Motorcycle Travel Is Good For You: 10 Scientifically Proven Benefits!

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If you ask any rider why they love motorcycle travel, they’ll tell you a whole range of reasons as to why.

For some, it might be the thrill. For others, it’s the excitement of travel or experiencing new places. Others will say it’s about getting away from the stresses of life for a little while.

Many people choose motorcycle travel for the peace and quiet. And almost every rider on the planet enjoys the wind in their hair and the feeling of the sun on their face.

Whether it’s for the love of the road, the love of the bike or the love of nature, we all enjoy motorcycle travel for a variety of reasons.

And that’s okay. Because today I have 10 reasons why your excuse is the perfect excuse to tour!

motorcycles on bridge - motorcycle travel
Motorcycle touring is scientifically proven to be good for mind, body, and spirit

Meeting ‘Old Jim’

When I first passed my test, I went on a tour of Wales through a friend of a friend of a friend.

Being new to riding and motorcycle travel, I wasn’t sure of any roads or routes – so I went with them in an effort to learn and improve my riding.

The group was made up of six bikers; the eldest of which looked to be about 60.

Out of the bunch, he was the most experienced having been riding since the age of 12.

He’d also raced bikes competitively in his time, and was now content to ride the winding roads of Wales.

Not only was he the oldest and most experienced, but he was also the fastest – despite being on a bike that was way older (and slower) than those of his younger counterparts.

Out of the six, he was the most modest, the most grounded and the most switched on to the environment around him.

classic biker on harley davidson
There’s a reason why older riders are so switched on! (Image via Oleg Magni/Pexels)

A Sage Of Riding

At some point during the tour, I found myself warming to the knowledge and wisdom of this quietly wise gentleman.

As it happens, this 60 year old (ish) chap turned out to be 88.

88!!

I was absolutely stunned that an 88-year-old could look 30 years his junior. And I was even more stunned that his brain was so incredibly sharp – even at his ripe old age!

He was quicker off the mark than the rest of us and he read the road so much better than any of the younger riders.

And this got me thinking about bikers, biking, and how the stereotypes just don’t add up.

old rider on vintage bike - motorcycle travel
Always listen to the wise, old-timers! (Image via Sinitta Leunen)

More Than The Stereotypes

I already knew that there was ‘something’ to all this riding stuff.

Despite being a new rider, I’d already felt it.

I already knew that we bikers weren’t what the negative stereotypes and reputations made us out to be.

But when I met Jim, I knew for definite that there were physical, mental, and emotional benefits to be had from all this motorcycle travel malarkey.

There had to be.

Related: Motorcycle Touring Etiquette: Do You Know These 11 Unwritten Rules?

two bikers on mountain road
There’s definitely something to this riding stuff (image via ToNic Pics/Pixabay)

Noticing The Health Benefits Of Motorcycle Travel

As the years have gone on, I’ve met numerous people from all over the world who are just like Jim – people who have since confirmed that something is indeed going on in the bodies and minds of bikers that keeps them fit, healthy and happy.

But just saying it isn’t enough.

So I trawled through the research out there and put together this article which uses bona fide scientific studies and research to show just how motorcycle travel is good for you!

Benefits Of Motorcycle Travel: The First Study

Back in 2017, UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior conducted a research project funded by Harley-Davidson.

Bikers all over the world have claimed for decades that there are numerous physical and mental health benefits to riding and motorcycle travel.

And the purpose of this research was to see if those benefits did indeed exist.

You may have already come across this research, but if not, this is what it found:

rider on harley-davidson cruiser - motorcycle travel
The UCLA research project was funded by Harley-Davidson

1. Motorcycle Travel Relieves Stress & Improves Alertness

The first thing the boffins at UCLA saw was the almost instant stress relief that came with motorcycle travel.

Within 20 minutes of riding, cortisol (the body’s main stress hormone) decreased by around 28%

Not only this, but the team also noted an 11% increase in heart rate as well as a 27% increase in adrenalin.

