sort out the running issues I sold them. One was a Honda CD200 the other a Yamaha V90 two stroke.

20/05/2021 10:25:13 UTC
Uppo said :-
Couldn't agree more. Motorcycling is an excellent form of mindfulness. You need to focus and concentrate on what you are doing and it tends to drive everything else out of your mind. Unlike a car where you can drive in a mindless way thinking about other things, listening to the radio etc. if you do that on a bike you will get into trouble. One of my mishaps came after nearly coming off after hitting diesel on a roundabout, I was so chuffed with myself and thinking about how I nearly crashed I then ran into the back of a car stopped at traffic lights!
I do like an evening ride on the light nights, smelling the air and feeling the wind. It always makes me feel younger.

As Steve Earle sings in 'The Other Kind'

Yeah, nowadays I got me two good wheels
And I seek refuge in aluminum and steel
Aw, it takes me out there for just a little while
And the years fall away with every mile
20/05/2021 22:24:54 UTC
KiwiJeff said :-
Thanks Ian enjoyed your post. Winter slowly making riding more "interesting" in the Antipodes. Bandit in bits as needs rear wheel bearings which I could source locally so ok fix. Sourced an indicator out of Germany in about 3 weeks, locally hard to find at reasonable price. Traction enhancer needs new helmet which are currently hard to source, just a HJC C70 needed, talked to importer representative says late May, crazy really as they come from Vietnam. Not the biggest problem but I keep getting grumbles from absent pillion when the bank account says pies and coffee at her favorite cafe and she isnt there! As my daughter likes to say " 1st world problems Dad"! Ride safe everybody and enjoy your summer.
22/05/2021 09:20:45 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I've been riding so long and so regularly I tend not to notice how riding affects me. Then as with lockdown when I'm not allowed to ride is when I notice one more. For myself it goes beyond Ian's words because motorcycling has a social aspect too. Most of my friends are at least connected with motorcycling and most of my social events are bike related.

I've been away this weekend with a group of motorcyclists. It's been strange, it's been a tad surreal being in company but it's been a worthwhile weekend that has given me a sense of returning to some kind of normality. I don't believe we're out of the woods yet and there may be more setbacks, I hope we are heading in the right direction though.
23/05/2021 16:43:50 UTC
Ross said :-
"I would miss my motorbike if it were taken from me for some reason, perhaps due to a medical problem."

Very apposite, Ian! I find myself in this position after a 'funny turn' earlier in the year, I've had to surrender my licence and it's unclear how long before (if?) I can reapply for it...I'm still having various tests to try and establish what's going on! I'm probably being over dramatic, but not being able to ride or drive feels akin to loosing a limb, especially as I too find riding a way to relax and destress...not handling it very well mentally at all!

I'm going to be relying on Team BAT to get my biking fix this summer by the look of it, so come on you lot let's here your tales and post plenty of pic's...I NEED 'em!!
30/05/2021 12:19:51 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ross, bugger. And double bugger.
Sorry to hear you are/have been Tom and Dick me o'd mucka.
Although I've probably ridden and driven less than 10,000 miles in the last ten months I can't imagine not being able to do them both. I very much enjoy enthusiastically exploring the roads in both forms of transport and it's been hard with just the restrictions let alone being unwell.
A lesson to us all I suppose, do it whilst you can.
You're in our thoughts and prayers bud.
30/05/2021 12:48:45 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Sympathy from me as well Ross. As I've mentioned I'm currently unable to ride due to an arthritic hip although hopefully this will be temporary - the outlook however will eventually be a replacement I suspect. I have had a knee replaced some 9 years ago and that's doing very well.

I do miss not being on the bike but am fortunate in that I can still drive the car.

Best of luck and here's to a speedy recovery.
30/05/2021 14:29:04 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Oh sheez Ross, that sucks. Without my license I'd struggle to find a raison d'etre, it's one of my nightmares so I don't think you're being over dramatic at all.

We are all unique characters. I would find reading other folk's motorcycling adventures would cause me to miss riding even more. I do appreciate you may vicariously enjoy riding along in your imagination though so I'll do what I can, hopefully the other readers will join in too.

Otherwise here's to sussing out your problem and a prompt solution. I have no sage words of wisdom to ease the mental anguish, if only I were so wise. I merely offer the useless platitude of "chin up". I'd let you clean my 500 if I thought it would help.
30/05/2021 16:40:32 UTC
Jim said :-
Sorry to hear of your difficulties, Ross. A friend of mine had to surrender his licence following a stroke last year just before lockdown, just got it back in April. He had to satisfy a driving instructor of his decision making capability - physical driving and riding were fine. Don’t lose hope.

Meanwhile, here a pic from a trip I’m writing up to send to Ed. Taking longer than I thought, this blogging is tougher than you think.
Posted Image
31/05/2021 07:56:26 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
Bugger, hope you recover swiftly Ross, and nice piccie Jim.
31/05/2021 16:25:10 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'm glad you realise just how much work it takes to write up a trip Jim! I await your musings - send 'em to
31/05/2021 17:40:41 UTC
Ross said :-
Thanks for your thoughts and best wishes, chaps, much appreciated, especially when the old 'black dog' is hanging around! Ride safe and enjoy the summer!
01/06/2021 11:21:13 UTC
RobEll said :-
Sorry to hear of your medical troubles Ross. I think we all got somewhat of a taste of restrictions over this past year, it has been a long Winter for us all. I miss my historic commute from South Wales to Bristol for work greatly. I've also grown a terrible habit of serial motorcycle purchases as I'm still on a search for something I gel with. First an old SV650S was too cramped, the CB500 lovely but lacking the bite I enjoyed with the SV. I'm not too overjoyed to inform you that I'm about to embark on the purchase of my third bike since gaining my full access licence just last August and I hope this next one is a keeper..I really do. I'm looking at getting a 700Tracer GT much to the annoyance of my long suffering wife. Maybe I'll get a 4 cylinder machine next? And I'd finally like to meet some like minded folks if possible at some point. Any chance of a BAT camp-out somewhere near Wales this year? Good luck Ross and I wish you a v speedy recovery matey. All the best.
11/06/2021 22:27:16 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I'm terribly loathe to publish details of where I'm going to be at a future date. I don't wish to advertise that I'll be away from home on such and such a date because I don't want some nefarious criminal to think "Ooooh that BAT fella is on holiday, I'll pop around his house".

Mind you they'd be bitterly bitterly disappointed. The only thing of value is my bike which I'd be riding and my toe-nail clippings collection that goes back 30 years. So unless they have a fetish for random Honda clutch cables and home made tyre changing kit it wouldn't be worth the effort.

If you drop me an email RobEll I could let you know that way if I'm going to be in your area? PS - if you found the 500 a little "lacking" do take a look at the 700 Tracer. That engine is an absolute PEACH!!

12/06/2021 08:07:25 UTC
RobEll said :-
Sounds very like my own place that does, but I have a guard wife, a dog and three small, ferral animals to protect my nail clippings collage... Children, they are sometimes called. I will do
12/06/2021 10:06:35 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Children? Those snot gobbling non earning high cost hard work small people? I have one myself but he's 30 now so a little (just a little) bit easier to manage. They do have their uses though, as I child myself I doubled as a Dishwasher and Human TV Remote Control.
14/06/2021 07:55:29 UTC

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