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Riding on the Open Road

Lester Johnson shares his life of riding with type 2 diabetes

Laura Kolodjeski of Sanofi US DiabetesLaura Kolodjeski

When I need to clear my head, I head outdoors. There is just something about fresh air and wide-open roads that help me find clarity. I will either go on a walk or ride my bike; so I understand the call of the road and will often answer it – just like Lester Johnson. Although, his bike is a little different than mine. He rides a Harley-Davidson® 13 Road Glide Ultra, or for bike connoisseurs: a hog. I connected with Lester to talk motorcycles and managing type 2 diabetes while on the open road.

Lester Johnson
Lester Johnson

Diabetes crash course

In 2006, Lester and some of his friends decided to go on a ride through Tennessee when Lester blacked out and was involved with a motorcycle accident. “At the hospital, they checked my blood sugar and it was almost 700. So that was the first time I even knew I had high blood sugar.” Lester knew little of the condition or how it would affect his riding. “I thought my riding days were over,” Lester stated. “But as I learned more about it, I decided that I was probably in charge of it more than anybody else.”

After the initial diagnosis, Lester started researching, which included appointments with a dietitian, resources through the Veterans Affairs Hospital and reading books about type 2 diabetes. Lester’s passion to ride helps motivate him to manage his blood sugar. “I was very much encouraged by the riding and managing my diabetes because another blackout and I might not have been so lucky.” Lester said. “I really have to watch what I do, what I eat, make sure I take my oral medication at the times I’m supposed to take it and check my blood sugar as often as I can.”

Lester’s diabetes self-management includes foregoing some of his favorite foods, but it’s worth it to him. “It was a welcomed trade to be able still ride my motorcycle the way I wanted to ride it,” he said. Lester also likes to keep active. “I’m a very active person, even at 68. I don’t want to sit down and just do nothing. I drive a school bus part time. I like to get out. I like to move.”

Lester Johnson on his motorcycle
Lester on his motorcycle

Owning a Harley-Davidson bike put Lester into a Harley Owners Group®, which he rides with as well as with another group of friends. Lester doesn’t let his diagnosis stop his passion for the open road. “There’s such a freedom of it. The old saying goes we now know what a dog feels like when he sticks his head out the window,” Lester said. “You know, you put your hair in the wind and you enjoy the breeze and you enjoy your surroundings much more.”

In fact, Lester just completed one of his longest rides – a 16-day trip to Niagara Falls with a group of friends. It was a trial and error process in the beginning that helped Lester manage his diabetes while riding all day. “It’s all in the preparation,” Lester said. “You have to pack all your testing equipment and then you prepare every morning just like it’s a day ride. You still got to get up, test, make sure you’ve got something to eat to take along with you and just be prepared each day and every day.”

Fueling support

Lester’s riding group knows of his type 2 diabetes diagnosis and is prepared in case of emergency. “I have a couple of friends that are nurses that like to ride and they always say, ‘Have you checked your blood sugar today?’ They’re always reminding me of things that I need to do,” Lester said. And, he prepares the same way if he rides longer distances, solo or with his group. “You’ve still got to manage your diabetes the same way.”

Out on the open road with nothing but the wind on your face and the sun on your back – what a great way to relax. My many thanks to Lester for sharing his story with us. Do you like to ride? Tell us in the comment section which you prefer – a 10-speed or motorcycle.

All the best,
Laura K.

Disclosure: Lester Johnson received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.

Harley-Davidson and Harley Owners Group are registered trademarks of H-D U.S.A., LLC.

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