No Longer the Only (Type) One


Walt Drennan is gearing up to go on his third (yes, third!) cross-country bike tour this summer, but this time with Bike Beyond as program coordinator.

Walt’s first race was for “Bike and Build,” a nonprofit out of Philadelphia that works to raise money for Affordable Housing. He rode from Charleston, South Carolina to Santa Cruz. In 2014, he participated in “4K for Cancer,” The Ulman Cancer Fund, riding from Baltimore, Maryland, to Portland, Oregon.

“That first ride was just a kind of a whim,” Walt said, “I wanted to do it. It was after grad school, and I was trying to do something really big and cool before I had to grow up. I had heard about it a few years before, and originally I thought it was a really, really stupid. Like, biking across country is dumb, why would anybody do that?” He admitted. “Then I mulled it over for a couple years, and was like oh wow, this would be really cool. So, that’s kind of when I really got into biking. I hadn’t touched a bike since high school before then.”

What sets his journey with Bike Beyond apart from his other two adventures is that this time, he will not be the only one with type 1 diabetes—as all riders on Team Bike Beyond are living with the disease.

Although Walt finished both of his previous races healthy and thriving, he is looking forward to not needing to worry about how to approach the other riders about his type 1 diabetes (T1D).

“The first time, I wanted to be forthright and let everybody know beforehand. But, I feel like I might have oversold it a bit, and people treated me a little bit differently, I think. Whereas the second time, it was a little disorganized and I didn’t really have time to explain it. So I just kind of told people what was up, and it was less of a focus,” Walt said.

“Actually at the end of that ride, someone mentioned that they had forgotten I had type 1, which I thought was pretty cool.”

Walt, who uses an OmniPod insulin pump and a Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), has experienced highs and lows, both literally and metaphorically, while training and riding in the past.

“I remember the first day of my first ride, it was only 30 miles, but I was struggling the entire time. I overcompensated and drank a Coke at the beginning of the day, but it went up too high and stayed that way, because I was dehydrated. So, it was a rough, long day. So, I thought, how the hell am I gonna do this?” Walt said. “But then I kind of buckled down and just started listening to my body, and figuring out what things meant, and then kind of going from there.”

Walt, who only recently met his first type 1 friend through the Beyond Type 1 App in his hometown of Pittsburgh, is grateful to have the opportunity to connect with and learn from the other Bike Beyond riders in terms of their own type 1 management.

“I don’t know a lot of type 1s,” Walt said. “I’ve only just started meeting them and realizing there are other ways of going about it in terms of management. A lot of people are very diligent about what they do and what they eat, the activities they do and how they take their medication, which I have never been. So I’m going to learn a lot I feel, this summer.”

As far as stopping points along Bike Beyond’s route, Walt is the most excited to see Moab in Utah, as well as “The Loneliest Road in America” in Nevada.

When their cross-country ride is all said and done, Walt is hoping that Bike Beyond can continue for more people to take part in.

“I’m really hoping this kind of takes off and it becomes a yearly thing. I like the idea of helping people do big things, or helping them realize what they can do. So it’s kind of my big dream at this point,” he said.

“I think the whole Bike Beyond concept—the idea of putting a team together of these type 1s and going across the country is pretty simple and easy to do if you just do it bare bones. Beyond Type 1 really who made it to what it is now. Because as of right now it’s way bigger than I ever thought it would be.”

Learn more about Bike Beyond. 

WRITTEN BY Alexi Melvin, POSTED 05/24/17, UPDATED 07/25/23

Alexi was diagnosed with type 1 in 2003 at the age of 14. Since then, she and her family (along with dad, Oakland Athletics Manager Bob Melvin) have been consistently active in raising money and awareness wherever their travels lead them. Alexi studied writing at The New School in Manhattan, and is now a freelance journalist, fiction writer and screenwriter based in the Bay Area. Her other passions include film, travel, animals and spiritual healing.