Cycling and Mental Health

Cycling can help elevate your mood and give you a sense of purpose.

Jimmy Spokes
Oct 24, 2023
Bradley Wiggins smilingBradley Wiggins smiling

We’re not going to pretend that managing mental health struggles is easy. It’s not like you can simply pedal away your anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue – but cycling can definitely help elevate your mood and give you a sense of purpose.

Don’t just take it from us. Cycling legend Phil Gaimon has shared how cycling has been a salve for his own mental health struggles.

"I think a lot of people gravitate to cycling for emotional therapy. Exercise is good for your body and brain, and cycling can be social and intimate if you need to talk to a friend, or solo if you want to get away and deal with your demons for a few hours.”
— Gaimon in USA Cycling a few years ago

Photo: Phil Gaimon —

But Gaimon isn’t the only well-known cyclist to share his struggles with the public.

Pro Cyclists Who Have Battled With Mental Health

Sir Bradley Wiggins: The British cycling legend and Tour de France winner has been open about his depression;

Victoria Pendleton: The Olympic gold medalist and track cycling world champion has publicly discussed her struggles with depression and self-harm;

Geraint Thomas: The professional road cyclist from Wales and Tour de France Winner has spoken about his anxiety;

Lizzie Deignan: The British road cyclist and Olympic silver medalist has talked about her depression; and

Chris Boardman: The Olympic gold medalist has been public about his experiences with depression.

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Gaimon, who has battled specifically with depression, believes that cycling brings about a sense of freedom, a connection with nature, other people and ourselves, and the sweet release of endorphins.

Let’s just point out that cycling is not a replacement for psychotherapy or medication prescribed by a psychiatrist. But it is a wonderful way to exercise, which is one of the most effective treatments available to us.

So how can cycling help you manage your mental health?

On a biological level, exercise is good for the brain. Most of us know that by now. Riding your bike releases endorphins, dopamine and serotonin – the so-called happy chemicals – which make you feel good inside and help you better manage stress.

Then there’s all of these other impressive effects:

Higher self-esteem: When you set and achieve goals like climbing an intimidating hill or beating your previous time trial or riding for endurance on a challenging ride, you show yourself just how capable you are. This sense of self is a great boost to your confidence and wellbeing.

Improved mental clarity: Ever been chewing on a problem for days or weeks and it all seems to vanish when you hop onto your bike? A few miles into the ride, you manage to make sense of the problem, maybe even find a solution and just feel more in control of your life.

Deeper sleep: Regular cycling leads to better sleep, which improves mood and stress management. We’re finding out so often these days just how important sleep is. Frequent exercise really helps to send us speedily into blissful and restorative slumber.

Better thinking: Your brain power – memory, attention, problem-solving – all improve through cycling.

Social connections: Cycling with a group of friends or even strangers offers a chance to bond with people who share at least one interest (and probably many more). And being around others really helps to move you from isolated rumination to interpersonal openness and sharing.

Why Not Join a Cycling Club?

Exercise is great. Exercising with friends is better. But what precisely could you gain psychologically by joining a cycling club or organizing a group of friends to ride together?

Well, being part of a like-minded community can improve the quality of your life by providing:

Connection and social support which reduces the sense of loneliness;

Sense of belonging to a group of people who share goals, interests, and a collective identify;

Accountability and motivation to keep riding, maintaining healthy habits, and showing up for one another;

Chances to grow as a person by challenging each other to be better cyclists and companions; and

Healthy fun which often seems elusive to those with mental health struggles but can give you a real boost in your mood.

Cycling won’t necessarily be the fix-all solution you might be hoping for. But finding freedom, friends and purpose in the saddle might just help you feel a little lighter, more confident and better equipped to tackle some of those mental health struggles you face.

Further Reading and Watching

We hope this article has inspired you to consider cycling not only as a form of physical exercise but also as a tool for mental wellness and a way to connect with the world around you. If you're interested in delving deeper into these themes, we've compiled a list of books, videos, and articles that explore cycling from various perspectives.


  1. Mind is the Ride by Jet McDonald: An adventurous cycling journey that merges philosophy and travel.
  2. It's All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels by Robert Penn: A heartwarming testament to the joy of cycling and its capacity to transform lives.


  1. The Engine Inside Trailer: This upcoming documentary explores the transformative potential of bicycles across the globe.
  2. Peter Hogan's Inspiring Story: From overcoming addiction to discovering hope through cycling, Peter's journey is truly inspiring.
  3. Brett Hite on Cycling and Mental Health: The musician shares his cycling journey amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. David Byrne on Cycling in NY: The musician discusses the joys and challenges of cycling in a bustling city.
  5. The Amazing Way Bicycles Change You by Anthony Desnick: A TEDx talk on how cycling can reshape you and your perspective on life.


  1. David Byrne on the Joys of Cycling: The musician pens an intimate article about his experiences with cycling.
  2. Graeme Obree on Cycling and Depression: The Scottish racing cyclist shares his struggle with mental health and how cycling has been a part of his journey.
  3. Graeme Obree: Do It Because You Love It: Another heartfelt article from Graeme Obree about the emotional dimensions of cycling.

We also recommend checking out these local bicycle clubs or resources to connect with fellow cycling enthusiasts and join a supportive community
Bicycle Coalition,
San Diego Cycling Groups,
Bike Silicon Valley,
Los Angeles Cycling Clubs.

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