The Motorcycle Relief Project (MRP) takes small groups of military veterans and first responders on structured, professionally-led adventure motorcycle rides. In 2022, the Overland Expo Foundation provided grant funds sponsoring two rides: Ride #49, July 10-16 in Colorado for Veterans, and Ride #50, the Women’s Ride, August 14-20 in Colorado.
Most MRP constituents are combat veterans who have experienced mental and moral injuries from events related to their service. Additionally, veterans and first responders whose injuries don’t stem from combat experiences participate in the five-day Relief Rides. During the day, the participants, who may suffer from PTSD, depression, and anxiety, enjoy scenic ADV riding. In the evening, they have workshops designed to help identify issues holding them back and provide the necessary tools to help them move forward again.
The Colorado-based nonprofit’s mission is to honor and encourage those who have served and are struggling. MRP allows its participants to decompress, get unstuck, connect with like-minded peers, and gain new perspectives and skills for dealing with their challenges. Motorcycle Relief Project executes Relief Rides for men and women throughout the year. The Overland Expo Foundation funds provided scholarships for two riders in 2022.
“I recently rode MRP’s 49th ride, which was sponsored by the Overland Expo Foundation,” said Matthew L., one of the Relief Ride #49 participants. “I am leaving active military service after 28 years and was stuck in a rut dealing with my PTSD and integrating into “normal” civilian life as well as everyday family life; the MRP ride changed that, it was truly transformative.”
“I have a BMW adventure motorcycle and am already an outdoor adventurer, so the combination of the amazing riding we did in Colorado and the group workshops we did in the evenings gave me the tools to unlock my mind, my joy, and gave me a peace I have not known in a long time,” said Matthew.
Unlike Matthew, many MRP participants have never ridden off-road motorcycles before, so each Relief Ride has a professional ADV instructor to teach off-pavement riding skills. Riding off-road allows participants to experience the excitement, uniqueness, and therapeutic value of exploring forest roads and trails in the backcountry.
“It was truly amazing to spend time connecting with other veterans and understanding that I am not alone with the issues I am facing,” said Rob K., another Relief Ride #49 participant. “The supportive environment, combined with MRP’s workshops about dealing with resistance, gratefulness, dealing with PTSD, and about giving back, really gave me a better understanding of the issues that have been dragging me down the last couple of years.”
The MRP was founded in 2014 and has served hundreds of veterans and first responders through its initiatives. “Every time we do a ride, we have eight individuals show up with a great deal of apprehension and anxiety,” said MRP President Mike Bobbitt. “Then, over the course of the week, it is amazing to see the transitions in people. Motorcycling is the hook, and the evening workshops are where the breakthroughs happen. We never force people to talk, but when we put them in a room with a bunch of like-minded folks, eventually they spill what they’ve been carrying around for years, and it’s like a weight has been lifted.”
Bobbitt has been involved with MRP since 2016, when he went on Relief Ride #5, and has been volunteering ever since. When new leadership for the organization was needed, Bobbitt and Martin Sohlberg, a participant in Relief Ride #2, stepped in. Their goal is to keep MRP running and continue to support those who need it most. “Every day we have folks tell us we’ve helped them get unstuck, start moving forward, and change their lives. That’s what keeps me going, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Funding is MRP’s biggest challenge, with hundreds of people on the waitlist to participate in the program. Bobbitt dreams of having the staff and volunteers to expand their offerings, but they are making the most with what they have. “We currently have funding to provide ten rides each year and, as much as we’d like to grow that, it’s most important that we provide a quality experience for the participants.”
The Overland Expo Foundation proudly supports the Motorcycle Relief Project. All donations help ongoing operations at MRP. If you or someone you know would benefit from motorcycle therapy, apply to go on a ride.
“Thank you to all of the volunteers that help make the Motorcycle Relief Project run, and a big thanks to the Overland Expo Foundation for sponsoring Relief Ride #49,” Rob K. said. “Your sponsoring of that ride has had a profound effect, not only my life but the lives of my family and friends. I will be forever grateful.”