Monday, June 21, 2010

Diabetes & the Art of Motorcycle Riding

For some reason, the fact I have diabetes AND two X chromosomes causes people to respond with shock and amazement when they find out I own and ride a motorcycle. The reasons for this are a mystery to me, but the phenomenon is universal enough that I felt compelled to share some information about why there's no reason to be shocked that a female with diabetes rides a motorcycle and lives to tell about it. I'd also like to share some tips that will hopefully help others with diabetes step out of the box, buy a bike and start living in the fast lane!

Much of the information in this post is related to information shared in my post: How Motorcycle Riding Improves Health. Please read that if you need to prove to someone that riding a bike makes you healthier!

I see absolutely no reason why a diabetic should not ride motorcycle. However, folks with diabetes who want to travel on two wheels need to understand that they must ride responsibly and exercise caution. This includes ensuring they maintain blood sugars at normal levels. People with diabetes obviously need to check their sugar before riding. I recommend eating a snack including one or two servings of carbohydrates and at least one serving of protein prior to riding (without taking any additional insulin) to help prevent unexpected low glucose levels. A rider with diabetes should always travel with a fast-acting source of glucose such as fruit juice, glucose tablets, a banana, etc. It's that simple. Diabetics should never be without a source of glucose, anyway, so packing a snack is plain ol' common sense. It is also wise to carry a form of protein, such as nuts or a nut butter, to help maintain sugars at a stable level.

The most important factor to remember is that riding a motorcycle requires greater physical exertion than driving a car. Because of that, diabetics who ride may discover they need far less insulin or medication and/or need to eat more when they ride. I find I'm able to turn my insulin pump completely off on the days I ride long distances. This is a wonderful additional perk to riding! The increased physical exertion, which borders on a mild form of exercise, also increases insulin sensitivity for 8-12 hours, further adding to the health benefits of riding a motorcycle. I've learned to eat some carbs and protein before I ride and to turn down the basal rate on my pump (or turn it off entirely) to avoid an unexpected low while I'm on the road. I've also learned that if I kill the bike when starting from a stop light, I need to pull over and check my sugar immediately. That simple indicator that my reflexes may not be at 100% is worth paying attention to!

The amount of insulin I use on the days I ride long distances is often 1/2-1/4 what I use on a normal day. This means that riding a motorcycle boosts my mood, increases life satisfaction, is more fun than words can describe, and improves my health! It just doesn't get any better than that. Regardless of how many wheels you choose to travel on, be smart, travel safe, and live abundantly!

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