Shreditation: Mountain biking and mental health

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    • #253148

      Do you have a story of riding to get through hard times or ways mountain biking makes you better able to deal with the world?

      Please share your story here!

    • #253155

      So no dramatic story to tell, but after I started mountain biking again several years ago after a twenty year hiatus, I was able to completely go off anxiety meds that I’d been on for almost ten years.  At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it has seriously changed my life, both physically and mentally.  I truly feel like I’m a better parent, partner, friend and employee since hitting the trails regularly.  In order to keep me sane year round, I also have a fat bike for winter riding.  Mountain biking has helped me manage the normal stresses of life as well as the crazy “sh**t hitting the fan kind of stress!  Life is indeed better though my rose-colored Oakleys thanks to Mr. Santa Cruz and Heller!  🙂

    • #253172

      I will say mountain biking improves my mental health.  It helps me burn off stress, decreases depression and anxiety, reduces irritability,  and just helps me clean out my head and all that “junk” that gets stored up…..I’m able to get a lot of things straightened out in my head while I ride.  I also use the time spent riding just meditating and marveling at nature and all of God’s creation which helps me build spiritually and gain a greater connection….and that’s the largest part of my mental health improvement.

    • #253191

      MTB’ing for me is like therapy.   The endorphin rush you get from pushing your limits is addictive.  And when you’re riding there really is no time to dwell on the stressors in life as your mind needs to be focused on the trail and your line.  The downside, however, is getting really bummed when you can’t ride.

    • #253204

      I don’t have any real significant story. However, I have used mountain biking for years as a way to temporarily escape from the demands and pressures of the world. When I am out on the trails, the only thing I think about and focus on is what is 20 meters in front of me. By the time I am done riding, my head is clear, I am fatigued and I feel great!

    • #253226

      Nothing special or dramatic for me, other than what others have said… riding is a great escape, gets my mind off of (and forget about) daily nonsense, makes me feel good, relaxing, adrenaline rush, etc.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone for a ride after which I didn’t feel better, even if the ride sucked.  I guess, to address your question… “ways mountain biking makes you better able to deal with the world”, I would say for me it does because of all the reasons I mentioned.

    • #253327

      If it wasn’t for mountain biking, I would be a depressed, constipated, over-weight, diabetic, grumpy old man. Instead, I’m thin, fit, and look 10 years younger than my age. Mountain biking makes fitness fun. OK, maybe I am still grumpy!

      • #253338

        Love it!  Anti constipation riding!  🙂 I’m going to assume that works for me too, and I’m not gong to stop riding to find out!

    • #253340

      BTW, I added shreditation to my spell checker…  next, get to added to Webster’s.

    • #253362

      I think OldandRolling nailed what makes off road great – I call it “forced relaxation.” When you’re pushing it, you have to focus on the next 20 feet and therefore the rest of the world hits the pause button.  Aside from the obvious physical benefits, I think sometimes we forget the mental aspect.

    • #253363

      I suffered for a long time with devastating PTSD after getting out of the Marines.  When I finally got back into biking, and running, my MTB literally helped save my life.  I battle my demons with every crank stroke.

    • #253364

      Man, I had a lot to say here but I feel it’s best to just summarize it and spare the details. –

      I have to agree with everything I have read in the previous responses so far! Riding really helps me shed the stress of the weekly grind and come out covered in dirt and smiling. It doesn’t matter what is wrong in my world on a given day, a ride of any type will improve my mental state. An MTB ride through a beautiful trail area shaded by Redwoods and ferns of course has the most positive and lasting effect on my mental health but truly any ride will help SOME.

      I can clear my head and think clearly about any matter that has been bothering me OR I can leave it all behind and lose myself in the ride. On the other hand, riding can build a foundation for better mental health for long term effects as well. Like how taking my kids along for a ride can build stronger bonds between us and create lasting memories that have a sort of reassuring effect when I’ve spent too much time at work and I begin to worry about how they view their dad.

      I could probably go on but for the sake of others I’ll stop now haha.

    • #253373

      I’ve been mountain biking much of my adult life. Just joined this group and thought I would share my story. Two months ago tomorrow, I lost my 29 year old son to cancer. It’s been absolutely heartbreaking. He never got the itch to bike like myself but we enjoyed lots of time together on the water fishing.

      I’ve been fishing once since he’s been gone and found it to be agonizing. You can probably imagine.

      The thing about biking is it doesn’t remind me of him. I don’t need any additional reminders so this is a nice break for me. I find that if I don’t ride hard it gives my mind the ability to ride and think about something other than the rock or tree ahead. So I ride hard. As hard as my 63 year old body will let me. Nothing but the trail ahead. The rocks, trees, roots and curves. It’s the only thing I can do that requires total concentration. It takes me away from the “what if’s” and “what could have been”. It’s total chaotic serenity.

      Thanks for letting me share.

      • #253415

        oldmtbr, I am so sorry for your loss. I am sure the pain is still very fresh so I am glad mountain biking gives you a little serenity. Sending you a little extra peace today, and please don’t hesitate to seek extra help beyond the trails.

