Proving a Type 1 Can Bike America


Fitness has been a large part of Elliot Gatt’s life for quite some time, even going back to the exact moment of his type 1 diabetes diagnosis.

“When I was sixteen, I went on this bike trip. It was like 400 kilometers and a couple days, and then we just stayed at this farm in the country. I was super excited to go back and do that the summer I was 17-years-old,” Elliot remembered.

At 17, one week before his second big biking trip, however, life threw him the type 1 diabetes (T1D) curve ball.

“I had just come back from this canoeing trip, and I drank a ton of water. I would say it was water and pop, which obviously I didn’t know better, but, it was like twelve liters a day,” he said. “I had a bit of a cold so I went to the doctor. They took my blood. I was beside my friend watching TV with a two-pound bag of Jujubes and a big-gulp Slurpee, and the nurse calls and she’s like, ‘You’ve got diabetes.’”

Elliot made the heartbreaking decision not to go on the 400-kilometer bike trip as planned, but he was not about to let his diagnosis stop him from riding altogether.

“After three days in the hospital, they released me. I love biking, and so I went for like, a half hour bike ride, then I came back. Fortunately, my dad was home,” he said, “Because as soon as I got home, I went right into a seizure; completely unconscious. And so when you wake up from that, you kind of have to have a talk with yourself. It’s like ‘holy crap, this is a lot, to take in.’ You realize how unstable you are.”

With the support of his parents and giving himself plenty of time to learn how his blood sugars reacted with different forms or exercise, Elliot was able to push forward with his passion for fitness and adventure. He went on to run a marathon in Iceland through Diabetes Canada.

“I had on my screensaver the start line for the marathon in this cool town in Reykjavik. And then you actually wake up and walk into that screensaver so to speak, and it’s awesome.”

Just a couple of short years later, Elliot found himself traveling from Canada again, but this time to the Grand Canyon to do a “rim to rim.” One of his friends became hypothermic when the weather proved to be unseasonably cold, so although they had to cut their trip short, they did, according to Elliot, “squeeze in a 45K in one day.”

He also, within the last couple of years, participated in an Olympic length triathlon. But there was still the one challenge that has still managed to evade him—until now.

“I’ve always wanted to do like a big bike ride, like an epic bike ride,” Elliot said. “And I saw Bike Beyond come up, and it just seemed so cool … the parties, and biking across a whole country with a team of people with diabetes. It’s rad. It’s just the perfect fit.”

To manage his type 1, Elliot uses syringes and regular testing, but he is very excited to try his new Dexcom system that all of the Bike Beyond riders were given prior to their ride.

Being diagnosed as a teenager, Elliot’s parents, both artists, struggled to afford Elliot’s testing supplies. “The starving artist thing is true, unfortunately,” Elliot said. Today, Elliot serves as founder of Good Glucos Inc., which helps give people with diabetes access to affordable test strips.

“I’m leaving the company to do an advocacy thing; to help people that are just like myself as a person with type 1 diabetes. And I think the fact that we’re raising money for a cure is really important. Because the bottom line is, if we have a cure, then we’re out of business, and that is totally fine.”

After Team Bike Beyond finishes their cross-country journey, Elliot plans to seek out ways to share their epic story with the type 1 community. “Any chance I can get to just tell people, ‘hey here’s this average guy who biked across America with type 1,’ and how I handled nutrition and handled insulin and blood sugar levels. I think that is pretty inspiring,” he said.

“I think the purpose beyond this bike ride is to show people that a type 1 can bike across America. So that means, you can play varsity sports, even though your doctor says no. I’ve heard doctors say, ‘Oh you’ve gotta stop playing this, or you’ve gotta stop doing this, or you can’t do that.’ The big thing is: get it in control, and you’re able to do whatever you want.”

Read Elliot Gatt’s Ride Journal for Bike Beyond.

WRITTEN BY Alexi Melvin, POSTED 06/01/17, UPDATED 10/11/22

Alexi Melvin is a freelance journalist, fiction writer and screenwriter based in the Bay Area. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2003, and has been passionate about raising awareness ever since. Her other passions include film, literature, animals and spiritual healing. Instagram: @alexi_rm