Across the country, nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes — more than 8 percent of the U.S. population. According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately $1 in every $10 healthcare dollars spent in the U.S. can be attributed to the disease. One key to preventing and living with the disease: regular exercise.
We certainly believe in the power of bicycles to improve the nation’s health — and so does the ADA. Its Tour de Cure bike rides in communities nationwide do more than raise millions of dollars for research each year ($18 million in 2011 alone); they also inspire countless folks to get out and ride.
As the ADA’s Director of Special Events, Nicole Preston leads the charge for the Tour — and will be a speaker at the National Women’s Bicycling Forum.
What’s the role of cause rides in getting more women riding? Read on… and register for the Forum!
Who taught you to ride a bike and where?
My Dad taught me to ride a bike in our neighborhood in Capitol Heights, Md.
How did you get back into biking as an adult?
I kept riding on and off throughout depending on where I lived. When I had my first child, I started riding again regularly, and was happy to teach my kids to ride. In fact, I didn’t need to teach my son. He was riding a bike with training wheels when we visited friends who had older kids. He saw them riding without training wheels so he insisted that we remove them on the spot and he took off. When I moved back to the Washington, D.C. area I was Regional Vice President managing the AIDS Ride, a three-day, 330-mile ride from North Carolina to D.C. I wanted to ride it, so I joined a local bike club and trained for it. It was a tough ride but tremendously fun. I’ve remained a member of the bike club, and have continued riding ever since with my kids, and in various cycling events.
What’s your bike style — commuting, recreation, racing, a mix?
Definitely a mix. I commute when I can, ride recreationally with the kids, and ride in Tour de Cure, as well as other cycling events.
Working at the ADA you must have seen and heard some incredible stories of the power of cycling to transform people’s lives; can you share one of the most memorable folks you’ve met?
Yes, I hear incredible stories every week, but Mari Ruddy is definitely one of the most memorable folks. She is a force of nature and has helped transform the experience of having diabetes through cycling for so many people. She’s had diabetes since she was 16 years old, and has also survived breast cancer — twice. She founded the Red Rider program so that people with diabetes can say loud and proud “I Ride with Diabetes” and “I am not alone.” Many people conceal their diabetes and don’t manage it well, so putting it on the back of the jersey has allowed people to share and support each other and ultimately manage the disease better through more exercise (cycling!). She also founded Team WILD — “We inspire life with diabetes” — which provides training programs to help people empower transformation through bicycling (as well as running, swimming and walking). She’s a powerful speaker and inspiration to so many.
How has bicycling transformed your life?
Bicycling has given me a different perspective on the world. It’s an amazingly simple machine that is capable of doing so much. Seeing the role of bicycling in parts of Africa, Europe and the United States and how riding differs in each country. Personally, it has enriched my life by bringing me in contact with people I would not otherwise have met, and taking me to places I would not have otherwise reached.
From your perspective, what’s the role of cause events in getting more people riding more often?
Cause events play a huge role because they bring people into cycling who weren’t riding. Like so many things the hurdle is getting started, just getting back on the bike. The cause provides the motivation and the camaraderie with others to get people out on the bike. Then once they’re out there, most are hooked and they keep riding.
What’s the most amazing Tour de Cure you’ve attended?
The Napa Valley Tour de Cure is our biggest and certainly in one of the most beautiful areas. But many of them are amazing in their own ways, with beautiful routes near the ocean on the east and west coasts, mountain climbs, or miles of farmland in the heartland. What’s most amazing are the stories of the people participating all over the country.
What’s one word that describes biking for you? (Caveat: Joy and freedom are off the table!)
Sexy legs, but that’s two words! One word: Escape.
Fill in the blank: In a perfect world, biking is _____
… easy, safe and accessible to everyone!
Where did you ride today (or this week)?
Through my neighborhood to the park.
Learn more and register for the National Women’s Bicycling Forum.
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.