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Challenge Profile: Rob Erbeau

Rob Erbeau has been riding bikes for most of his life. But the power of the bicycle became clear in the early 2000s when he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C.  

Erbeau, one of our top National Bike Challenge riders, now sees bicycling as his means to living a healthy life — “it sets me free,” he says.

We caught up with Erbeau about his Challenge story.

How did you get involved in the Challenge?  What inspired you to join?

I got involved in the Challenge after seeing something about online (I think it might have been Facebook).  I already log miles on, so it was easy to also log miles for the Challenge.  I like to see how I match up to other cyclists without going bar to bar in a race format. 

You’re in the top 100 — what are your goals for the totality of the Challenge?

I really didn’t have anything specific when I started.  Back in June I took a vacation with my son and didn’t ride for 8 days.  I plummeted down the standings, so when I returned I was determined to get back up as far as I could.

You’ve gone 40 miles every day this month! How do you do it and what motivates you?

This month, I wanted to give myself an extra goal of riding every day for a distance of at least 40 miles.  I must say as the month winds down, I will be happy to finish my goal.  I need some sort of discipline in my life to keep me feeling I am able to tackle whatever comes my way.  Setting a goal, and then making it happen, sometimes when you would much rather just chuck it in, gives me confidence you can’t buy.You’ve said bicycling helps with your health — can you tell us more about that journey?

In 2000, as my son was starting to look for colleges, I decided I had better purchase some life insurance.  I wanted to make sure that if I met an untimely end, his college would be covered (I was a pay-as-you-go parent).  I had a medical exam, blood test, and to my surprise they turned me down. I didn’t find out why until a few months later when my blood test results were mailed to me. I have hepatitis C. I most likely contracted the virus in 1964 from a blood transfusion I received. My genotype matches that of most others who contracted HCV from blood products. My genotype is the least likely to respond.

Many who have this virus are seriously ill. Some die. Since I have been infected and carry a high viral load, it is interesting that my liver enzyme levels are fairly normal.  When I got the news, I stopped drinking alcohol entirely. But I was also advised to become a vegetarian!  I have been one since I was 25 years old. On top of that I honestly believe that vigorous daily exercise pushes your body’s metabolism up a few notches, thereby enabling your natural immune system to fight off any foreign invaders! I’ve always cycled, skied, windsurfed, ran, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that cycling is the least injury-prone sport I can enjoy (as long as nobody runs me over!).  It’s virtually no-impact, aerobic, and demands coordination and decision making as well.  Plus, I ride because I can, and I am grateful that despite having something as dreaded as HCV, I am still out on the road with a smile on my face.

What kind of bike do you ride?

I have two bicycles;  a Jamis Comet, my “beater bicycle” that has been on 6 RAGBRAI’s and once across Wisconsin, used primarily when the weather is bad or on a trail; and an Eddy Merckx Corsa special edition all-steel Team 7-Eleven commemorative , one of only 100 handmade in Belgium. 

What do you love most about bicycling?

 I love the feeling of going from one place to another under my own power.  I got the same feeling in all the sports I’ve done.  Cycling just allows you to integrate even farther into your surroundings.  Provided there is safe infrastructure, you can go anywhere under your own steam.  I love that aspect, and it sets me free.

We’re getting close to our 20 million mile goal for the 2013 National Bike Challenge.  Have you logged your miles this month?

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