Davisville Village area resident Chris Willenberg is hopping on his trusty motorcycle and taking an international journey to help battle diabetes.
Willenberg grew up in a family where diabetes is frighteningly prevalent. On July 1, he will embark on a trip from Toronto to Los Angeles on his 2001 Ducati 996 to raise awareness of the disease and collect funds for the Canadian Diabetes Association.
“There are a lot of causes out there to pick and choose from, but my sister’s a type 1 diabetic and has been for 38 years, since age four,” he said.
“Both my parents are type 2 diabetics and I have aunts and uncles who have diabetes as well.”
While his own family history is frightening enough, Willenberg knows diabetes is a growing concern everywhere, with childhood obesity leading to a greater number of kids developing the disease.
“There are a lot of kids 14 and under being diagnosed now and I want to help get the word out about how important it is to have the right diet and lifestyle,” he said.
Given how common diabetes is in his family, Willenberg is conscientious about his own lifestyle, avoiding dairy and refined sugars or sugar substitutes and sticking to fish as his meat of choice.
He knows his upcoming trip to Los Angeles will test his endurance, having biked to and from LA seven years ago.
“The most difficult challenge is being on a bike that’s not designed for touring,” he said.
“The Ducati’s designed for track use, not really for street use, so physically, I’ll be spent after going 500 to 600 kilometres every day.”
Willenberg plans on taking breaks here and there, covering the entire distance to Los Angeles in three weeks. It will be particularly important to take breaks early on as his body gets accustomed to spending hours upon hours every day hunched over his bike.
“It’ll take about two or three days just for my body to morph into the form the bike dictates you take,” he said.
“After that, it’s an upper body workout because most of your weight’s pushed onto your wrists, arms and shoulders.”
Willenberg has been doing yoga to boost his flexibility and weight training to ensure his upper body is strong as he prepares to hit the road.
While the biker lives in the Yonge and Davisville area, he also heads out of town as often as possible to get some riding hours in.
“I’ve taken a few longer rides, but there’s not much you can do to prepare for a ride like this,” he said of his upcoming journey.
“It’s nice to see some scenery, but once I get out into the prairies, the element of ‘gee whiz’ will be out the door.”
He hopes his journey, which will take him across 7,000 kilometres through four provinces and nine states, will help him bring in $10,000 for the Canadian Diabetes Association.
Willenberg will document his journey on Twitter at @dagmarducati, allowing everyone to follow him as he crosses the continent. To make a donation in support of his ride, visit www.diabetes.ca/chrisrides