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Access to the great outdoors through open roads, desert highways, and riding in community with people can bring healing and therapeutic benefits to motorcyclists. For those that serve or have served in the military, the feelings of adrenaline, adventure, and camaraderie can provide stress relief, socialization, and solutions for physical and mental health. The benefits associated with motorcycling make the hobby a popular pastime for military personnel. This guide offers an analysis of benefits as well as an introduction, important information, and resources to discovering and accessing motorcycle therapy.

Benefits of Motorcycles to Veterans and Active Military Members

In a study funded by Harley Davidson and conducted by Dr. Don Vaughn and UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, riding motorcycles improved metrics of focus and decreased stress biomarkers. The results of the study highlighted:

The notable changes in heart rate, increased focus, attention, and adrenaline, along with the decrease in cortisol and DHEA markers are similar to changes often associated with exercise and stress-reduction activities. Alongside these physiological and hormonal benefits, many motorcyclists and active or veteran military personnel find this hobby to be therapeutic for veteran PTSD symptoms, as well as a bonding and cathartic experience for veterans returning to civilian life.

Outdoor activities can help veterans overcome PTSD. Outdoor activities can impact stress management by alleviating feelings of pressure and mental stress and increasing life satisfaction, mindfulness, and feelings of happiness and fulfillment. Adrenaline can make positive impacts on physical and emotional wellbeing via feelings of excitement, heightened senses, easier respiration, blocking pain, and increasing the immune system. By combining outdoor and high-adrenaline activities in a hobby such as motorcycling, riders can experience the benefits of both in addition to benefits specific to motorcycle riding, such as:

Types of Motorcycles

There are many types of motorcycles, each built with a specific focus or a specific riding style in mind. It is important to consider the types of riding you will do (on- or off-road, with a passenger or solo) to determine the best bike for you. Consider the following.

Different types of Motorcycles
12 Different types of Motorcycles (not including Electric)

What Type of Motorcycle Is Right for You?

Motorcycles are not “one size fits all.” It is important to select a bike that meets your needs when it comes to comfort, stability, and feel. An ill-fitting motorcycle can be dangerous, as the rider may not be able to balance or control the bike. While you may be able to adjust the suspension or seat to accommodate height, there are a few things to consider when selecting a bike.

There are many sources for information and advice regarding motorcycles and selecting the right motorcycle for you. The following options are available for further research:

Online Motorcycle Magazines:

Manufacturer websites:

Dealerships: Going to a physical dealership might help you figure out what bike fits you best. The floor staff should be able to provide insight, answer questions, and provide further information. It can also be helpful to try out a few different bikes at a dealership to get a feel for which riding position, size, weight, or type of bike would be most comfortable.

Other motorcycle riders: It can be helpful to find local groups and associations or other motorcycle riders to help guide you in the decision making process. This may include looking for local associations using riding club indexes such as:

Online forums can also be a good place to seek information from a larger group.

What Else Do I Need to Get Started in Motorcycling?

Participating in motorcycle riding as a hobby includes more than simply purchasing a motorcycle. You may also need to consider licensure and purchasing proper protective wear and equipment to ride legally, and safely.

Motorcycle License

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) regulations may vary by state to state, but every state does require licensure. In many states, you may be required to have a motorcycle permit or a motorcycle endorsement on a regular license before receiving full licensure. Motorcycle laws often include

Motorcycle specific insurance:

State by state licensure information and local state traffic laws specific to motorcycles can be found in the motorcycle manual provided by the DMV.

Motorcycle Gear and Ramp
Having a Motorcycle Ramp, Personal Protective Equipment, and License will get you started

Personal Protective Equipment

Motorcycle safety should be a major concern to new motorcycle hobbyists. Alongside selecting a motorcycle, new cyclists should consider motorcycle-specific personal protective equipment (PPE). It is important to research all PPE before purchase to ensure that the brands and equipment are reliable.

Motorcycle Safety Resources for Veterans

Motorcyclists and their passengers are more vulnerable to traffic accidents, hazards of weather, and road conditions than drivers in enclosed vehicles. Though fatalities from motorcycle crashes have slowly declined it is important to understand the risks associated with both street and off-road riding.

Many states require safety courses. Safety courses can provide helpful and relevant information and safety training that can prepare you for the road and the challenges you may face. Veterans may have specific challenges to overcome in driving in civilian life, such as driving with PTSD, accessibility issues from physical injuries sustained from service, and driving-related anxiety. Safety training can help veterans to navigate and master issues that stem from service. There are various resources available; some free, or at low cost.

Motorcycle weaving around cones
Weaving around cones during Motorcycle Safety Training Courses

Safety Training Courses

There are many organizations that hold training courses. Some provide safety information through an e-course, and some provide hands-on training.

Many states offer a list of available local training classes. This is especially common for states where training is mandatory for licensure. Check with your local DMV or search for state pages that have resources for local training, such as the Military Safety Resources.

There are many military-specific training courses available for active service members or veterans.

Motorcycle weaving around cones
Applying Repair and Maintenance to a Motorcycle

Motorcycle Repair and Maintenance Resources

Motorcycle repair and maintenance can be challenging and complex. Reviewing all documentation and the manual that comes with your vehicle can help outline the best practices for maintenance. While there may be novice work that can be performed by an amateur, seeking guidance from a dealership, organization, or repair shop might be crucial in certain circumstances. Repairs can be costly, but some insurance and warranties may cover specific types of wear, tear, and repair. The following resources can help motorcycle owners understand maintenance needs for their vehicles, as well as some useful do-it-yourself repair tips. It is important to note that all DIY mechanical work should be performed in safe environments utilizing the proper tools and powersport ramps to ensure the stability and safety of both person and vehicle.

Group of Patriots riding in a group for parade
Group of Veterans and Patriots riding in a group

Additional Motorcyclist Resources

In addition to the resources provided above, there are veteran- and active-military-focused non-profits that offer membership programs, fundraising, organize group and charity rides, do community service, and offer custom modifications to veterans.

Active Military and Veteran Motorcycle Nonprofit Groups

There are various non-profit organizations that offer free information, membership, and services to vets in regards to motorcycle riding, repair, community, and maintenance.

National Military Motorcycle Clubs and Associations

Military motorcycle clubs have a history of military tradition, first organized by veteran troops returning from combat to facilitate and adventure.