reaching out after reaching in

Bolts 'n Brews, Bristol

Words by Simon Bradley
pics by Sean Good & Del Hickey



Editor’s note. I don’t tend to broadcast it on here, but I am former military, saw an amount of stuff I’d rather not have seen and (and this is the important bit) have lost more former colleagues and friends to suicide than to enemy action. So this story resonated with me…

Sean Good has been a biker in his soul since before he was old enough to ride. A lifetime of seeing some great leading men on their motorcycles planted the seed, advertising was all about the true freedom machine, and Sean just couldn’t help but relate to that.

Sean recognised, before he was even consciously aware of it, that motorcycles are a fundamental tool of wellbeing. The feeling of riding a motorcycle out on the open road provides a sense of calm and relaxation that is hard to find in other activities. The focus and concentration required for safe riding can also help clear your mind and promote a real presence that we lose so much of the time.

This process became more and more important as Sean developed his military career. He enjoyed 16 years in the army. A career of that length, when we were still seeing the close of Balkans conflicts, and leading into operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, meant Sean really began to understand the importance of those rides, and his own mental wellbeing.

Like many of us, Sean readily admits to shedding a tear when he thinks of friends he’s lost in active combat and its aftermath. He still suffers night terrors, recurring dreams and reels every time he hears a loud noise, but he’s a talker comfortable with sharing his feelings.

Sadly, many men aren’t. Like his buddy from basic training, tormented by the horrors of war who took his own life, adding to the damning statistic that three in every four suicides are men.

“One in eight men in the UK have experienced a mental health problem” Sean states, and that was what brought him to the likes of the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. The thought of bringing man and machine together for such a great cause was enough to convince him to expand that network and the reach of this event by starting, organising, and hosting the Bristol DGR. He’s been doing it for over 10yrs now. Sean just believes riding’s place as an antidote to depression is what makes the annual dapper day out such a powerful force in the battle to improve men’s health.

The Bristol ride which started with just 15 people and raised £1,000 now attracts close to 400 and last year brought in £23,936.56 to help fund mental health support and cutting-edge research into prostate cancer. Over the last 10yrs he has now had over 2372 riders overall, and how now raised over £131,000.00.  
However this was also where Sean saw the glaring gap as well, as DGR is just a yearly event but so many people were still coming up and asking when the next one was.

While Bristol has a substantial motorcycle scene and culture and he saw plenty of people out riding, everything felt disconnected and impersonal, lacking in closeness but most importantly a social spot a community.

Sean says “By getting together at events like DGR we are encouraging people to talk, listen and act. I still have nightmares about some of the things I saw but thank my lucky stars that I can talk about things with my family and friends, yet for many men it’s not that easy.  But it should be.”

And so it was from there, the friendships he made on those days that have helped create other riding groups and chat groups that run throughout the year.

“We would talk a lot on the phone when we’re not riding and are a support network so it’s a very proactive thing. We all know that if we haven’t heard from one of the guys for a week or two, we’ll give them a call.”

These experiences, the insight to spot a gap needing to be filled and the passion to take things forward were to form the basis of Bolts N Brews.

Bolts N’ Brews: Bristol Moto Socials aims to build a community and connect people through monthly social events. An inclusive space for everyone, whether they ride or not. While motorcycles would be the common thread, the focus is on people.

What Bolts n Brews looks to do is become that local social common place where people from all walks of life come together to share their passion for two-wheels, whether they ride a motorcycle of not. Somewhere that that, for example, could pull all these great artists together, somewhere to showcase their work. A gallery, a museum, a garage, a workshop, a showroom, a store, and most importantly a sociable cafe/bar.

In light of his personal and professional experiences, Sean could see a significant opportunity to enhance the venue’s events impact. The aim is to provide practical insights on navigating life's challenges, offering tools for better balance. All shared in a supportive environment.

For Sean it just seems to hold a real personal focus. Through his military career he had seen the sharp end of the effects of mental health. To him it is heartbreaking to think that he is getting close to having lost more friends following the end of the Afghan and Iraq conflicts, than he lost on the countless tours of those two conflicts.

Since he left the military, Sean has tried to do more. He got involved with veteran support groups, mental health support groups, and a vast array of veteran motorcycle groups.

So if Bolts N Brews had a mission statement it would be to:

  • Bring people together
  • Can open the discussions on mental health
  • Encourage people to talk
  • Help people feel valued, and part of a community
  • Provide a safe location that encourages people to open up
  • Raise awareness and funds for mental health, and
  • If we have saved just one person’s life and his family are still enjoying him today, that’s good enough.

Then Sean has achieved his goal.

At the end of Summer 2023, Sean had secured a small unit and had got together a group of like minded people to make the dream a reality. And after a couple of months of hard work pouring their heart and soul, and savings into it all, Sean and the team had turned the unit into a viable events venue.

As such they decided with the approach of Christmas and the festive period to attempt a Pre-Christmas Launcher, they put some additional touches to the venue and brought a collection of show bikes that everyone could admire. The event was a great success and they had close to 200 people attend. They left that event and went into Christmas feeling very, very positive, convinced they were on the right track and that they could potentially provide something that the community wanted and were behind.

Then just after new year storm Babet hit. They got a warning message come through to state that the weather and rain meant water levels were high and that there was now a flood warning. They headed straight down there, but by then it was too late. The water was so high they couldn’t get down to the estate.

The unit, which they'd recently passionately built as a safe haven for people to connect over motorbikes and mental health discussions, was submerged under over 4ft of water, causing extensive damage. The heart and soul they poured into creating Bolts N' Brews, along with their personal investments, have been washed away by the flood. The aftermath has left us grappling with the following losses:

  • Bikes: Flooded, even the headlights are filled with water (tide marks showed the bikes had been fully submerged).
  • Coffee roaster and coffee machine: Submerged. Beans and roasted coffe ruined.
  • Workshop tools: Destroyed.
  • Unit electrical wiring: Soaked.
  • Furniture and walls: Saturated, as they used wood to create distinct areas within the unit.

Bolts N' Brews demonstrated its viability and value as a thriving social space with the Pre-Christmas Launch. Now, it’s back at square one, with Sean and others having lost significant money and investments. Now if there’s one thing you leave the military with (apart from nightmares and a terrible emphasis on punctuality) it’s resilience. And adaptability. And commitment. Sean and the team believe they are providing what the community wants and needs.

So now they have the crucial job of draining, cleaning, assessing, repairing, and ultimately rebuilding Bolts N' Brews.

They have now started a crowdfunder which they, and we, hope will help towards some of the costs.

But more than anything this will tell them if they can actually rebuild and continue.

Here at MotorbikesToday we’ve known for years that a day’s biking is better that a year’s therapy when it comes to banishing the blues. And we believe absolutely that Bolts ‘n Brews is truly worth helping out.

Here’s the link. If you agree, and if you can help, you know what to do.



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