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How to Manage Anxiety on a Motorcycle Trip – 10 Creative Tips

Let’s chat about the BIG, FAT elephant who stomps through the room of our mind whenever we are doing something outside of our comfort zone. Have you ever gotten anxiety on a motorcycle trip?

Anxiety on a Motorcycle Trip

Yes, it happens to almost all of us. 

The worry that you won’t be able to do it. You’ll totally screw up and everything will go wrong. All of the worst things will happen. WHAT IF…?!

But by not going on that motorcycle trip you dream of, you are cheating yourself of what you are truly capable of. 

I’ve experienced anxiety on a motorcycle trip that almost stopped me from traveling a couple times. In fact, it actually DID stop me on one trip. 

My Personal Story of Anxiety on a Motorcycle Trip

I had traveled to Tennessee previously to see my friend and had a wonderful time. It was actually the trip that really started it all in terms of solo motorcycle travel for me. The plan was to do it again a few weeks later, but when the time came to actually leave, I was feeling incredibly anxious. I don’t know if it was seasonal or hormonal or what, but I was feeling negative about this trip for no reason in particular.

Having dragged my feet getting ready that morning, I set out almost two hours late. I hadn’t brought my heated gear despite the chilly morning because it was supposed to warm up later. Now I was highly regretting it in the freezing wind chill of the highway. Negative thoughts were piling up, and I reached a breaking point when all of the restaurants I tried to stop at for a quick breakfast were either closed or drive-thru only. 

I texted my friend that I couldn’t make it and turned around to head home. Relief set in until I made it home and warmed up, when I regretted that I hadn’t stuck it through. It was warming up outside, and I would be halfway there by now if I had just continued on. Everyone HATES feeling regret, right? 

The Promise to Myself

I vowed to myself then that I wouldn’t let my anxiety on a motorcycle trip stop me from completing a tour again. And I was granted the “opportunity” to prove it to myself a few weeks later, when I traveled to the Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Kentucky

My camp site required a bit of off-roading over gravel, ruts, and wet leaves, which I was nervous about on my Ninja 400 sport bike

On my trip, I had to offroad a bit to get to my campsite, through some deep ruts and slippery, wet leaves and gravel. I was inexperienced and uncomfortable with offroading. I was also not on a suitable bike, given that I traveled there on my Ninja 400 with sportbike tires. 

Having just traversed the gravel, ruts, and leaves, I discovered that I had no cell service and there was no wifi. 

I immediately had anxiety about not being able to contact my husband, Tim or my mom. What if I wrecked on this gravel driveway and had no way to call anyone? It was secluded there, so what if no one found me?

No Regret This Time

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about just going home early or finding a different campsite. The anxiety set in like a thick cloud. But I had vowed that I wouldn’t let my anxiety stop me from completing a trip, and I wasn’t about to back out of that now. So I dug into everything I know about managing anxiety on a motorcycle trip and in general, and made it through that trip – one of the most amazing, life-changing trips I’ve taken. 

Tips for Managing Anxiety on a Motorcycle Trip

You might be wondering what it was that I was able to do to manage the stress I was feeling on my moto camping trip. Let’s get into the tips for managing anxiety on a motorcycle trip one by one. 

#1. Baby Birds

“Baby what?” you might be asking. Whenever we are anxious on a motorcycle, we tend to death-grip the bars. This excess force causes you to tense up, hold your breath, and a host of other symptoms that are the opposite of what you want when riding a motorcycle. The remedy is to release the grip on your bars, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. 

Riding curvy roads can cause some people to tense up, so it’s important to remember to loosen and relax your grip on the bars.

The way that I remind myself of relaxing while riding is a tip from a friend – treat your grips like they are baby birds. Imagine holding a baby bird. You need to hold it tightly enough that it doesn’t fly away, but gently enough that you don’t hurt it. 

It might sound odd, but it’s a useful tip and I repeat the mantra “baby birds” to myself when I notice that I’m very tense during stressful situations (such as traffic, parking, offroading, etc.). It works like a charm!

#2. Diaphragmatic Breathing

This long word simply means that you breathe into your belly instead of your chest. Try it now, take a long breath for 4 counts deep into your belly, by breathing through your nose. Then immediately let it out, through your mouth, for another 4 counts. Do you feel more relaxed already?

There’s a lot of science behind this that I will butcher if I try to explain, but breathing into your diaphragm (which is in your belly) tricks your nervous system into relaxing. It’s a tried-but-true method for managing anxiety that works on and off the bike. 

The best thing about it is that you don’t have to look like some kind of meditative zen-master while you do it. Just do it quietly to yourself while riding or walking or doing anything, really, and no one will ever know. 

#3. Just COMMIT!

