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My Adventures With Type 1 Diabetes And Cycling

Written By:
David Endy
Last Updated:
April 10, 2020
I was diagnosed when I was 22, and I will be 51 next month. Cazzy and Bradley asked if I could talk a bit about my experiences with cycling and Type 1.
Type 1 diabetic bicycle
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Hi, my name is David Endy, and I live in the US, close to Philadelphia, Penna. I have been living with Type 1 diabetes for almost 29 years.

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Soon after being diagnosed I started reading everything I could about diabetes and how to manage it. This was when you actually went to a book store and bought books (crazy idea, huh?). Almost everything I read said that exercise was a great way to help manage blood sugar levels. 

I was on the track team in high school, but always had knee problems when running regularly, so I decided to try my old 10-speed bicycle, which I hadn’t ridden since I was 15 years old. I pumped up the tires and went for a ride. Next I knew I was riding 5, 10, 15 mile rides. Although the bike was probably 2 sizes too small for me, I was really enjoying myself. I immediately saw the results in my blood sugar control. It definitely helped.

David Endy, cycling type 1 diabetic
At my first ADA Tour de Cure

After riding my old bike for a few months, I decided to purchase a bike that actually fit. I immediately fell in love with cycling. Initially, I became a little addicted to it, and felt I needed to ride every day, no matter what, to keep my blood sugar in control. I had a few years where I rode 5,000 miles or more (over 8,000 km). 

I rode my first organized 100 mile ride in 1991. I was really nervous at the start, because I was not sure how my blood sugar would react to 6 hours of constant aerobic activity. I completed the ride and finished strong. In 1991 there weren’t as many foods to easily carry on the bike (gel packs, etc). I carried sport drinks in my water bottles, and some granola bars, and the ride had rest stops with snacks and drinks, so I could stay hydrated and fed. Since that first long distance ride I’ve ridden several 100 mile and 100 km rides every year. 

The area I live is not mountainous, but there are some beautiful, hilly, country roads. There are some great roads right outside my door, and I love riding where I live. I have ridden in other parts of the US, mostly on the East Coast, but I love Eastern Pennsylvania.

Based on what I talked about, so far, it sounds like it’s wonderfully easy to do this. I have had a few times where my blood sugar has dropped dramatically during a ride, and I struggled to make it to the next rest stop, but I was able to take a little time to snack and recover before moving on. 

Luckily, I’ve never had to “give up” on a ride and request a ride back to the start. Although, I did do a ride recently where I was close to my house at the 80 mile mark, and I was feeling rough, so rode home and asked my wife to take me to get my car (it happens). The longest one day ride I’ve ever completed is 145 miles. That was tough, but I’m glad I did it.

Five years ago I participated in the Tour de Cure, which raises funds for the American Diabetes Assoc, and I was able to raise approx. $1,000 for the ADA, and rode 100 miles. I’ve ridden the Tour de Cure the last 2 years and raised close to $3,000 each of these years, and last year volunteered to help with the organizing committee and help with road markings, set up, etc for the ride. It’s a very satisfying experience.

I have figured out how to balance cycling and my life a little better, and ride a little over 3,000 miles a year (over 4,000 km). and this still helps me manage my blood sugar. I began wearing an insulin pump and CGM approx. 1.5 years ago, and it’s been life changing for me. I can more easily manage what my blood sugar is during rides. It’s been a huge help.

I hope this can inspire other Type 1 Diabetics to get out there and do whatever you want without feeling held back. It just takes a bit more planning than non-diabetics.

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