Team these together and you end up with effects similar to that of exercise – resulting in an increased ability to focus.

Not only this, but the changes that occur in a biker’s brain activity suggest an increase in alertness similar to drinking a cup of coffee.

The leader of the research project, Dr. Don Vaughn, commented:

“We found that riding a motorcycle for 20 minutes caused a significant reduction in relative levels of the stress hormone, cortisol,”

And Dr. Vaughn’s team aren’t the only ones noticing these effects in riders.

CrossFit and Endurance athlete Eric Hinman (who was not a part of the UCLA project,) also noted that bikers receive an endorphin rush when they ride which gives a sensation similar to that of a runner’s high.

And as a runner, I totally get where he’s coming from:

“I think it’s a combination of the risk of being on the motorcycle, having to be in the present moment (watching for other motorists), and just being outside taking in these epic views,”

2. Motorcycle Travel Is A Form Of Low-Impact Exercise

Delving further into the research, Dr. Pamela Reilly from the Good Works Wellness Research facility found numerous physical attributes in those who ride:

Stronger Knees & Thighs

As part of her research, Dr. Reilly noted that various orthopaedic surgeons have suggested that those who indulge in prolonged riding and motorcycle travel have fewer knee problems throughout their lives.

And it isn’t just knees and legs that benefit. Others include:

Strong Core Muscles

All the slow manoeuvring, steering and balancing we do on a bike also strengthens our core – which in turn improves our posture.

For more information on motorcycle-specific exercises to strengthen legs and core muscles, check out our post: Motorcycle Fitness: Get More From Your Tour.

Motorcycle Travel Burns Calories

The average person burns around 200-300 calories per hour during their gym workouts. Motorcycle travel burns around 600 calories per hour.

No wonder we’re always stopping for cake!

motorcycles outside cafe - motorcycle travel
Where there’s cake, there’s bikers! (Image via Devolve Moto)

3. Motorcycle Travel: Exercise For The Brain

Motorcycle travel doesn’t just affect us physically.

The mental aspect of riding is so complex that it actually acts as a workout for the brain, too.

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

“Riding a motorcycle challenges the mind in ways that driving just can’t. 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”.

With his lifelong, riding-inspired brain training, no wonder Old Jim was such a switched on old rogue!

moto guzzi v85tt off-road
Motorcycle travel keeps your brain sharp (Image via Moto Guzzi)

Motorcycle Travel: It’s Not All About The Physical

Most of what I’ve touched on above revolves around the physical benefits of motorcycle travel.

But perhaps more important than that is the mental and emotional benefits that come from it also.

There are a significant number of studies out there which suggest that the exploration of a new place can do wonders for your mental health and wellbeing.

Let’s take a look.

5. Busting Stress

From a personal standpoint, one of the reasons I broke into motorcycle touring when I worked in the corporate world was to find relief from professional stress. I wanted to find something meaningful in a world that made me feel like a number.

Travel promotes happiness and relieves stress. And as mentioned above, riding also lowers cortisol levels meaning we get a double-whammy of stress relief when we combine the two and indulge in motorcycle travel.

Touring on my bike has also played a major role in my decision to shift career paths.

It allowed me time to think and reflect. It gave me the opportunity to do some soul searching. And it gave me the chance to decide what was really important for my own happiness.

Clinical Physiologist, Dr. Tamara McClintock Greenberg, supports this notion:

“[Travel] helps us reflect on our personal goals and interests,”

motorcycle on grossglockner - motorcycle travel
Motorcycle touring gives us time to think and reflect

6. Motorcycle Travel: The Opportunity To Reinvent Ourselves

Motorcycle travel has the power to allow us to reinvent our lives.

It opens our eyes to the world.

It allows us to assess the path we’re on and the direction we’re taking. The experiential nature of travel can challenge our morals, principals, and values.

And more than that, it gives us an opportunity to change them for the better.

