"We all ride to escape our problems," says Adrian Korner, former Sol Invictus Motorcycle Co manager. Beside him is Faidon Christodoulou, workshop manager of Newtown communal motorcycle garage Rising Sun Workshop. We're sitting across from the RSW workshop, inside its adjoining ramen cafe, to chat about their new motorcycle mental health initiative, Lost Motos, which has fast gained traction among riders.
Born out of a camping trip where everything that could have possibly gone wrong did, Lost Motos is a group supporting positive mental health among motorcycle fans.
It was founded by Korner, Christodoulou and Ferri during a beach getaway to Stockton in 2018. At the time all three riders faced demons of a different sort and the idea was to go out and get away from it all.
They describe the trip as ironic because everything that could have gone wrong did: Two out of three bikes broke down and they all went to sleep in a tent full of mosquitoes.
There's something to be said about relationships which have strengthened through hardship and reflecting back, Christodoulou says.
"The idea grew from that trip for us because we were able to be vulnerable with each other." Once the riders had sought help from friends, family and professional services, they looked back and saw how great each other's support had been.
Searching for connection
To 'Find solace amongst good friends' is Lost Motos' motto. The group's niche market has attracted a loyal following in the local motorcycle community, interstate and abroad with members as far as Europe, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Since launching their private Facebook group in November 2018, they've had a steady 10 person growth each month. The group has also grown to include two more board members, Ramsey Sayed and Paros Huckstepp. In August this year they announced their next step: they're currently registering as a Not For Profit.
There's still a lot of stigma surrounding motorcyclists. While the image of riders has changed through generations and has shifted a lot more recently, there's still this idea that riders are tough guys, or stoic.
"Even if you're on your cafe racer, people look at you as though you're a tough person," says Korner.
But male motorcyclists, just like other men, still face their demons.
Korner, who has become synonymous with the Sol brand, is well known for his ability to produce head-turning motorcycles.
But before joining his first Thursday night ride with local motorcycle community Sydney Cafe Racers in 2016, he was so nervous that he strategically arrived a minute before the ride was scheduled to leave so he wouldn't have to take off his helmet.
At the time he struggled with depression and found talking himself into attending the ride was a battle in itself.
As Korner's confidence grew, Thursday night rides became his weekly escape. Similarly, for many motorcyclists, long rides and weekend escapes on their bikes can be somewhat therapeutic.
Within a month he had met Christodoulou and another rider, Arron Ferri, and together they formed a small group which allowed Korner to feel safe and protected.
"When you ride a bike, you can't really focus on anything else than what's in front of you," says Christodoulou. While a lot of riders might find solace through riding, it takes more than a two-wheeled trip to solve problems, he notes.
"It's when riders stop the engine that everything begins rolling back in."
"We're not crisis support," says Korner, noting the group's intention is not of professional care. Rather it's a community-level support group normalising talk about mental health and providing a platform for the harder conversations to take place.
Beginning a conversation
It holds monthly meet-ups for its riders and occasional seminars and workshops. Entry is gained by a three-question Facebook screening and followed up by a call or meet up with an administrator. This begins the conversation and connection, helps determine reasons for joining and, most importantly, protects its members.
"Some share on their first day whereas others have been there [in the group] since day one and still aren't ready," says Korner.
Inside, there are experiences Christodoulou describes as stories you just wouldn't hear anywhere else. Asked how you instill that kind of confidence to be vulnerable?
"It's easy. You just start by sharing," he says.
"We set the groundworks and people just follow."
Support is available for those who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800; beyondblue 1300 224 636.