I've been making a serious effort to shake off a few kilos and get fit in the process, but I also want to have fun whilst doing this. That means the gym is a non starter! So I've been mountain biking on and off for a couple of years now and really enjoyed it, but late last year the group I was riding with let me down. I chased them for a while but had to concede defeat as they were all too busy with their own businesses to commit to regular riding.

So this year I decided I would ride three times a week regardless, so for much of the time I've been riding on my own up in the mountains at Sir Lowry's Pass. However on Wednesdays, I've been riding regularly in Jonkershoek in Stellenbosch with a friend which has been fantastic.

I now ride on Mon, Wed & Fri for at least 90 minutes, but on the last few rides I've stepped this up to two hours which is very satisfying. Another friend recently showed me an extension to the Sir Lowry's ride which involves a further steep hill climb but the views are well worth the effort, not to mention the downhill blast!

This week has been particularly satisfying as there are three hills which I've battled with and always had to stop on to get my breath back. Two of these are in Jonkershoek, one is a 20 min slog uphill the other is a short sharp 5 min hill which makes your legs burn. The third hill is at Sir Lowry's which is another 5 min short sharp hill. On Monday and Wednesday I conquered all of these hills without stopping and actually did the 20 min slog in Jonkershoek twice!

Also, whilst I've not yet weighed myself since getting serious, I have definitely lost some weight (had many comments from people) and may well have to go and buy a whole new set of trousers soon. My weight has been between 97 - 100Kg's for several years now and I'm aiming to get down to 85Kg's which will obviously take a lot of work. We've made some major changes to our diet, only having alcohol once a week and then in reduced quantities! I've not had a beer for almost a month - oh the sacrifice! We're eating lots of salads with the right kinds of carbs and I'm snacking on fruit and nuts rather than biscuits, sweets & crisps. After just a couple of months we're both feeling good.

The other bit of excitement for me is that Paula allowed me to upgrade my bike and this has made a HUGE difference to my riding. I was on a Giant Boulder (right), but now ride a Scott Reflex 10 (above). The geometry of the two bikes is totally different with the Scott being set up for more hard core riding. Consequently the front wheel remains planted to the ground when hill climbing and on descents I have so much more control. I'm no longer second guessing where the front wheel might go! This has a big impact on speed and technical ability which is great and adds a lot more fun to the rides. (left is the Scott, right is the Giant)

There's also another side to all of this as I have my eye on entering some MTB races this year with a plan to do the Cape Argus in 2008. Whilst I know I won't win any races I want to have some clear goals to aim at which should also help with the motivation whilst also testing myself against other riders. I was very encouraged on Monday when I rode with two other guys as one of them is a super fit dude but I beat him on all the hills, that was a first! Watch this space for further news...


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