Instructor Spotlight: Bill Roach

This week, ICA is proud to highlight one of our longtime supporters and educational contributors, Bill Roach. After retiring from a 35-year career in the Iowa attorney general’s office, Bill devoted his “second life” to helping people bring more health and fitness into their lives.

Indoor cycling became Bill’s key connector to bridge his celebrated long-distance racing career with an indoor program that could jump-start individuals on their roads to health and wellness success.

Bill’s odometer shows he’s trained (or raced!) in the saddle more than 60,000 miles. For a little perspective, that’s the equivalent of traveling two and a half times around the circumference of the earth! One of his cherished racing highlights includes supporting the late Dr. Bob Breedlove on his world record–breaking ride—crossing the United States twice in just 23 days.

(Something tells me Bill is an excellent endurance coach!)

Today, Bill serves a more stationary community—the YMCA of Greater Des Moines. As the lead cycling instructor, he acts as program advisor to the management team and provides mentorship and in-service training workshops for more than 70 instructors. Training topics include proper technique on the bike, power measurement, and lactate threshold field-testing.

As most of us recall, getting our indoor cycling certification felt like a huge accomplishment, until we were instantaneously thrown into a classroom filled with piranhas! Bill’s mentorship program takes action prior to the feeding frenzy. Orientation and preparatory classes are offered before an instructor’s certification process has begun.

“The mentorship looks a little different for each new instructor, and is based on their needs. But during the entire process I meet with the instructor and discuss their fears and questions to help them feel comfortable and confident.”

Upon certification, new instructors shadow various classes and are given the opportunity to teach with Bill before coaching independently. Once he’s seen them successfully lead a session, they are allowed substitute positions before gaining their own class.

In 2011, Bill’s life was deeply impacted when he learned a long-term friend had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. To help alleviate the debilitating symptoms of the disease, they began their personal training journey together. Bill was committed to finding as many exercise modalities as possible to bring relief to his friend.

Bill learned that in an Iowa cornfield not too far away, Dr. Jay Alberts, a neuro-researcher, had already “biked upon” a significant discovery. While riding tandem in RAGBRAI, Dr. Alberts noticed each of his partners (who both had Parkinson’s) found symptomatic relief by the end of each day. Handwriting became clearer for the first racer; tremors became less frequent for the second. Albert’s simple observations lead to an impacting conclusion—when cycling at an increased rate of 80–90 rpm (which is above the average tempo of 50–60 rpm for a Parkinson’s rider), symptoms of the disease reduce by as much as 35%.

Bill worked with medical staff to develop a “Cycling for Neuro Wellness Program” at the YMCA Healthy Living Center in Clive, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines. Participant Vicki Whaley finds Bill’s program as her exercise of choice to reduce her Parkinson’s symptoms. “Our leader and coach, Bill Roach, uses humor, kindness, enthusiasm, and music to push the effort level to the edge.” Getting to that edge of power is where Vicki feels immediate relief and regains her sense of wellness.

Jackie Wellman, who suffers from hereditary spastic paraplegia, needs a walker to get to the cycling studio each week. But with the staff’s help, she is determined to ride. Why? “We have so much fun!” And like Vicki, she is constantly amazed how good she feels after class.

The bonds of friendship run deep in his Cycling for Neuro Wellness Program. For Bill there is nothing quite like doing something challenging in the company of like-minded people.

“The teamwork attitude he generates is what makes each of us want to participate. We respond to Bill and support one another. It buoys us all up to cycle together, meet our challenges, and overcome the obstacles we face,” Bob Brammer shared. He also is suffering the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Bob said it is a rare occasion for him to EVER miss attending his cycling classes. (Even though motivation might sometimes wane for getting to the gym to lift weights!)

60,000 new Parkinson’s cases are documented each year. Estimates say between 7 to 10 million people suffer worldwide from this debilitating disease.

Wait. We’ve heard that number before, right?

Yeah, it’s the same as Bill’s odometer reading: 60,000 miles.

Coincidence? I think not. I find it as purposed assurance for a man following the passion of his second life—bringing more health and wellness into the lives of others.

Winning races is so much more than crossing finish lines. It’s recognizing the meaning of all the miles you’ve left behind to bring you where you are today.

Thanks for the inspiration, Coach Bill Roach.

We celebrate your second life!


  1. I had the amazing good fortune to be mentored by Bill Roach. He is the most caring and knowledgable cycling enthusiast I’ve ever had the privilege to know. Who knew when I sat down to meet him for the first, time so many years ago, that I would become an avid educator of science-based cycling, a Parkinsons Cycling Coach, and conducting Threshold Power and Heart rate classes. You left a huge impression and still do. You do so much for others Bill.

  2. Well done Bill! I am CERTAIN my dad is cheering for all that you are working on these days. He’s probably wishing he could get you some SPIZ or Ultra-Energy (not sure which he was using when you two rode together)to keep you going; no doubt he would also love to be participating in your mission to improve the heath and lives of so many! 🙂 And for the instructors you support … My GOODNESS! What an honor it would be to be mentored by you! Sending many well-wishes and much love!

    1. Oh, Erika. I am choked up by your message and memories. Your dad was a very special person in my life. He gave me courage to try things I didn’t think I could do. He had an infectious optimism about life that touched many people. Most importantly, he left wonderful children to carry on his values in their own ways. Blessings to you, Gretchen and your siblings. Thank especially for your kind words.

  3. Very interesting article. Our local Rec Center in Lititz PA runs a Wellness Parkinson Recovery Program using high intensity training and finishes with stretching and re-training muscle memory. Our Parkinson clients are thrilled with gaining back a stronger body. Their spouses are seeing there love ones lifting themselves out of their chairs and gaining some independence back into their lives. I will share this article with our Rec Center staff.

    1. Wow. Wonderful, Debby. Isn’t this great work? Do you use the Delay the Disease program protocols? They are great. We use them as part of a water-land-cycle program.

  4. Great article, Bill. We were great fans of Dr. Bob and miss him so much – how wonderful that you supported him on RAAM. Your morning class is great and Jim and I both look forward to it. See you Wednesday!

    1. Thanks so much Sue and Jim. I am really enjoying getting to know you better and I am not surprised that you knew and appreciated Bob. You are fun to be with in class.

  5. I’d like to learn more about how I can offer IC classes to support this population. Is there a special webinar or conference I can come to to gain some insight and expertise? I’m very interested in taking my IC Cert to aid these populations.

    1. Hi Elizabeth. Yes, there is an organization affiliated with Dr. Alberts who is providing practical application of his research. Our facility is quasi-medical so we used our own protocol but I know that the protocols offered by Pedaling for Parkinson’s is top notch. I’d try their web site. And let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for caring.

  6. Bill, no great surprise that your second career is as stellar as your first. Jodie

    1. Thanks so much for that kindness, Jodie. I learned so much during those years we worked together. I hope you are really well!

  7. Thanks, Pat. It’s really rewarding work.

  8. Congrats and great story!

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