Cycling moves Mamelodi youth

All photos courtesy Tshwane Urban Riders Facebook Page

On the streets of Mamelodi township on a Saturday morning, you’ll recognise cyclists young and not-so-young enjoying the freedom that cycling brings to almost every cyclist on a weekend ride! Led by Percy Modiselle, the local cycling club continues to introduce more youth into the sport of cycling and encourages participation by lending them bicycles and equipment for the opportunity to cycle.

The 39-year-old began with cycling projects after he became hooked on the sport. Getting bored of his gym routine, Percy bought a bicycle and joined a local group that was cycling in the township. He saw a number of youth and thought, “why can’t we formalise this sport in our area with a structure and a safe place to ride for the kids”. He has two young boys who would be eager to participate.

In 2011, the structure was formed, and Percy became the leader but is quick to acknowledge many others that form the firm foundation of their club – Tshwane Urban Riders. Everyone has their own expertise, bringing skills like finance and communication to the table. The club was structured in such a way that they would look for funding to support the structure itself, but also that the main senior club members aged 23-and-over would fund the younger riders.

“In 2014, at the Run and Ride 4 Mandela event, we became part of the event and did an activation to get additional bicycles for the club. This was done through Sports and Recreation South Africa. We helped them with activation in the townships and that's how our club became recognised,” he said. They received 15 mountain bikes.

This year, through Cycling SA’s Sports and Recreation grant, Tshwane Urban Riders club received R20 000. Percy attests how good housekeeping is important to secure funding through the correct channels. “The Club is official and is registered as a non-profit organisation with a Treasurer and a Secretary. We account for each and every cent that we use. Our governance is in order and we have also held an Annual General Meeting.”

The club has identified what the young riders need, other than bicycles, to participate safely. By also partnering with City of Tshwane, they approached the Embassy of Denmark who suggest the idea of a township cycle tour to Danish tourists visiting South Africa. By supplying bicycles and equipment for the tour, they partly generate funding for the club.

Percy was also selected to be the coach for the youth, without the necessary knowledge. “I was fortunate to attend the Level 1 UCI coaching course and learned a lot, but we also needed professionals who have been in the game for a longer time to offer training methods and we can coordinate what we can use.”

They started doing Saturday morning rides through the township with the youth and visiting mountain bike parks. From there, everything started to take shape, progressing to a level with groups of learners competing in the Spur Schools Series and other activities like the Youth Festival in Swadini, which they have been attending for the past five years.

“Our members raise and donate funds to support those riders to attend. This year, we had 25 learners to select from, with 15 of those riders showing commitment. From those 15, we had to look at race results and performance and took nine riders to Swadini. By belonging to the structure of cycling, Gauteng North (our provincial affiliate) sponsored a portion of the package for our riders to attend Swadini. The rest was covered by our club and money received from the grant,” says Percy.

At the moment, it is facilities like a club office and storage for bicycles that the Tshwane Urban Riders need the most. They focus on mountain bike and road disciplines, where road is easier to train on as they utilise the network of roads in their township. For mountain biking, trails and a bike park are better suited to provide the practice that a rider requires to improve his/her skills and technical learning.

“Sometimes you start something and didn't see yourself being what you are today. When you see opportunities, then you start seeing what is available. Our club really works!” he said.