A man on a bike rides through a desert, surrounded by a protective bubble of water.

Biking with Chronic Dry Eye

A few months ago, my husband and I began biking daily on a tandem bike ride through our beautiful city. He loves biking, and I have not done much in the past 20 years due to balance and coordination challenges.

When we headed out to California on vacation, we rented a tandem bike to try, and it worked out well (except for the people who tell him that I am not pedaling). Now, we have our own tandem bike and decided to do this as an activity together for physical exercise and to learn more about our community.

Lots of wind and dirt

I initially noticed that the wind on the bike affects my eyes and that there is a lot of dirt in the air. I had to figure out some ways to soothe my eyes (not that there is much to see from the back of the bike with him being almost a foot taller than I am). Still, I think having a good clear vision on a bike ride is important. This also helps relieve that ‘something is in my eye’ feeling that I get.

That first week of riding took many stops and adjustments to find something that would work for me and help me make it through the city. For me, the feeling of freedom going through town on a bike is one of the best parts of biking. For those living with chronic dry eye who like to feel the wind in your face as you soar through town, know that you can do a little prep before you jump on and start peddling. We are now able to ride straight through the 8-10 miles each morning.

A routine for my eyes when biking

I have developed a routine for my eyes when it comes to making biking more enjoyable. First, I use eye saline to rinse my eyes out before we leave. Next, I am sure to wear glasses or sunglasses to help keep the dirt particles out of my eyes. I also keep a small bottle of eye drops in a pouch we have attached to the bike.

Finally, I rinse my eyes and wipe my glasses off once we return home. Doing these steps has helped make the experiences more enjoyable. I think it is also important to stay hydrated throughout your body. I try to drink at least 20oz of water or Gatorade per hour of riding.

Dealing with – and enjoying – the outdoors

An added benefit of biking for us is that we have been able to see and meet others out on their bikes, walking, and hiking. We have made some new friends along the way that we can be social with and look forward to seeing.

We downloaded a great app that measures our distance and speed. Our top speed downhill was 32 miles per hour. Biking at high speeds, downhill, or into the wind directly can disrupt the balance of moisture in your eyes by putting a full blast of air on your face. Here in Arizona, if you also have a high wind day in this dry desert, you may have to stop a few times to put some moisture into your eyes.

We sometimes ride through dust and dirt devils. Although, we do our best to avoid this. Other places will have exhaust fumes, pollen, and bugs moving into your headspace. All of this can exacerbate chronic dry eye symptoms.

Being prepared helps

Knowing that there are a few things you can do before you head out can make the experience better for you (and your partner, if you are on a tandem bike). Now I just have to get used to the summer heat of Arizona.

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