Inspiration & Humour

7 Ways Mountain Biking Makes You Happy

August 4, 2017

5 men posing with their bikes in the mountains

You’re prob­a­bly aware of the count­less phys­i­cal health ben­e­fits of moun­tain biking…increased car­dio­vas­cu­lar health, increased bone health, increased bal­ance and coör­di­na­tion, but what about the men­tal health ben­e­fits of rid­ing your moun­tain bike?

What is hap­pen­ing to your men­tal state when you con­quer a sec­tion of trail you thought was unat­tain­able, immerse your­self in the nat­ur­al world or com­plete a new time goal on your favourite local trail?

The feel­ing you get after a long ride when sweat is drip­ping down your face, your mus­cles are tired and you’re laugh­ing with your rid­ing bud­dies as you review the best wipe outs, descents and chal­lenges of the ride — that feel­ing has a lot of mean­ing — for you and your men­tal state.


It’s in these moments that a deep­er sense of grat­i­tude is built for your com­mu­ni­ty, your envi­ron­ment, and your passions.

And, it’s in these moments that moun­tain bik­ing becomes an emo­tion­al and pow­er­ful force for your over­all mood, pres­ence, and per­spec­tive on life.

Seem crazy? Well, actu­al­ly moun­tain bik­ing will keep you sane and here’s how:


Moun­tain bik­ing is a great way to expe­ri­ence the won­ders of the nat­ur­al world and take in the beau­ty of the world around you. Sin­gle­track trails that lead through beau­ti­ful pine forests of British Colum­bia or across the desert land­scapes of Moab pro­vide you with the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make deep­er con­nec­tions with the nat­ur­al world and ulti­mate­ly, these expe­ri­ences fos­ter a greater appre­ci­a­tion for nature.

With the advent of numer­ous tech­nolo­gies that encour­age us to spend our free time online instead of out­side, many stud­ies have been con­duct­ed on the cor­re­la­tion between nature immer­sion and hap­pi­ness. In 2005, author Richard Louv coined the term ‘nature-deficit dis­or­der’  to pin­point the neg­a­tive men­tal and behav­ioral changes that can occur when we spend less time out­doors and more time in front of screens — includ­ing depres­sion, atten­tion dis­or­ders, and mood disorders.


2015 study from Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty, mea­sured the cog­ni­tive changes when study par­tic­i­pants took a 50-minute walk through a nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment vs an urban cen­tre. The par­tic­i­pants that con­nect­ed to nature and strolled through the forests expe­ri­enced less anx­i­ety, increase per­for­mance on mem­o­ry tasks and greater pos­i­tive emo­tions. If a 50-minute walk­ing pro­duces changes in a par­tic­i­pants men­tal state, just imag­ine how a 2‑hour moun­tain bike ride can affect your mood! 

Two people riding mountain bikes quickly on trail through the woods with the caption, "Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul."


Going along with the idea of ‘nature deficit dis­or­der’ is the con­cept of bio­phil­ia.  The bio­phil­ia  hypoth­e­sis sug­gests that  ‘humans pos­sess an innate ten­den­cy to seek con­nec­tions with nature and oth­er forms of life.’ The term was coined by biol­o­gist and nat­u­ral­ist Edward O. Wil­son in 1984. Wil­son argues that human beings are always sub­con­scious­ly search­ing for a con­nec­tion with the nat­ur­al world. The rea­son? Because of our deep-root­ed evo­lu­tion­ary con­nec­tion with nature and our biol­o­gy. “Phil­ias” are the attrac­tions and pos­i­tive feel­ings that peo­ple have toward organ­isms, species, habi­tats, process­es, and objects in their nat­ur­al sur­round­ings.  These pos­i­tive feel­ings are cre­at­ed out on the trail — when you ride your bike or exam­ine a beau­ti­ful panoram­ic view  — it’s that sense of ‘awe’ that you can nev­er real­ly put into words. 

Man standing on a rock with a long quote by Edward Abbey about getting outside into the great outdoors.


When you fin­ish a bike ride, there is a rea­son you feel ener­gized and hap­py — sci­ence!  That’s right,  when you sweat and move your body, you release endor­phins and oth­er ‘hap­py hor­mones’ that help change your mood for the bet­ter.  Exer­cise also reduces  the secre­tion of cor­ti­sol, the hor­mone that caus­es stress and is a proven rem­e­dy for anx­i­ety and depres­sion.  Accord­ing to a study by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ver­mont, exer­cis­ing for as lit­tle as 20 min­utes a day can improve your mood for up to 12 hours. That’s a whole lot more smil­ing through­out the day! What’s even bet­ter? Accord­ing to numer­ous stud­ies, exer­cis­ing out­side increas­es the ben­e­fits of exer­cis­ing even more! So, the next time you’re going to the gym to train (spin class or weight lift­ing per­haps?),  think about how you could get the same work­out, except do it out­side!  Ulti­mate­ly, just moun­tain bike more!

