New study gives you another excuse to ride

Why do you ride your motorcycle? Whether you hit the road to blow off some steam or boost your mood, you now have scientific evidence to support your riding habit.

Researchers at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior recently set out to investigate the mental and physical benefits of riding. The study was funded by Harley-Davidson.

The team tracked a group of more than 50 experienced riders. Using mobile electroencephalography (EEG) – think electrodes attached to your head via skull cap – they monitored each rider’s brain activity, heart rate, and levels of hormones including adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. Each rider was monitored before, during, and after motorcycling, driving a car, and resting.

Riders involved in the study experienced increased sensory focus and were less vulnerable to distractions. Their heart rates and adrenaline levels increased and cortisol levels dropped, mirroring the stress-reduction benefits of a light workout.

According to the study’s press release, other key findings of the research included:

  • Riding a motorcycle decreased hormonal biomarkers of stress by 28%
  • On average, riding a motorcycle for 20 minutes increased participants’ heart rates by 11% and adrenaline levels by 27% – similar to light exercise  
  • Sensory focus was enhanced while riding a motorcycle versus driving a car, an effect also observed in experienced meditators (vs. non-meditators)   
  • Changes in study participants’ brain activity while riding suggested an increase in alertness similar to drinking a cup of coffee     

Neuroscientist Dr. Don Vaughn, the head of the research team, says the technology that allowed them to do this type of on-the-go research is relatively new. The full report, “The Mental and Physical Effects of Riding a Motorcycle,” will be presented later this year.

“The research findings Dr. Vaughn and his team identified help explain what our riders have felt for the past 116 years – there’s a vitality and heightened sensory experience that comes from the freedom of riding a motorcycle,” said Heather Malenshek, Harley-Davidson’s Senior Vice President of Marketing & Brand. “We hope their findings inspire the next generation of riders to experience these benefits along with us.”

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