Get back on your bike

 

Discovery sat down with Letshego Zulu, biokineticist and adventurer, ahead of the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg in November and following the release of her new book.

The first time Letshego Zulu, biokineticist and adventurer, got on a bike was only a few weeks before her first 947 Cycle Challenge, 11 years ago. Now she is a seasoned professional with numerous gruelling cycling races under her belt. Discovery sat down with Letshego ahead of the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg in November and following the release of her new book.

“I’m a runner, first and foremost, while my late husband Gugu was a cyclist,” she says. “I took to it because I wanted an activity we could do together.

“One day he arrived home with ‘his’ and ‘hers’ bikes and said he’d signed us up for the 947. So there I was, never having learnt to ride a bike before, having to master it in a matter of weeks.

“I did enjoy the race, actually. But I still remember that I kept getting off the bike to run instead, so Gugu was riding his bike and pushing mine at the same time, and then he would persuade me to get back on again and carry on riding.”

Since then, Letshego has completed another eight 947 Cycle Challenge races.

“It is a beautiful race. You cycle through Johannesburg, where the roads are usually clogged with traffic, enjoying a complete road closure. It is also really social. For me, it is not about achieving a particular time. I often take along a friend to encourage him or her to start cycling.”

Letshego rides a Trek Lexa which she bought three years ago. It isn’t the top of the range but it was within her budget at the time and it does the job. She doesn’t spend a lot of money on her other equipment, though she says it is worth buying good-quality cycling pants for bum comfort throughout the race.

She doesn’t have a particular training programme for the Ride Joburg because she maintains a level of fitness throughout the year so she knows she can manage the distance quite easily. She regards the eight-day Cape Epic as the hardest race she has ever done, far harder than the one-day Cape Town Cycle Tour or the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg.

When we spoke, she had just completed the four-day cycle from Soweto to the Nelson Mandela capture site in Howick as part of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Ride4Hope. During the week, she trains at the gym, including using the wattbike. At weekends, she’ll run one day and cycle the next, usually at the Cradle of Humankind.

Letshego engages in some form of activity six days a week. What motivates her? “I enjoy it and I like looking good! Also, I normally raise funds for charity, whether it’s a running or a cycling race.”

She is still deciding which charity she will raise funds for in the upcoming Discovery 947 Ride Joburg race on 17 November. In recent events, she has been raising funds for cancer charities. Kids Kicking Cancer is one that is particularly close to her heart.

“I have lost two family members to cancer,” she explains. “I’ve also visited hospitals in Gauteng where Kids Kicking Cancer is treating children and I find it really heart-wrenching. I hosted a fundraising dinner on my birthday to raise money for the organisation.” In July Letshego’s book, “I Choose to Live: Life after Losing Gugu”, was released in bookstores around the country. It describes the loss of her beloved husband, racing champion Gugu Zulu, on a climbing trip up Mount Kilimanjaro, and her journey towards acceptance.

“The book is selling really well, which has been a great surprise for me,” she says. “It’s still in the Top 10 best-sellers in Exclusive Books. I’ve done about 30 media interviews and I’m getting requests from corporates to deliver motivational talks. I’ve received a lot of support.”

Letshego’s top tips for finishing the Ride Joburg in good nick:

  • Stay well hydrated, it is usually extremely hot. Take an energy drink and water and sip at least every 15 minutes.
  • Take snacks or bars that your body is used to. Don’t try anything new.
  • If you are quite new to cycling, make sure your bike is properly set up for your height by an expert.

Whatever your move, be an adventurer and move more this November in the Discovery 947 Ride Joburg. Take on the challenge of the 94.7km route or try a shorter 40km ride starting at Melrose Arch. Enter now at www.947ridejoburg.co.za.

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