Video: Why Does Riding a Bike Feel So Great?

Oct 25, 2022 at 2:28
by Focus Bikes  

Words: Focus Bikes

We might have felt it all. It's a sensation like no other. Sheer excitement, sublime enjoyment. After you've experienced it once, you just want more. But where does this feeling come from, and how do we get it more often?

Dr. Joseph Devlin (Professor at UCL in London, UK) and Olly Wilkins (Pro mountain biker)

Join us on a scientific journey of discoveries. Can our perceptions and suspicions stand the ultimate test? The giant magnet will hopefully give an answer. Scientific revelations await!

At FOCUS, we went on a journey to find out what's behind this feeling of the Rider's High.

We wanted to find out - in measured, scientific terms - how our body is creating such a strong feeling. So we spoke to a neuroscientist, a physiologist and a group of riders to understand what happens when we have a great ride.

Why do we feel this awesome feeling after landing a jump, riding a trail for the first time or cruising through the woods on a beautiful spring morning? What happens in our brain, to our body and does everybody feel it the same?



We know that riding bikes feel great. This documentary provides a scientific perspective on that feeling, helping us to understand why it happens and how we can get it every time we ride. A little spoiler: we even sent Olly for an MRI scan to see what exactly happens behind his eyeballs when he rides his bike.


Tove floating



72 Comments

  • 68 4
 Now do the same when telling people it's only internal headset routing from here on..

(*Test case shouldn't be only customers letting other people do their bike maintenance. **You know, the same people who get mad nowadays when they get charged 100+ for installing/removing some spacers or a bearing)
  • 6 0
 Internal head cable routing is the new press fit bottom bracket (only much worse)
  • 39 1
 I loved this. As a physician that is 'addicted' to the rider's high, I recently listened to the Huberman Lab podcast on alcohol. If you have 2 hours, give it a listen. I decided to cut dramatically back on alcohol and I can't believe how much better I'm riding. Instead of dumping all of that dopamine during a couple of beers, I think I have way more to use on my rider's high. I'm more in the moment, more focused, I have slept better the night before and at 57 years old, my DH strava times have never been better. maybe worth an experiment ?
  • 7 0
 I'm having my brain MRI'd soon by a professor friend's grad student in a month or so. Its for pain research but I am now telling him I want bike videos playing as well. I gave the gopro thing a try so I have personal POV footage. Double up the research and see if getting excited with something you like changes pain perception. I've actually had a full brain and spinal chord MRI previously for similar research he does but I was hung over and it wrecked the data. Oops. SO happy I get another chance.
  • 4 0
 I on the other hand haven't really had anything to drink in a couple years and I don't feel any of that. I stopped because I was waking up early to ride and hate being sort of hungover. Do not feel more in the moment or focused at all though.
  • 5 8
 So what works for you. Placebo is a hell of a drug.
  • 8 8
 Do what works for you. Placebo is a hell of a drug.
  • 2 1
 This is the same as working on your headset mounted cables. Its so shit that you get a huge dopamine reward from it when you finally get to go riding.
  • 1 0
 @goffboy: I bet the dopamine rush from the rider high does wonders for pain management. Thanks for doing the research!!
  • 2 0
 @dphreaner I checked out the Huberman Lab podcast at your recommendation, starting with the alcohol episode - it's really interesting and informative. Thanks for introducing me to a new thing I enjoy!
  • 32 1
 Because it brings you back to the joys of being a little kid.
  • 27 0
 You're probably right. I think a key element of the enjoyment of mountainbiking is that feeling when you stop worrying and just ride your bike and don't have to think about anything else. That mental clarity when all anxiety from stressful daily life is just displaced by the joy of living in the moment.
  • 1 6
flag KK11 (Nov 5, 2022 at 7:44) (Below Threshold)
 Ask Chappetta lol
  • 2 0
 @Muscovir: I've ridden some trails where I felt nothing but anxiety and stress. When The Fear takes over.
  • 23 3
 Why does wrenching on your bike feel so great if you use external cable routing?
A complete mystery
  • 5 1
 You can see the result!
  • 11 13
 If I pay for outside premium, can I filter out stupid comments about internal headset routing?
  • 6 0
 @milesofkyle: I'll pay for Outside Premium if I can watch you route new cables through an internal headset.
  • 1 1
 feels like wrenchinnnng a raaw.... a great feeling.
  • 24 6
 “Riding feels good, don’t you want to feel good more? E bikes will let you ride more, don’t you want to ride more? Ebikes will make you feel good more, ebikes, ebikes, ebikes”
  • 5 0
 Science? E-mazing!
  • 2 11
flag Pinemtn (Nov 5, 2022 at 20:00) (Below Threshold)
 You’re just mad kuz you don’t have one
  • 5 2
 @Pinemtn: I rather have a fast car or motorbike than an ebike...my bicycle is just that, my bicycle...fitness, nature, downhill thrills etc... If I want more adrenaline I have a car for that...why mess about with half a horsepower when you can have hundreds XD
  • 2 1
 Parent should be the highest voted comment; a thinly veiled e-bike plug.
  • 18 1
 If it cost 10k should feel good right
  • 12 3
 Yeah sure, it's an expensive sport, but I don't think it has to be.