Man mountain biking along a ridge line at sunset near the ocean with the words, "You're only one mountain bike ride away from a good mood."


It’s hard to stay focused these days.  You’re con­stant­ly pulled from one task to the oth­er, dis­tract­ed by the news,  a text mes­sage or a hilar­i­ous meme from your cowork­er.  Am I right?  You sit down to fin­ish an impor­tant work assign­ment and before you know it, you’re brows­ing Stum­ble­Upon (Did you click that link? See dis­tract­ed again!)  and read­ing about how in 2015, more peo­ple were killed by tak­ing self­ies than by shark attacks and oth­er use­less facts.  Did you know that ‘chero­pho­bia’ is the fear of hav­ing fun?  If would be hard to moun­tain bike with cherophobia. 

Then, moun­tain bik­ing steps in.  You dri­ve to the trail­head lis­ten­ing to your favourite tunes,  change into your rid­ing clothes, sad­dle up and start to sweat.  And, there you are… in the moment, focused on the  20 feet of trail ahead of you, scan­ning for obsta­cles, shift­ing, brak­ing and react­ing to the here and now. 

You might call it:


Moun­tain bik­ers have been doing it from the begin­ning,  because if you aren’t ‘mind­ful’ or ‘present’ on the trail — you’ll end up crashing. 

Silhouettes of three mountain bikers on a hilltop at sunset with the words, "Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling. - Margaret Lee Runbeck


Moun­tain bik­ing (and exer­cise in gen­er­al) encour­ages you to set goals and pro­motes a sense of accom­plish­ment when you work towards those goals.  When you clear an obsta­cle on the trail for the first time or per­fect a  new skill it boosts your confidence. 

Several people in biking gear leaping into the air and smiling over a reddish brown dry earth landscape in Utah


It’s com­mon for moun­tain bik­ers to strike up a con­ver­sa­tion on the trail­head with fel­low rid­ers,  vol­un­teer at local moun­tain bike events and pop into their local bike shop just to say ‘hel­lo’.  Like most sports,  moun­tain bik­ing cre­ates a strong con­nec­tion between fel­low ath­letes  and their com­mu­ni­ty.  It’s  these rela­tion­ships that fos­ter a  pos­i­tive sup­port net­work and a mean­ing­ful con­nec­tion to your moun­tain bik­ing neigh­bors and friends. This sup­port net­work decreas­es feel­ings of social iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness,  which in today’s world is becom­ing more com­mon.  Being tied to a sup­port­ive com­mu­ni­ty also encour­ages you to get involved in more  activ­i­ties and get out­side. After all, when friends invite you to ride, it’s hard to say no! 

Five mountain bikers riding in a line on a trail through a mountain valley with an arrow pointing to one person that says "You" and another that says "your friends"


I know what you’re think­ing — is there such thing as a ‘pos­i­tive addic­tion’? Accord­ing to William Glass­er, an Amer­i­can psy­chi­a­trist — there is! Glass­er explains that there are six ele­ments of hav­ing a pos­i­tive addiction. 

1. It is some­thing non-com­pet­i­tive that you choose to do and you can devote approx­i­mate­ly an hour per day.

2. It is pos­si­ble for you to do it eas­i­ly and it doesn’t take a good deal of men­tal effort to do it well.

3. You can do it alone or with oth­ers but it does not depend on oth­ers to do it.

4. You believe that it has some val­ue (phys­i­cal, men­tal, or spir­i­tu­al) for you.

5. You believe that if you per­sist at it, you will improve.

6. The activ­i­ty must have the qual­i­ty that you can do it with­out crit­i­ciz­ing your­self. If you can’t accept your­self dur­ing this time the activ­i­ty will not be addicting. 

Moun­tain bik­ing cer­tain­ly checks all the box­es of a pos­i­tive addic­tion. Time spent on the bike beats neg­a­tive addic­tions like screen time and booze. Once you’re hooked on moun­tain bik­ing, you’ll soon dis­cov­er that you’re mak­ing it a pri­or­i­ty to ride and break a good sweat.  If you’re not sure if you’re addict­ed, check out 22 Signs You’re Addict­ed to Moun­tain Bik­ing — it’s good for a laugh!