Mountain Biking Causes Mental Illness: Find Out Now If You Are Insane


Mountainous Bicycling Dependence Disorder (MBDD) is a common but serious mental health condition in which an individual is physically and/or psychologically dependent upon riding a bicycle upon the earth’s natural surfaces. MBDD occurs exclusively in avid mountain bikers and affects all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. While it is mostly seen in adulthood, there are some case reports of children at high risk for MBDD, suggesting a possible genetic component.

MBDD causes symptoms that affect the way a rider thinks, feels, behaves, and relates to others and his/her surroundings. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and, although most cases are chronic, there is a high incidence of acute MBDD psychosis, often leaving the afflicted unable to cope with life’s daily routine.

The maddening effects of MBDD upon construction of trail. Photo: Bob Heimbuch.

Signs and Symptoms

If you experience the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from MBDD:

  • While riding, manic states of feeling overly happy, “high,” or elated for long stretches of time, evidenced by a distinct facial disfigurement wherein the corners of the mouth appear to connect to both ears
  • Unkempt appearance such as: grime under the fingernails, mud behind the ear(s), or a characteristic greasy mark on the right calf resembling a chain ring
  • Evidence of self-harm, such as: history of broken clavicle, scarring on shins, or trauma to the hand
  • The need for markedly increased amounts of riding to achieve stoke, or diminished stoke with repeated rides of the same type, length, or technical level
  • Rides that last longer than intended (aka, epics)
  • The desire to ride results in a significant increase in time, effort, and financial burden to satisfy the need, while reducing the person’s social, occupational, or other recreational engagements
  • Riding continues despite inherent physical risk
  • Delusions or fixed beliefs in light of conflicting data evidenced by statements such as:
    • 26″ ain’t dead
    • Fat bikes are the greatest revolution in the history of mountain biking
    • If it wasn’t Strava’d, it never happened
    • The minimum bikes one should own can be solved by the formula, n+1, where n is the number of bikes you currently own
  • Knows his/her bike’s torque specs better than children’s birthdays
  • Hoards old, odd, and obsolete, bike parts citing “just in case” as an excuse
  • Acutely aware of exactly how many days have passed since last ride
  • Significant other is acutely aware of exactly how many days have passed since last ride based on the rider’s level of anxiety, irritability, temper, and general moping

Unlike other substance dependence disorders, those who suffer from MBDD feel no guilt or remorse after riding their bikes, nor do they feel the need to cut back or control the number or length of occurrences. Also, unlike any other psychiatric illness, MBDD is highly contagious.


Risk Factors

  • Lives in close proximity to continuous stretches of narrow trail which primarily consist of dirt, but may also contain a varied mix of rock, root, water, and man-made features such as wooden walls, tabletops, gap jumps, etc.
  • Having one or more mountain bikes in the home
  • Demonstrates thrill-seeking, adventurous behavior
  • Lack of spousal oversight
  • Strong affinity for the outdoors
  • A score of 5 or more on the MBDDQ (see below)

Screening Tools

MBDD is considered to exist in degrees of severity rather than a categorical absolute. In other words, the question isn’t whether you are dependent on mountainous biking, rather how far along the path of dependence you have progressed. The severity of mountain biking dependence can be quantifiably assessed using the Mountainous Bicycling Dependence Questionnaire–a self-administered, 12-item diagnostic test. The MBDDQ does not look at any other areas of mountain biking-related harm. Answering “yes” to at least 5 items on the MBDDQ suggests serious risk for MBDD while an affirmative response to 8 or more items is considered a strong indicator of severe MBDD. Anything in between is left to the discretion of professional counsel, where further evaluation may be needed.

This MBDDer continues riding despite inherent physical risk and increased financial burden

MBDD Questionnaire  

1. Have you ever felt an overwhelming need to ride the morning after an epic ride, just to feel normal?

2. Do you find that the travel indicator of your fork and/or shock is frequently bottomed out over the course of one ride despite normal suspension function and properly-set sag?

3. After 3 days without riding, do you become irritable, restless, feel worthless, or have a markedly diminished interest in all other daily activities?

4. On a weekly basis, do you fail to do what is normally expected from you because of mountain biking?

5. Has a relative, friend, or doctor ever been concerned about the amount you ride or suggested you cut down?

6. Do you become annoyed, bitter, or resentful towards those who are concerned about the amount you ride?

7. Do you obfuscate recently-purchased bike parts, gear, or complete bikes for fear of rebuke from your significant other?

8. Do you skimp on tipping the waiter, complain about the price of gas, or call up Comcast after the smallest rate hike, but not so much as flinch at a $250 price tag on a bike part that saves you 25 grams?

9. Is your bike worth more than your car?

10. Is the time you spend not riding your bike consumed by buying more stuff for your bike, reading reviews about other bikes, or buying more bikes?

11. Can you translate the following? 150mm, 29″ (27.5+ compatible), solo air Pike RCT3 with 110x15mm Boost, 551 A-C, 46 offset

12. Do you use a toothbrush more often to clean your bike’s drivetrain than your teeth?

MBDD renders one useful to nothing more than riding a mountain bike


There is no known cure for MBDD and, throughout the short history of mountain biking, failed attempts in treating those living with this disorder have no more than left caregivers in a wake of frustration. While seizing the mountain bike would seem to be the most definitive treatment, it is not without serious consequence, as abrupt cessation from mountainous riding in chronic MBDD can lead to sudden and worse behavioral symptoms, or a related condition known as Mountainous Bicycling Withdrawal Syndrome (MBWS).

As close observers of the maddening effects of MBDD, we at Singletracks suggest that treatment revolve exclusively around supportive measures. It’s been this author’s experience that the very devices, attitudes, and behaviors fueling this disorder are the only ones that, if tolerated and accepted by others, will help MBDDers the most.

In other words, rather than trying to cure MBDD, embrace it. Better yet, catch MBDD like the cold and join us!

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