"Riding changed my life" - Army veteran Andy Brown says bikes helped him beat PTSD

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"I had a very bad 2019," says Andy Brown, a 48-year-old ex-soldier from Devon. The post-traumatic stress disorder he’d been dulling for 20 years with a succession of high-adrenalin jobs (bomb disposal, anti-terrorism, rapid response), suddenly hit home.

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"I was very poorly for a year. I lost my job, my career and nearly lost my life because of mental illness. I lost all faith in myself – if you can’t trust your brain, how can you go on? But in January I wanted to get back on a bike so I used some of my pension money to pay for a [nine-day] Rapid Training course. I’d always wanted to do something like that.

"Doing the course was life-changing – it not only improved my riding, but gave me confidence in myself too. It made me realise that my brain does work and can process information at high speed, and that I can learn and develop quickly."

Plus, the mere fact that Adam was out on a bike (he has a BMW R1200ST) helped. "The bike demands your attention – you have to focus on the here and now. It’s a kind of mindfulness, especially if you’re trying to ride well, because you have to concentrate.

Andy Brown on a tour of duty in Iraq

"And there’s the exhilaration, and you feel free because you’re out on your own with nothing to worry about except your bike. The bike keeps me connected to the outside world in a way a car doesn’t.

"I did two days of the course just before lockdown, then had to wait until June to complete it. I was worried I’d forget what I’d learned. Lockdown has been tough for people with mental health issues because we haven’t been able to access our usual support but it was such a great feeling getting back on the bike afterwards – I hadn’t forgotten as much as I thought I would during the enforced lay-off!

"My plan now is to go out and practice my riding skills regularly, then I’ve got a trackday lined up in September and me and some mates want to go touring round Ireland, and then maybe round the First World War battlefields. I would say that getting back on a bike has changed my life… for the better."

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Jordan Gibbons

By Jordan Gibbons

News Editor, owns some old bikes. Should know better.