Brain and Mental health
Every biker knows riding a bike is better than driving, but is riding a bike healthy? In a car, the commute seems mundane and forgetful. The biker faces a multitude of bends, corners, junctions, and obstacles which all challenge the brain. This all makes the commute much more memorable and interesting and is great for our mental health.
Because of the daily challenges bikers face, we have to focus more on the road. Where the bike is positioned, the conditions of the road and what the other vehicles around us are doing. This makes us have to concentrate just the little bit more, which all keeps the brain active.
What does science say?
Scientists believe that this added concentration actually increases brain function and health.
Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, a well known Japanese neuroscientist and author of “Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain”, explains:
Riding a motorcycle changes the simplest of commutes into an event that challenges the mind in ways that driving just can’t. In a ‘use it or lose it’ sense, 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.
What Dr. Kawashima is saying, is that every time we ride, we use more thinking power. This concentration on what we are doing helps reduce brain ageing and lets us develop faster thinking times.
Brain ageing aside, riding a bike is also good for mental health. In times of stress, being alone and free on the road gives us a sense of self-confinement. We can talk to ourselves about our problems or worries and it allows us to think about them in detail.
Sometimes this can help us think harder and help us find solutions, or sometimes just saying something in the confines of our own helmet can help certain thoughts or complaints out of our minds without any negative effect.
The fresh air is great too!
Finally, we enjoy riding a motorcycle otherwise, we wouldn’t do it. Spending time doing something we love and enjoy is always good for our health and boosts our mood. Even spending all that time working in the garage stripping and cleaning, is time dedicated to something we love.
A holistic health benefit; riding a bike uses more muscles than you think!
As we all know, riding a motorcycle is more complex than gripping the bars and twisting the throttle. We need to support our riding position in the comfiest way possible, and for most of us riding modern bikes, that means using your knees, thighs, arms and back.
To maintain good riding position, especially on the sports bikes, we have to use our knees and thighs to keep us locked onto the tank. This prevents us from losing balance. This is sometimes accompanied by tank grips, which help generate friction between you and the bike. Because of this, we use our legs more than we think when riding (and no, getting your knee down doesn’t count). Our legs are powerful sources of balance and feel when on the bike, and sometimes, you can really notice it after a long ride.
Our arms are more than just sticks used to turn the handlebars, they are dampers in absorbing the momentum delivered from fast acceleration and also from bumps in the road. Every been out for a spirited ride and the next day your arms are sore? Arms are not just there just for show!
Posture is key. An uncomfortable bike may do more damage!
Keeping upright and having good posture is all well and good, but as we all know, riding a motorcycle also comes with a lot of protective equipment. Back protectors conform to the curvature of our spine, but helmets only conform to the shape of our heads.
Helmets surprisingly, build up the strength of the neck in many ways, not only is wearing a helmet adding an extra 1kg – 1.5kg for the neck to support, but the drastic changes in speed and momentum we face when riding can cause large forces on the neck and spine. Look at car and bike racers, they all have huge necks!
Many people with high-end helmets made from lightweight materials praise them, saying that the comfort they feel isn’t restricted to their plush interior. Due to their lightweight design, the neck isn’t strained as much during rides in comparison to a heavier helmet.
Connecting our head, chest, arms, and legs is our core. Arguably the strongest muscle groups in the body, and one that does so much work. Its the core that’s holding everything in the right position and keeping the rest of our body in check.
Racers especially pay attention to their core because its one of the key components they need to move correctly and generate the angles they need for those high lean angles.
Riding a bike alone won’t get you that six-pack, but good core strength can be developed to assist you in your riding, no matter what bike you ride.
Using all these muscles also means burning calories!
Using these muscle groups means that you’re going to be working hard. We all know after a long ride we can end up a little hot from riding through those twisties. We have all seen the footage from MotoGP where they had the heart rate monitors fitted to the riders. These guys are the epitome of health, and clock some good numbers on the heart rate scale.
Indeed, the use of all your muscles to grip the bike, brace yourself and control the trajectory of your vehicle, burns good amounts of calories.
Granted, it’s not as good as going for a run or cycling to the shops, but it’s still there so I’m going to count it! Some sources say that riding a motorcycle burns up to 600 calories an hour.