'Cycling eases the symptoms and gives me a strong sense of purpose': We need to talk about... Bipolar disorder

It’s one of the commonest long-term conditions yet it’s shrouded in stigma and misunderstanding. Chris Marshall-Bell meets two riders boldly speaking out about their experience

Rob Stephenson
Rob Stephenson
(Image credit: Future)

Looking back two decades, Rob Stephenson paints a picture of himself as a man cruising through life. He was 30 years old, the owner of a few London bars, with a handsome income and enjoying himself socially – at times “the complete life and soul of a party; an exhibitionist”. But there was another side to his character that was causing him increasing distress. The tall, wellbuilt rider, who is now 49, describes to me how, at other times, he suffered from spells of deep depression. 

After going “off the rails” during a high-spirited period, Stephenson entered another phase of depression and could take it no more. “I lost all hope and was overcome by a complete sense of futility,” says the Kent-based rider. “At that point, I wanted it all to be over – I wanted to end my life.” Having been previously diagnosed with depression, he sought help again and was finally correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Chris Marshall-Bell

A freelance sports journalist and podcaster, you'll mostly find Chris's byline attached to news scoops, profile interviews and long reads across a variety of different publications. He has been writing regularly for Cycling Weekly since 2013. In 2024 he released a seven-part podcast documentary, Ghost in the Machine, about motor doping in cycling.

Previously a ski, hiking and cycling guide in the Canadian Rockies and Spanish Pyrenees, he almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains. He lives in Valencia, Spain.