Diabetes doesn’t stop Arizona MTB, road rider

Paul Heinrich hasn’t stopped riding his bike even when he feels fatigued, hungry and extremely thirsty.

He hits Trail 100, the Phoenix Sonoran Preserve and rides the scenic roads of North Scottsdale and Cave Creek.

But while his fellow cyclists are replacing energy with shot blocks, Heinrich is using an insulin pump.

Heinrich, 40, has lived with type 1 diabetes for nearly 23 years, seven of which he has actively ridden his mountain and road bikes.

“I understand how important being active is with diabetes,” Heinrich said. “And over the years, via trial and error, I have learned what precautions work for me. Using these precautions I have never felt unsafe on my bike, and this allows me to enjoy the ride.”


Riding with diabetes

Paul Heinrich


This year, for the first time, Heinrich will ride in the Tour de Cure, a road ride in Phoenix on March 19 to fight diabetes.

“Paul is a great example and role model for people with diabetes,” said Tony Williams, chair of the Phoenix Tour de Cure. “Living an active and healthy lifestyle, including exercise and nutrition, is key to managing type 1 and type 2 diabetes and enjoying a full and rewarding life.”

Heinrich, who is also a hot air balloon pilot, and often rides on Sonoran Desert Drive, a popular location for cycling and hot air balloon rides, checks his blood sugar and monitors his carbohydrate intake every day.


Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, which is needed to allow sugar to enter cells to produce energy.

Energy – the key ingredient to cycling – is something with which Heinrich has a close relationship. He knows how many carbs he needs to ride 20, 40, or 60+ miles through the Sonoran Desert in Phoenix and to finish the 75-mile Tour de Cure.

“When I first got type 1 as a teenager it was scary to manage my diabetes because I’m the only one in my family who has it,” he said. “But after 23 years of highs, lows, perfect control and mistakes, I’m pretty comfortable. Sure I still have good and bad days. But they don’t scare me like they used to and I know how to adjust. It’s all about knowing what works for you and planning ahead accordingly.”

Pedaling for a cure

tour de cure

As a Red Rider – a Tour de Cure participant with type 1 or type 2 diabetes – Heinrich will be recognized at the event with a special jersey. He has raised $1,250 for this year’s event.

“Talking about diabetes and living with a chronic illness serves two functions – it creates awareness and is therapy,” Heinrich said. “Sharing your story and hearing others’ stories helps create a sense of community and support. When people feel that someone knows what they’re going through, a connection is made and it makes them feel like they belong.”

The Tour de Cure raises critical funds for diabetes research, education and advocacy in support of the American Diabetes Association and people with diabetes.

Riders may choose their route (10, 25, 50, 75 or 100 miles) and are fully supported with rest stops, teams of volunteers and SAG. They’ll return to a party, BBQ lunch and entertainment at the finish line at REACH 11 Sports Complex in North Phoenix. All riders will receive a commemorative medal and other mementos.

Register: Join 1,500 other riders at the 25th Anniversary Tour de Cure on Saturday, March 19 at REACH 11 Sports Complex.  To register or for additional event details, visit www.diabetes.org/phoenixtourdecure  Use the Promo Code CLIPPED for 50 percent off the current registration fee.

Want to ride for a cure in Tucson? Register for the Tucson Tour de Cure on April 17.

Story sponsored by the Tour de Cure