CYCLING has helped Whanganui's Robbie Williams lose more than 100kg of weight and start a new life.

Four years ago he weighed 245kg, was barely mobile and did little. He was often ill.

"I had three heart attacks. The last one scared me. The doctor said 'If you don't lose weight you are going to be in a box'."

Through the family he was involved with he met Terence Matthews, a nutrition and physical activity co-ordinator at Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority, and got to meet Mr Matthews' fellow workers Ethel Muir and Rionn Harford. They became friends and he moved from Ratana Pa to Whanganui.

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Ms Muir invited him to come and help a team at a Waikato triathlon as their cook. She was hoping he would watch and get inspired. He did.

"I buzzed out and wanted to do it," he said.

At her Iron Maori event in Napier in 2014 he decided to do 5km in a walking event. But he ended up doing the whole 21km, inspired by the other competitors - people in their 80s, a man in jandals pushing a pram with children in it. "I thought if they can do it, I can do it," he said.

The last 5 kilometres was the hardest, and he was sore for days.

Ms Muir and Mr Harford helped him get a grant to pay for sporty clothes, running shoes and a road bike. He trained with them for the 2015 Iron Maori triathlon in Hawera. On the day he swam, cycled and ran. He was first in his age group heat and got the trophy everyone else had wanted for years, as well as a medal for finishing.

His longest bike ride so far is 90km on Napier roads in December, finished in four hours and three minutes. He doesn't have a car and uses his bike to do errands around town and visit his daughter at Ratana.

He now weighs 137kg, has stopped eating sugar and trains most days. He's about to start a fulltime 36-week course in extreme sports at UCOL and is back playing rugby for the Pirates club.

He wants to lose more weight, and is training for a half iron triathlon as part of his course. For him, the battle is all mental, and training with mates helps.

"It gives you motivation. You have to be disciplined to go long distance. It's a mental thing."