Scotland: Mental Health and the Lady Bikers of the North


Scotland has a majesty like no other that must be seen, to truly be believed. From incredible mountain ranges to open fields teeming with wildlife and grand lochs that take your breath away every time they crawl into sight – this part of the UK is undoubtedly one of the prettiest. And, for many, the scenery is made doubly as pleasant when experienced firsthand, or, as Dani Hair does it; riding on a 2015 Ducati Scrambler Full Throttle: “Riding a motorcycle in Scotland really allowed me to gain back my independence and also reconnect with my birthplace, where my family is from. To be able to ride through those areas and see where they grew up really allowed me to reconnect with Scotland in that way.

“I love exploring new places on my bike,” Dani says, “I always take into consideration where I can get a bike, wherever I’m going. If I’m travelling overseas; ‘Where can I hire a bike? Where can I take it?’ I think you just connect with those places differently when you ride through them, as opposed to being on a train or a bus. Being able to experience different landscapes on a motorcycle is a unique experience.”

Getting away into the highlands is something many – like Dani – pursue for a moment of relaxation. Combine that with biking and, well, Dani describes it for us: “Riding bikes is a form of mindfulness. You know, some people like yoga or journaling, but for me nothing stops my mind from racing more than just being on a bike and focusing on what you’re doing and focusing on the environment around you and what’s going on. It stops you thinking about anything else, and that’s just what works for me. It’s become a form of therapy, even though it started as something that made me anxious, now it actually cures my anxiety.”

And, that same philosophy is often applied to many of life’s hurdles. Overcoming a fear is usually repaid with a feeling of gratitude, a sense of accomplishment or a rush of excitement – perhaps even all of the above. Biking especially can be seen as intimidating to many who haven’t yet dipped their toes into it, and being a predominantly male-oriented environment overshadowed by the assumption that bikers are often rugged men donning black leather, motorcycling may be a hobby-option that many subconsciously push away before giving it a chance. Dani explains that: “It might seem like it’s a boys’ club, but once you start you realise that there is a huge community of women behind it as well, and they are really supportive. The girls that I’ve met through motorcycles will be lifelong friends.”

As goes for all hobbies and lifestyles – there is a place for everyone, everywhere. Even those that do fit a certain mould aren’t what they seem at first glance. “I know that bikers like to come across as super tough and cool,” Dani says, “But everyone’s dealing with their own demons. They’re actually all very nice supportive people.” With events like The Gentlemen’s Ride and charities like Mental Health Motorbike, there are services out there specifically raising awareness and raising money or helping bikers out with their mental health and with therapy. And, with awareness consistently on the rise; now, more than ever, is the perfect time to get involved with new communities and your own mental health.

Aside from the incredible community, biking offers individuals a freedom like no other. “I think, for women especially, who are looking for a hobby or an outlet to help with their confidence or anxiety, I would really encourage learning how to ride a motorcycle,” Dani mentions, “Coming out of a long-term relationship and having that ‘thing’ I can always do on my own, it doesn’t require other people, I can just do it on my own and feel good about it and explore places. I don’t know many other hobbies that allow you to do that.”

“I want other people to realise that, by riding a bike, they might also be able to solve some of their anxiety and mental health issues – not just because of the focus and mindfulness that it provides, but also the community aspect as well,” Dani says, “Having something that brings people together and where there’s a really good support environment, that really helps people as well.”

“I know it sounds cheesy, but it is a feeling of freedom. And peace, I guess.”