If you’ve ever watched a video or taken a course on U-Turns, it might have recommended for you to turn your head, turn your chest, etc. and then COMMIT to the turn. I find this is the same in a stressful situation. When I pulled up to my campsite at Natural Bridge, I knew that I was anxious about the gravel but I had no other option. I had to just commit. Whenever you’re in an anxiety-provoking situation, sometimes it’s best to gather up your gumption and blast your way through it. It’s when you second-guess and doubt yourself that you can make mistakes. 

I’ve had to park in gravel and other off-pavement surfaces on almost all of my moto camping trips.

#4. Focus on Your Senses

If you’re feeling overcome by anxiety, a good way to pull yourself back to reality is to focus on your senses. Notice one thing that you are experiencing from each of your senses. The sound of your motor revving as you give it throttle. The feeling of your grips under your palms. The smell of fresh grass along the side of the road. Do it for all five senses and see if it brings you out of those negative thoughts and into where you need to be – the moment. 

#5. Manage Your Hanger

I know for me personally, my anxiety is 100x worse when I’m hungry or fatigued. To prevent this from happening in the first place, I try to anticipate when I’m going to need to eat or rest and pull over well in advance so that I don’t get the dreaded hanger – it just makes everything else so much more stressful. 

#6. Pull Over if Necessary

If your anxiety on a motorcycle trip is so through the roof that it’s no longer safe, pull over. It’s okay if you didn’t have a break planned or it’s not the place you wanted to stop at or you’re running behind or whatever crazy reason you can come up with for not practicing self care. Just pull over if that’s what is safest. 

There’s no shame in pulling off to the side and enjoying beautiful scenery to take a rest.

#7. My Personal Favorite Tip for Managing Anxiety on a Motorcycle Trip: Fear = Excitement

This is my favorite tip of the whole list. The physiological response your body has towards fear – stiffening of muscles, clenched stomach, rapid heartbeat and breathing – are the exact same as that of excitement. If you’re feeling scared, just remind yourself that this is what you wanted. You signed up for an experience and an adventure!

If your mindset is that you are excited, your body will just go along with it because it doesn’t know the difference. It might sound like some voodoo, but it is a legitimate trick that works for me regularly. 

#8. Practice, Practice, Practice

Don’t let the first time you try your moto camping gear be in the field, or the first time you ride with weight be on a 1,000-mile trip. Try my approach for setting up your campsite in your backyard, and load up your bike before the trip to ride it around for an hour or two to learn what the extra weight feels and handles like. 

#9. Question Your Thought Pattern

Challenge your thoughts when they turn negative or anxious. If you start to question “what if…” something bad happens, turn it around. What if it DOESN’T happen? What if the trip goes perfectly? What if you manage anything that happens like a pro? Remind yourself of reality – just because you have the thought of something bad happening does not mean it actually will!

You’ll learn so much about your methods, what tools you need, and what to expect by just trying it out beforehand. 

#10. My Final Tip for Managing Anxiety on a Motorcycle Trip: Prepare

Anxiety tends to flock towards the unknown, and so if you can prepare and plan for something, thereby knowing what to expect, you can reduce the amount of anxiety you might experience on your motorcycle tour. Look into your destination beforehand, find some routes, locate some areas to stop, and make a list so that you’re prepared when you go. 

Utilize maps and navigation apps to plan and prepare for your motorcycle trips.

How to Stave Off Anxiety on a Motorcycle Trip Before It Starts

I know that you are courageous, you are capable, and you are stronger than your anxiety. With these tips, you can overcome any anxious thoughts, on or off the bike.

Tell me in the comments, what will you commit to doing that faces your fear of taking a solo motorcycle trip today?

One way that you could do this is to download the Moto Camping Starter Kit. It’s helpful for both touring and moto camping and can get you rolling on your first trip, or help you improve your methods if you’ve already traveled before.

Editors Note: Head over to Carly’s website to download her Starter Kit. It’s a great resource… as is Carly herself. If you have questions about solo motorcycling or moto-camping, Carly loves to help, so get in touch.

Carly never gave motorcycles a glance until she rode a scooter for the first time in 2019. Now, she looks at practically nothing else! Motorcycles are life for her, and if she’s not actively riding, she’s working on her business, 2 Wheels 1 Girl. Her website was founded after Carly traveled long-distance for the first time, as that trip started a quest for more motorcycle tours and moto camping trips. As she learned from her experiences and pushed the limits from each previous trip, Carly wanted to help other riders who are just starting out with their motorcycle travels or who have experience but want to improve. Her day job as an Instructional Designer offers her the perfect skill set to share her passion of motorcycle riding with others. She loves writing almost as much as riding, and never leaves home without her notebook and favorite pen. If Carly’s not out moto camping on her Kawasaki Versys-x 300, you might find her tracing the raceline at the track on her Kawasaki Ninja 400, or just enjoying time spent with her Goldendoodle, named Toast, and husband at home.


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