Motorcycle travel has the power to do that – and it’s also why you’ll see notable, positive changes in people that return from a motorcycle tour.

motorcyclist off-road pakistan
Travel gives us the opportunity to challenge our views and perceptions of the world (Image via Margalla Bikers)

7. Motorcycle Travel Boosts Happiness & Satisfaction

Personally, I’m not too sure that as people, we are meant to be tied down to a particular place our whole lives.

I think we need travel in order to learn, grow and thrive.

For me (and millions of other motorcyclists), being outside on my bike, exploring new places, and fulfilling dreams makes me happy.

Even the act of planning a trip brings me joy!

And when I get back from a trip on my bike, I feel such a sense of satisfaction and personal achievement that I can’t wait to do it all over again.

It shapes who I am as a person.

off road biker at sunset - motorcycle travel
The satisfaction of touring and travel makes us feel good (Image via drive.mag)

8. Motorcycle Travel Makes You Resilient

When we travel on our motorbikes, we often have to overcome difficulties, complications or problem-solve.

It’s never quite as straight-forward as we’d hoped for!

When things go wrong at home or at work, we shout, scream and complain until (usually) someone does something about it.

If something goes wrong on your trip, there is nobody to sort out the problem at hand but you.

Motorcycle travel forces you to learn and adapt to things that are usually out of your control. Whether it’s fixing your bike at the summit of a mountain, or simply negotiating a situation when there’s a language barrier, motorcycle travel forces you to learn and adapt.

And these are lessons we bring home with us.

changing motorcycle tyre
The struggles we face on tour shapes us as people when we come home

When I Realised I Was Just One Of Many

One of the biggest lessons I learned through motorcycle travel was just how big the world is. And more importantly, just how small I am within it.

I was in the middle of the Alps and stopped to take in the view. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and nobody was on that mountain but me.

It was at this moment that I realised just how big the world was. I could see – with my own eyes – just how powerful nature was. And I realised just how small I was in the midst of it all.

I am not special, unique or important.

I am the same as you and everybody else. My problems aren’t any worse than yours. My achievements aren’t any greater. And my needs aren’t any more pressing.

It taught me to be patient and tolerant of others because they are just the same as me. And it taught me to simply accept that this massive planet will throw something at me every now and then that is completely out of my control.

Motorcycle travel taught me those lessons of patience, tolerance and acceptance.

And I’ll remember that for life.

motorcyclist by lake - motorcycle travel
The world is bigger than I am (image via Dutchie)

9. Harness The Power Of Motorcycle Travel

Don’t just let the lessons you learned or the skills you acquired escape you when you return home.

Hold on to the memories. Hold on to the lessons and use them to enhance your life at home.

Remember the peaceful times. Treasure the creative times. Bank those times of realisation and use them to propel your life forward when you get home.

Motorcycle travel has the power to let you become the person you wish you were.

So let it!

10. Motorcycle Travel Makes You Live Longer!

So when we look at all the evidence above, it should come as no real surprise that those who travel reportedly live longer.

Through reducing stress levels, strengthening bones, creating a healthier heart, and boosting the brain, motorcycle travel enhances our lives and ultimately increases our life expectancy.

And best of all?

We’ll have a damn good time doing it!

motorcyclist countryside and lake
Those who tour live longer. Is there any better excuse to get out on your bike this summer?? (Image via Ilkin Guliyev)

Motorcycle Travel: Conclusion

So it would appear that whatever your reason for motorcycle travel, it’s probably listed as a benefit to either your heart, your body, your mind, or your well-being.

I’m in my 30’s so I still have about 50 years to go before I’m the age of Old Jim.

But I’ll let you in on a secret…

If motorcycle travel reduces stress, keeps my body and my brain in tip-top condition, stimulates creativity, AND has the potential to make me a better person, then I, too, will be embracing motorcycle travel right into my 80’s!

Has this motivated you to start planning your tour? Good. Then you’ll need these!

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