Research reveals new potential mental and physical benefits from riding a motorcycle. Anyone who’s been riding for a while already knew this. Now, science is here to back it up.
The research was performed by UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. It was funded by Harley-Davidson.
Other studies have shown that riding a motorcycle can help reduce stress. This new UCLA study builds on that evidence. They found several key benefits from riding:
- Decreased levels of cortisol,
- Increased heart rate and adrenaline levels,
- Better sensory focus, and
- Increased attention and alertness.
How Did the Study Work?
The researchers said they knew “anecdotal reports have suggested that riding a motorcycle may have beneficial effects on riders’ brains and physiological states.” How could they prove that it was true?
They used a mobile EEG to track the electrical activity of 77 motorcycle riders’ brains. They also had measured the motorcyclists while driving a Lexus NX200 and while resting. Additionally, they took urine and saliva samples after each test.
What Did the Study Find?
Dr. Don Vaughn was the lead neuroscientist on the research team. He said previously measuring the impact of motorcycling on the brain didn’t exist. Vaughn added, “[t]he brain is an amazingly complex organ and it’s fascinating to rigorously investigate the physical and mental effects riders report.”
Motorcycle Riding Leads to Decreased Stress
The study found that “riding significantly decreased levels of cortisol by 28%.” This decrease in cortisol, according to researchers, indicates the riders experienced a decrease in stress.
There’s no mention if this applies if you’re stuck in traffic or on a flying motorcycle. We’d recommend sticking to a wide open road if you want to ensure a decrease in stress.
Riding Causes Increased Adrenaline and Heart Rate
The study also found increased levels of catecholamines like epinephrine (adrenaline). Riding a motorcycle increased these levels by 27% versus resting. Driving a car did not have a similar effect.
Similarly, riding increased participants heart rates by 11%. Driving only produced a 7% increase. The researchers say, “the observed increase in catecholamines and heart rate suggest that riding, but not driving, increases arousal of the sympathetic nervous system.” They add the level of increase is similar to that of “light exercise.”
Bikers Have Better Sensory Focus
The EEG results found that riding heightened the participants sensory processing ability. They found that this occurs via two mechanisms. The first is “strengthening focus.” The second being a heightened ability by the brain to passively perceive “charges in the sensory environment.”
Riders Have Increased Attention and More Alertness
Finally, the EEG results found an increase in alertness “similar to the effects of caffeine.” The researchers say it is similar to a single cup of coffee. According to the USDA that is about 95 mg of caffeine.
Riding a Motorcycle Has Mental and Physical Benefits
Riding may help you reduce stress, increase your focus, and give you an adrenaline buzz.
If you were thinking about selling your motorcycle, you might want to think again. This study gives you scientific evidence to go for another ride.
It might just be time to prepare yourself for a long distance ride. The test participants rode for only 22 minutes, but hopefully the longer the ride, the bigger the benefits!
Do you agree with the study? Or have a story about the benefits you’ve seen from riding? Let us know your thoughts or experiences in the comments.