Diabetes Forecast

Unicycling Brothers Talk Diabetes

Benjamin, left, and Chris Richardson

Benjamin & Chris Richardson

Athletes: Long-distance and cyclocross unicyclers

Age: Chris is 40; Benjamin is 41

Hometown: Anchorage, AK

Occupation: Chris is an investment officer for the city of Anchorage; Benjamin is a sixth-grade teacher

Diabetes: Both have type 1 diabetes (Benjamin was diagnosed in fourth grade; Chris was diagnosed in sixth grade)

Gear: Medtronic insulin pumps and Dexcom continuous glucose monitors (CGMs)

The Richardson brothers came to unicycling in an unusual way—though perhaps there is no typical route to riding a unicycle. Twenty years ago, their dad brought one home and followed it up with an old VHS tape on mountain unicycling, starring George Peck, the grandfather of rough-terrain unicycling. “We studied his film and thought, ‘I wonder if we could jump this unicycle,’ ” says Benjamin. It turned out they could, and soon the brothers were pushing themselves to go further and harder than they thought possible. Benjamin has completed a century ride, covering 100 miles of rough terrain perched atop one wheel. And together the brothers have competed in cyclocross, racing around a track against other unicyclists, and sometimes riders pedaling on two wheels.

Putting the work in workout

“Unicycling is four times the exercise of biking,” Chris says. “It’s a lot more work. That has a greater impact on your blood sugar.” The brothers test regularly before and during their rides, carrying testing materials and premeasured carbohydrates in their backpacks. Staying upright on a single (and huge—36 inches across for their road bike–style unicycles) wheel takes an enormous amount of strength. “Unicycling is a really, really interesting thing; it engages so many muscles in your core, your arms, your [buttocks],” Benjamin says. “Every single muscle will be sore because every single muscle is engaged in keeping your body up on this thing.”

Inspiring and being inspired

The Richardsons and their families rode their unicycles in the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure® in Alaska. “A lot of times with diseases like diabetes, we tend to limit or hold back because of the unknown,” Benjamin says. “I’ve done some crazy things in my life, and I wouldn’t have changed that at all.”

No clowning around

Yes, the brothers juggle. But never on the unicycle. “There’s this whole clown thing,” Chris says. “[The unicycle] is a very athletic endeavor. We’re not clowns.” There’s a pause, and then: “Some of us aren’t clowns,” Benjamin jokes.



Take the Type 2
Diabetes Risk Test