Teen on Two Wheels: Pedaling Towards a Cure – My Journey in the JDRF Ride to Defeat Type 1 Diabetes

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Talon Zuelsdorf was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at only 3 years old. Over the years, his family has been involved with JDRF in many ways. They’ve had teams and fundraised for Walk. Mom, Sam, has been involved in Advocacy at the local and national level. Talon has attended Children’s Congress to speak with government leaders on behalf of JDRF. Last winter they were honored at Gala. They do it all!

However, where the Zuelsdorfs have found their true passion in the JDRF community is with Ride! 14-year-old Talon Zuelsdorf first joined JDRF Ride just two months after turning 13 in Amelia Island, FL in December of 2022. He was hooked! Read on to hear their journey with JDRF Ride and why Talon encourages more kids his age to join!

JDRF: Provide an intro of yourself, your family and T1D journey and connection to JDRF.

Sam: We are the Zuelsdorf family and we started our T1D journey when Talon was just 3 years old. Talon became very sick and ended up spending a week in Children’s Hospital after being diagnosed with Type One Diabetes. Shortly after his diagnosis, we were connected to JDRF, which quickly became our second family, community and team throughout this journey.


JDRF: Why did you first decide to participate in Ride?

Sam: I rode in my first ride in 2017 after having attended Government Days for JDRF where I was recruited by other that participate in the JDRF Ride to Cure. I was nervous for my first Ride but as soon as I got to ride weekend, I knew I would be back! After that Ride, Talon immediately wanted to join. He began counting down the years until he turned 13 so he could join me. Two months after his 13th birthday, our family flew to Ameila Island for Talon’s first Ride. Eight months later in 2023, he was back in La Crosse for his second ride. He is hooked and has high hopes of riding multiple times per year and hitting every ride destination, and eventually becoming a coach!

JDRF: What helps you feel prepared for the Ride?

Sam: Preparing for ride can look different to everyone. For us, some years we are able to train more than others. Some years we have to ride indoors more than outdoors. Some years we are very busy. But no matter what happens, just staying in communication with coaches, hopping in on as many training rides as we can and just getting in the miles, whether it is 5 or 40 for training, makes us feel one step closer to hit the road on ride day.

JDRF: What is the most rewarding part of Ride Day/Weekend or season in general?

Sam & Talon: By far, the most rewarding part of ride weekend is the people. The JDRF family. No matter how many miles you accomplish, the love and support of everyone there will always be the highlight. People you don’t know, suddenly become family to you. You see them on the road and they are cheering you on. The coaches who make sure everyone is ok, pushing your back if needed, helping you change a tire, just giving you a pep talk of motivation, the riders passing you with positive remarks, it all reminds you of why you are there. There are truly no words to describe it, you just have to be there.

JDRF: What were some of your highlights throughout Ride weekend?

Talon: Some of our favorite highlights were me kicking mom’s butt on the road, the coaches sticking by your side, throughout all the dinners hearing all the stories, advancements and upcoming hope for cures for T1D. Just taking to all the people who are there for the exact same reason as you. It will never get old.

JDRF: In the JDRF Ride at each of our destination rides, the Youth Rider Jersey is given to honor a youth rider between the ages of 13-17 that has a can-do attitude and is not afraid of trying what others consider impossible. Talk about the honor of earning the Youth Jersey in La Crosse; what was that like for you?

Talon: Receiving the youth jersey was one of the best moments in my life. I couldn’t believe when they said my name. I was in shock for a long time. It was a very special moment to me because I was only 13 and not everyone gets one. It means they saw my passion to ride and that makes me very happy.

JDRF: What is it like to share this experience with your family?

Talon: Riding with my mom is fun, even though she is slow. I wait for her at the finish line and know that together we got one step closer to cures for diabetes. It is very special to me for my mom to be there with me. Next year, my dad is going to ride to and I can’t wait for all of us to be there together. My little sister is 10 and she wants to ride with me when she turns 13. I think it is cool that she wants to do this with me. I will have someone else to train with then too.

JDRF: Why would you encourage others to join the Ride to Cure Diabetes. 

Talon: I want others to join me to Ride because it is for a good cause. It raises money and awareness for diabetes. Events like this help with funding things that I use that make my life better. And it isn’t just raising money, there is this awesome experience of the event that goes with it. I love ride weekend; it is one of my favorite things to do. I love the people and the coaches. You shouldn’t be scared to ride if you are new, because someone is always with you making sure you are ok. It is so much fun, and you won’t regret it!

To learn more about the JDRF Ride to Cure, please visit ride.jdrf.org and contact Erin Vella at evella@jdrf.org or 414.861.2646.