by Otsile Mabote
Back in the 1900s, Johannesburg was known as a true cycling city. Nearly every third inhabitant rode a bicycle, and it may be said of the Johannesburg child that he learnt to cycle before he could walk.
What happened to Johannesburg’s once vibrant commuter cycling culture? The dominance of the automobile marginalized the bicycle in many cities around the world through the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s. However, when policies of spatial segregation forcibly moved black people to faraway townships at the periphery of the city, the distance between work and home increased dramatically and cycling collapsed as an everyday practice.
Bicycles are now flooding the streets of township areas such as Soweto again. The interest in cycling has grown tremendously over the past few years as more and more people turn to it as a method to keep fit rather than jogging. A number of young people in the townships have taken to the sport. The development of cycling clubs has encouraged many of the youth to give the sport a chance and be open-minded to trying out new activities rather than just thinking that football is the only sport that exists.
Bongani Mabaso, founder of Krugersdorp-based Cradle Cycling Club says the whole point of starting the club was to create a fellowship amongst the black men in the community. There was also a need for young people to be given an opportunity to become involved in the sport, fitness is just a byproduct of the initiative.
In 2017, Mabaso completed the 94.7km Cycle Challenge hosted by radio station Highveld 94.7, alongside his wife. “It was a great milestone for someone had never taken part in such events and with no proper training,” said Mabaso.
At a cycling conference last year, Cycling SA General Manager Mike Bradley said the organization had recognized 32 academies across the country that were situated in the townships and rural areas.
Even though cycling has always been a part of township life, people would hardly think of Road Biking and attempt to participate in it. This is because it is a pricey sport to partake in because there is a lot of maintenance of the bicycle that goes into it. Furthermore, road bicycles are expensive with prices ranging from R6000 to R75000. Road Bicycles are different from a regular bicycle or mountain bike.
The road bicycle's tyres are much thinner and lighter than the usual tyre because this makes the bicycle move at a faster pace. The fact that the tyre is so light makes it very delicate and sensitive to debris on the road. As a result, you have to buy new tubes and tyres very often, but of course, this does depend on how often you cycle.