I honestly had some of my most memorable, most fun and overall best rides of my entire life this summer, on a borrowed 2020 Scott Spark 960 which when it was new would have retailed for like 2k €. Equipment plays a part in it all, but that baseline of things you absolutely need to enjoy mountainbiking to it's fullest is probably quite a lot lower than what everybody thinks.
  • 1 1
 Meh, I have almost as much fun on my $500 17 YO hardtail as my new FS.
  • 1 2
 @Muscovir: I don't know if you are just spamming under every article or the entire PB is just in love with Spark. It seems like everyone talks about spark since down-country test is out. I looked on Scott's website... yeah nice bike but seems like every other bike. Why buy Spark over anything else?
  • 15 3
 Great concept, a shame that it concludes that you need the assistance of a lithium impregnated lump to achieve 'The High'. I can confirm that you could've used this as positive marketing for the full range @focusbikes (except those with headset routed cables).
  • 14 0
 Cool video and study, then there was the subtle selling of E-bikes at the end, argh.
  • 11 0
 I like;
-going fast
-pushing myself physically
-wilderness
-mechanical devices
-oiu'd

Mtb gives me a little of all my favorite things (I left one off as not to be crude)
  • 3 0
 Not Oui’d?
  • 11 0
 It activates the primal centers of the brain and shuts down all the worry and stress of life. There’s no such thing as mental pain or discomfort out in the trail.
  • 4 0
 ...until you crash and break your (insert body part here).
  • 12 0
 Because the seat hits my girl area in a special way. That's why.
  • 11 0
 No time to stress about life's problems when I'm concentrating on not crashing.
  • 5 0
 I like when I’m going down a technical or fast flow trail and forget I’m riding a bike. When the bike becomes and extension of my biology. Moving perfectly in orchestra together without thinking but while Being present in the moment. I’m chasing that every ride.
  • 2 0
 There was another study that said ppl had fear and other unpleasant states during downhill... so they didn't understand why was so pleasant...

Well here my state, is like with plant medicine/psicodèlichs ... The more fear you face and successfully navigate it, the better you'll feel after... It's plenty straight away on MTB I'll say while you on it...
  • 3 0
 The bike gives you super powers. Adrenaline is released. Intense exercise and dopamine. Being around trees is associated with feeling good. You don't have any time to think about life.
  • 2 0
 Yes for me ,my number one sport by far ,and I done it very ,it’s just another level ,even in that long rides without any challenging downs or ups ,when you fell tired in the end ,and if you look into the mirror directly to your eyes you will see it ,it’s like a drug ,but a good one ,they are shining bright,it is not for everyone I guess ,but in this society of More More More ,it is a blessing,even on small rides ,it is inexplicable,and you do not need to have great skills ,or be in great form ,it’s like magic ,for me .
  • 5 1
 A human on a bicycle is the most efficient land animal maybe we secretly enjoy using our tools to be superior
  • 9 0
 "Let me go and roll through the woods and show those animals who really is the king of the jungle."
I guess we all have our own reasons for riding...
  • 8 0
 I only compete with the other MAMILS.
  • 1 0
 Bikes are freedom. My daughters on heavy clunky kids bikes remind me every time we go for a ride. The pure joy on their face with the wind in their hair. Feeling the ground roll underneath you. Mountain bikes can be a spendy sport. But the fun and freedom of it all isn’t. Bikes rule! Also nice advertisement.
  • 1 0
 Dopamine rush when you nail it. Pure n simple. The rush of fear and then confidence of execution is the ultimate high. But at end of day it's all just a dopamine rush whether it's a easy flowy run or extreme scary chunk. Pretty simple
  • 1 0
 Very interesting study. Thanks for the afford. Would love to see this scan with a racer racing down a full world cup track . If they also ride much in the moment or the prefrontal cortex brain is more activated and they start to think more about lines etc.
  • 5 5
 Ahh yes the riders high..what all ebikers miss out on.. especially climbing I love climbing .. climbing is the most essential part of mtb..gets your endorphins going you get that runners high..ebiking takes all that away.. another reason why ebikes suck.
  • 1 0
 It's about the sensation of speed and maneuvering powerfully, smoothly and effortlessly. Not specific to riding. I"ve gotten an identical buzz from flying military jets, windsurfing and snowboarding.
  • 1 0
 When riding uphill i have time to think&reflect and as soon as the trail starts its like meditation. Plus all the benefits of doing sports and being outside, flowstate etc. It just balances me out
  • 2 0
 Well, huh, might as, might as well ask why is a tree good? Why is the sunset good? Why are boobs good? - Joe Dirt
  • 2 0
 How does Dr. Devlin feel about beeing called dude about a hundred times? Big Grin
  • 2 1
 Expect anyless from condom looking beanie?
  • 2 0
 Because dopamine...and Surfing is a whole another level because submersion and floatation.
  • 3 0
 Talk about burying the lead! Well played, e-bike lobbyists
  • 1 0
 :-))))))
  • 1 0
 On a related note, check out the book "Nature Fix" by Florence Williams:
www.amazon.com/Nature-Fix-Happier-Healthier-Creative/dp/0393242714
  • 1 0
 Funny thing riding a bike... take someone who has Parkinsons, and put them on a townie to see what happens, it would surprise you. Bikes are magic things!
  • 2 0
 Prof. Dr. Joe shreddit when?
  • 2 0
 It's not about riding a bike, it's about a beer after
  • 1 0
 Self reliance Physicality Mentality Transient experience. What goes up, must come down
  • 3 1
 E bike not needed, when I'm high on Endorphins cranking like a champ.
  • 3 2
 feels so good because of my headset routed cables. duuh
  • 1 0
 O Dub ODub, O Dub, O Dub ,ODub His intro lives in my head
  • 1 0
 Gives me the feels between my legs.
  • 1 0
 Oli _ Just roll it?
  • 1 0
 Dope!
  • 1 0
 Skids and wheelies.
  • 1 0
 FLOW.
  • 1 2
 and then y'all go and fuck it all up by slamming 6 beers post ride
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