ATLANTA,TIME July 13, 2004 -This year, Lance Armstrong will be armed with a sleek 15 pound racing bike while the power of his every pedal stroke will be measured as he attempts to capture a sixth Tour de France. This year’s Pedaling for Parkinson’s cycling team will be equally absorbed in the performance of its star team members, two Parkinson’s disease patients from Atlanta, GA and San Jose, CA as they make a 490-mile journey across Iowa.
Unlike Armstong’s team, the Pedaling for Parkinson’s team will monitor patients’ performance with force transducers and a digitizer to determine the effects of exercise on the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. "Cycling is my way of showing Parkinson's disease it can't beat me," said Cathy Frazier, diagnosed six years ago with Parkinson's at the age of 43. Frazier and 22 other team members will carry that message across Iowa this month with Pedaling for Parkinson's, a non-profit dedicated to revitalizing patients and educating the public about the benefits of staying active after a diagnosis. "I was told to give up cycling because Parkinson's was taking away my ability to balance," said Jim Wetherell, another member of this year's team. "But with my love for cycling & a fear of my future, I made the decision to add a wheel rather than selling two - I bought a recumbent trike! That was 5 years and more than 30,000 miles ago."
Frazier, a co-founder of Pedaling for Parkinson’s, will tackle the ride on a tandem bike. As she did last year, Frazier will ride with her husband, Atlanta cycling coach Ralph Frazier, and with Dr. Jay Alberts, a Georgia Tech professor specializing in Parkinson’s research."Our goal is to motivate other Parkinson's patients that it is possible to lead an active lifestyle even with the disease," said Dr. Jay Alberts."Halfway through last year's ride, Cathy's symptoms were visibly improved. This year we plan to quantify motor performance to determine what movement parameters change as a result of this week of exercise.”
Typically, a Parkinson’s patient riding a bike maintains a cadence of around 50-60 RPM. However, non-Parkinson’s captain on a tandem bike can drive that cadence to over 90 RPMs. Pedaling at a higher cadence may prime or drive the Central Nervous System of the Parkinson’s patient. A driving of the system may result in an increase the release of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that is lower than normal in Parkinson’s) in the patient that in turn could account for the improved motor symptoms. “The data we gather will allow us to determine if the increase in pedaling rate leads to changes in motor functioning over a week of intense exercise,” said Alberts, who is looking forward to the week on the bike. “Plus, we’ll be passing at least 250 pie and ice cream stands. Who can refuse?”
Parkinson's and related disorders are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Dopamine is a chemical messenger responsible for transmitting signals within the brain. Parkinson's disease occurs when certain nerve cells, or neurons, die or become impaired. The disease is both chronic and progressive. A variety of medications provide dramatic relief from the symptoms, but no drug can stop the progression of the disease. At present, there is no way to predict or prevent Parkinson's disease. (www.apdaparkinson.org)
Frazier Cycling is a cycling/triathlon coaching and fitness company outside Atlanta. The organization promotes kids cycling and has the only kids road cycling program and team in Georgia. Frazier Cycling has an adult cycling club and is an advocate of cycling for all levels - elite athletes, beginners, kids, competitive riders, recreational bikers and the physically challenged. (www.fraziercycling.com)
RAGBRAI®, The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa®, is an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state. RAGBRAI is the longest, largest and oldest touring bicycle ride in the world. (www.ragbrai.com)