Study Shows Motorcycle Riding Good For Health


An old motorcycling adage asserts, “You’ll never see a motorcycle parked outside a psychiatrist’s office”, and medical science has proven it true. In a neurobiological study conducted by a team of researchers at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and funded by Harley-Davidson, it was found that motorcycling “increased metrics of focus and attention, and decreased relative levels of cortisol, a hormonal marker of stress.” Of course, we riders already knew this in general principle, but now the science bears it out.

Dr. Don Vaughn and his research team outfitted 50 experienced motorcycle riders with mobile EEG monitors, then turned them loose to go ride. The riders had their brain activity and heart rate monitored, as well as levels of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. The researchers monitored riders’ brain activity before, during, and after a ride, and while driving an automobile and at rest for comparison. Their findings demonstrated that while riding their bikes, participants experienced “increased sensory focus and resilience to distraction. Riding also produced an increase in adrenaline levels and heart rate, as well as a decrease in cortisol levels- results often associated with light exercise and stress reduction.”

Here’s some of the data the study compiled:

  1. Riding a motorcycle decreased hormonal biomarkers of stress by 28%.
  2. On average, motorcycling for 20 minutes increased riders’ heart rates by 11% and adrenaline levels by 27%, as in light exercise.
  3. Sensory focus was enhanced while riding a motorcycle vs. driving an automobile, an effect also observed in experienced meditators vs. non-meditators.
  4. Changes in study participants’ brain activity while riding suggested an increase in alertness, similar to the effects of a cup of coffee. (cup of coffee coupled with motorcycling- double the benefit?)

“While scientists have long-studied the relationship of brain and hormone responses to attention and stress, doing so in real-life conditions such as these is rare,” noted UCLA professor and senior research team member Dr. Mark Cohen. “No lab experiment can duplicate the feelings that a motorcyclist would have on the open road.” Amen to that.

Harley-Davidson Senior Vice President of Marketing & Brand Heather Malenshek commented, “The research findings Dr. Vaughn and his team identified helps 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. We hope their findings inspire the next generation of riders to experience these benefits along with us.”

Our takeaway from this study? Ride more for better health in 2021 and beyond. We certainly plan to.

See you out on the road,


*materials sourced from, and Harley-Davidson

*Photos by Harley-Davidson


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