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Biking the path to mental wellness

Added on: 31st January, 2019 by

Biking the path to mental wellness

(left to right) Katie Marlow (third from right) and fellow riders at MTB for Mental Health.

Last Updated:
Thu, 31 January 2019

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For Katie Marlow mountain biking has been the key to beating depression and she’s keen to pedal out the message to others to join her.

Katie, from Barnsley, had struggled with mental health issues for most of her adult life, but after stumbling on a mountain bike video online, she decided to get on the saddle and try it out.

After buying a bike, Katie’s completed sponsored rides, tried new trails, climbed hills, attempted tricks and after feeling more positive and confident has now set up a new group, MTB for Mental Health, encouraging fellow sufferers to join her on rides around the region.

Katie, who works as a trainee legal cashier at Wake Smith Solicitors, said: “I had struggled with my mental health for most of my adult life. Nothing in particular triggered my depression, it just crept into my life and didn't announce itself until it was something I was no longer equipped to deal with. It had slowly, but surely, eaten away at my love for life, my passions and my self-respect.

“After finally seeking help from the NHS about two years ago, I began my recovery through cognitive behaviour therapy and my outlook on life began to change.

“Not long after I started therapy, I got a brilliant new job with opportunity and a nice office with my own desk! Something I had never had before.

“All through this recovery period I was looking for something that would help me rediscover a passion in my life and I happened to stumble on to a mountain biking video on Facebook and I asked my best friend if she fancied trying it too. Luckily she did and I haven't looked back since!”

Katie now runs MTB for Mental Health in her free time which organises wellness rides aimed at people new to mountain biking, who want a relaxed ride in the beautiful scenery in and around Sheffield and the Peak District and who want to experience a slice of the exciting sport.

The rides are already attracting a group of eight cyclists who all go out every two weeks to enjoy the fresh air and excitement of the trails.

Katie has also launched a range of merchandise including t-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts and accessories and has been on trips to Wales and Leeds and even roped family members into getting back into the saddle.

So how does mountain biking make Katie feel?

She said: “It’s a joy. I mean the pure kid at Christmas, whooping in delight, kind of joy. A feeling I had all but forgotten in recent years.

“A joy that pure is something I had lost touch with, I think the depression had hoovered up my sense of fun along with other key parts of the person I used to be, and am slowly returning to. I associated this type of activity purely with childhood before and I think a lot of people may be the same.

“As adults we are told to be sensible and not take too many risks. Long days leave us feeling drained and stressed, and that feeling of childish joy takes a major back seat in our lives.

“Then, I found mountain biking and the feeling of joy came back to me in a sudden rush. I was hooked after one ride. My first adult ride was in one of the wettest settings you can imagine, puddles everywhere, rain coming down in sheets, getting stuck in boggy grass. Who knew getting drenched would be so fun! I peddled my way through puddles the size of swimming pools and loved every minute of it.

“This feeling hasn't gone away with time, and I think it is an integral part of why we keep riding no matter how many times we hit the deck or something happens that scares us witless.

“Riding has brought a sense of fun and playfulness into my life that hadn't been there before, shining some light back into the darkness.

“Whooping with joy as you hit a jump and the grin that you can barely hold back is such a good feeling, you can't help but want to go back for more.

“This feeling is multiplied when you ride in a group. They encourage you to do things you may not attempt on your own and show you something you didn't know before. When you all nail a feature, the feeling of joy and accomplishment you all feel together is something that can leave you smiling to yourself for days afterwards!

Ride member Richard said: “I’d been riding for 18 months, after realising I needed to get exercise and get out in the local countryside to improve my mental and physical well being. I’d been depressed since having a colostomy bag fitted, several years ago.

“I’d been out on a few group rides before, but I tend to ride more on my own as I’m a bit of a loner. When Katie started posting her rides as events, I decided I was going to go on one at some point. I finally went last Sunday.

“I had a great time, I wasn’t the slowest, as I usually am on a group ride, and I wasn’t the fastest but I really enjoyed the sense of camaraderie that came with knowing we were all there to help ourselves feel better.

“I’ll definitely be going on some more rides soon and look forward to meeting up with the group again soon!”

Katie added: “I can’t begin to explain how much it means to me that people have travelled to come on a ride with me, let me lead them and make sure they have a good time, it’s just an amazing feeling.

“It’s encouraged me to make the MTB for Mental Health's wellness rides a regular event happening every two weeks.

“Mountain biking can help your mental health, just like it’s helped me and my friends. It’s made me smile, and that’s some of the best medicine around.

“Why not come along. Bring your bike, your helmet and a sense of adventure and you'll do just fine!”

For further details visit Facebook, Twitter or Instagram MTBforMentalHealth or visit

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