    • #253374

      I have loved biking ever since that first moment when I rode faster than Dad could run and I was on my own two wheels.  Growing up we destroyed bikes through unrelenting use.  My parents always made sure we each had a bike to ride, but typically just bought them at garage sales or auctions, since we were so hard on them.

      I bought a mountain bike when I was 16 and used it for 20 years.  I rode like crazy for the first several years, but got busy with life and discovered that my back and knees didn’t like biking so much anymore.  I still rode now and then, but not as much as I wished too.  Last year while riding in Toronto I broke a shifter and decided it was time to retire the bike and find something new.  A month later I bought a Rocky Mountain Fusion 29″, made sure this one fit me.  I instantly started back into riding and fell in love with biking all over again.  My endurance is not great, but I was getting better.  Then I crashed.  Broke a few ribs and torn some stuff in my shoulder.  I haven’t ridden in almost 12 weeks.  Ribs have healed quite well, but the pain in my shoulder is not fun.  I want to try riding again, see if my shoulder is ok with the riding position or not.

      While riding, I felt mentally clear.  The outside world disappeared, it was just me, my bike, and nature.  By the end of a ride I would be physically spent, but mentally recharged.

      Using a cycling computer with a heart rate monitor added to the feel good aspect.  I am not a “fit” person, according to whatever standards are out there.  I have a physically demanding job that will leave me spent at the end of the day.  I grew up working on the family farm and have always loved being able to do heavy lifting, drive tractors, wrangle animals, fix equipment, etc.  But to the world I still look completely out of shape, despite being much stronger than your average female.  My ride stats show that yes, I can sustain an elevated heart rate for an extended period of time.  My cardio is not all that bad.  And I was able to pedal my “excessive” weight up that hill.  The numbers don’t lie, I can do that!

      Since crashing, I have not felt that feel good feeling and I dearly miss it.  I had no idea how much I was loving it, until it went away.  All the feel good has gone away and been replaced with pain.  At least the stabbing pain from my ribs has subsided.  If the weather is ok this weekend, I want to go for a test ride on the road.  I still don’t know if the bike is 100%.

      As a side part:  I only listen to music when riding on the road (country back roads, little traffic, miles of visibility).  On the trail I listen to nature.  Music is a huge part of my life, but I don’t miss it when I can listen to my surroundings.

    • #253431

      To put it simply, if I think about work – I crash. If I pay attention to mountain biking – I have fun – I don’t Crash! and I get rid of my rectum-spinal-myopia (that where a little bug enters through your nether region, crawls behind your eyeball and give you a sh!&&y outlook on life)

    • #253434

      It’s a short story: Outdoor activities keep me whole, so I do them regularly.

    • #253450

      Men were never designed for the BS of the modern world, never designed to sit in a cubicle all day. Yes, any adventure is therapeutic and mountain biking is a grand adventure.

    • #253483

      With a good amount of exertion uphill, a few thrilling high speed downhills, some moments being awed by the beauty of this created world and contemplating its existence, and finally a solid dose of adventure, I am as contented and at peace as one may ever be.  But then again, the rest of my life couldn’t be better either.  So I guess I should give much thanks to have the life I have.

    • #253484

      Uuuugggghhhh, Scrapper.  Your story killed me in some ways — the injury just as you have really found mountain biking again.  Live up to your name and make yourself better through the difficulty.

      • #253590

        I will get back out there, I just have to make sure that I don’t cause any further injury.  Shoulders are not to be messed with.

        In the meantime I am still playing volleyball.  I missed three weeks of playing, and then played through the pain after that.  If I stretch too far I’ll still get a sharp pain from my ribs.  I hurt my left shoulder, so I don’t do too much with it within a game that hurts.  Bumping, volleying, etc doesn’t hurt.  Left handed spiking definitely hurts, but I typically spike right handed.

        I plan to go skiing when the weather allows.  Other than ‘skating’ on flat ground, I won’t need my shoulder too much.

        Here in Canada we’re in the messy part of early winter, lots and lots of rain and cold weather.  Biking conditions are not wonderful as it is.

    • #255383

      Thanks for all of your thoughtful and personal replies, folks. This sort of sharing can be equally difficult and helpful. Your responses are greatly appreciated.

      If it is okay with y’all I would like to use some of your quotes, anonymously of course, for a series of articles on mountain biking and the mind. The focus will be on the positive benefits of riding and spending time in nature, as well as some tactics to overcome cognitive blocks we all form around crashes or ego explosion. I will interview psychological professionals and mountain bike riders of all stripes to share the narrative of better brains through trails.

      If you would not like your quote to be in an article, please let me know and I will omit it. Conversely, if you have an interesting story and want to be interviewed, let’s chat. Feel free to contact me directly if you prefer.

      [email protected]


    • #255497

      It just feels great to get out and ride.

    • #647982

      Mountain biking has been my saving grace during tough times. There’s something about being out in nature, feeling the rush of adrenaline, and conquering challenging trails that helps me find strength and clarity. It’s like therapy on two wheels!

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