Diabetes and 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 and compelled me to share information about why there’s no reason to be shocked a female with diabetes rides a motorcycle. I’d also like to share some tips that will hopefully help others with diabetes step outside of the box, buy a bike and start living life in the fast lane!

Dr. Pamela's Motorcycle

This is my bike!

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

There is absolutely no reason why a diabetic should not ride a motorcycle. However, folks with diabetes who want to travel on two wheels need to understand they must ride responsibly and exercise caution. This includes ensuring they maintain blood sugars at normal levels throughout their ride.

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 during the ride.

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 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 frequently when they ride. I sometimes find I’m able to turn my insulin pump completely off on the days I ride long distances. This is a wonderful additional benefit 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 blood 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 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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Dr. Pamela Reilly is a Naturopathic Physician dedicated to helping people improve their health and eliminate symptoms using natural, integrative methods. She has over 25 years of experience and has helped men, women and children improve their health using a holistic, client-centered focus. She sees clients in Indianapolis, does house calls, and also conducts consultations via Skype or telephone. Please feel free to contact her or visit her Consultations page for more information. Dr. Pamela speaks nationwide on a wide variety of health topics and welcomes speaking invitations.

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7 Responses to Diabetes and the Art of Motorcycle Riding

  1. Ryder White says:

    I don’t have diabetes but I find this article useful. I know that most diseases nowadays are stress related so I believe that you need to have some outlet to divert such stressful situations. I consider riding motorcycles as a hobby and it is where I sometimes feel relaxed and contented.

  2. Honestly, I am not sure how many ‘more’ calories does motor biking burn (non-motor definitely does!). But I am more than convinced through a realization from reading your article, motor biking does help reduce sugar levels. It goes without saying, stress is one of the causes for type 2 diabetes (me included). And if we love riding a motor bike, sure it does reduce stress in a big way. So in theory, it SHOULD reduce sugar levels, even so if we do regularly. The odd thing is when I have to drive a car instead of a motor bike, it stresses me that I am missing the nice ride of bike. Does this more than increase my stress (and sugars)? Hmmmm….

    Thanks for a thought provoking article! I am glad a colleague pointed me to this.

  3. Vanessa C. says:

    I unfortunately come from a family with a long line of diabetes. I actually at one point had a doctor tell me that for myself it was only a matter of time before I too would become diabetic. Scary thought! But the older I get the more I see that life continues no matter what and like my aunt and my mother, I will fight no matter what to live a good life. This article picked me up when I needed it. As I sit and wait to hear from my doctor on blood work results, the only thing that I can think of is riding a sportbike. It’s been a passion of mine for almost 6 years now. I only pray that if anything does show up in my results that I’ll have the courage to continue riding. Praying all goes well!

  4. Sharmie says:

    I do not have diabetes, but I absolutely love this article! Informative and very interesting.

    Pamela, I also appreciate your wording . . . *not* “other diabetics”, but “others with diabetes”. A disease or a disorder does not define a person; it’s not who they are. For example, I have an unexplained seizure history (epilepsy) . . . but I am *not* an epileptic.

    I’m really enjoying your blog; thank you for the time that you put into it!

    • GWWR says:

      Thanks so much. I am very conscious of “owning” diseases by referring to ourselves as the disease instead of saying we are reversing it. It makes a huge difference! Thanks for your kind words. They are much appreciated!

  5. […] It drives me crazy to constantly see diabetes “support” organizations make statements such as, “Having diabetes is hard,” or “Diabetes is a constant stressor.” (Those are direct quotes taken from national diabetes support groups with online channels.) Having diabetes is only hard or stressful if you choose to view it as such. Diabetes is a serious disease, but it should NEVER become such a large focus of someone’s life that they cease to live normally. I talk to many people who tell me they “can’t” do things because of diabetes. My consistent response to that is, “Why the heck not?!” Having diabetes can be challenging, but shouldn’t be limiting. There is absolutely no reason people with diabetes cannot live full, abundant lives. People who control diabetes instead of allowing it to control them feel free to travel, participate in sports, ride motorcycles, stay active, and enjoy every minute. (For more info on having diabetes and riding motorcycles, please see Diabetes and the Art of Motorcycle Riding.) […]

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