Who says life can’t be full of adventure and even risk when you have Type 2 Diabetes and use insulin. Not me!
In order to enjoy motorcycling as safely as possible for my age and health conditions, this is how I do it.
Ride the right motorcycle. Sure, I could push myself to learn to manage a higher centre of gravity bike, but why? I want my riding to be groovy and safe, NOW, and don’t want to waste good riding years healing from breaks like last year.
Last summer, after ‘The Drop’, I redid the full safety and skills course at ProRide: two weeknights of theory/instruction and two full days at 29 degrees in the Capilano University parking lot, letting go of my accumulated bad habits, riding many different motorcycle styles, and re-passing my skills test. This restored my confidence… because if you don’t have confidence while on a motorcycle, your riding is going to be severely limited.
ATGATT – ‘All the gear, all the time’. As a person who heals more slowly than non-diabetics, wearing the right gear can really affect recovery. I used to ride in street clothes or at most an armoured jacket. Now I ride with stiff riding boots, kevlar/armoured jeans, full armour jacket, and a brand new full face helmet that has been sized correctly for my head size and type. Managing the risks you can manage is responsible and proactive.
Carry all the diabetes gear, all the time. This includes your diabetes medication bracelet or ID, a card in your wallet that lists your medications, and where you have packed tester, fast-acting glucose, candy in the easy-access storage area on the bike, two types of insulin (long acting and short acting bolus for afternoon/evening meal). Bring a cooler and/or ice pack to store your insulin pens, fruit, sugary drink, and protein.
Test often! Motorcycling is a high-metabolism activity, very close to cardio exercise. The average heart rate of a moving motorcyclist is 145 – this means we burn through carbs at about twice the normal rate of our everyday lives.
Ride with others. The friends I ride with know about my diabetes, what a low looks like, and how to treat it. If riding solo, have a ride plan, and test at every stop. I check in by phone or text with someone who knows me well and knows what to do if I fail to check in within a reasonable amount of time and/or am on a less traveled route.
Take breaks every 90-120 minutes. Getting off the motorcycle is important for circulation to the lower extremities. This is a perfect blood sugar testing time.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Dehydration = poor decision making = significantly increased unnecessary risk.
Eat a high protein snack with a decent amount of carbs (double normal) between meals. Skipping meals can be dangerous when motorcycling for anyone, but especially for diabetics on insulin.
If having a low, immediately pull off, take the glucose/sugar treatment and wait at least 45 minutes before resuming travel. This is critical to ensure the mental confusion and slower reaction times that come with a low are fully dealt with.
If crossing the border, bring medications with a sheet indicating what they are for, preferably from a doctor.
Having Type 2 or even Type 1 diabetes and using insulin doesn’t mean an end to adventure, or that we can’t take any risks. Managing risks responsibly and taking more care with planning and check-ins means you can enjoy your motorcycling and help those who love you to support your desire for the incredible feeling of freedom and being fully present in the moment, a magical place for a diabetic like me.
by Laurie McConnell