KZN Cycling’s Tyrone Johns has been involved with the District Development Project for a few years now, and has seen a significant increase in the number of female riders on bikes. In the Eastern Cape, Cycling South Africa’s Vice President and former Transformation and Development Officer Yster Xatasi chats about the newly formed Women’s Cycling Academy in Port Elizabeth.
“I’ve been doing this program for three years now,” says Johns. “I’m not going to say that the amount of girls has doubled, but there has definitely been an increase in female riders wanting to take part in BMX,”
Often, Johns and his team separate the girls from the boys so that there is less intimidation from those already confident on the bike. “You often find that the girls are shy to start riding initially, but among themselves it’s easier to practice and there’s a lot more encouragement in the smaller groups,” he added.
Although many of the boys who ride are already confident on the bikes, the young girls are beginning to give them a run for their money. “The young girls are getting really good at riding. So much so, that Nabeela Adams from the uMzinyathi District in Dundee, was asked to race against the boys, and the boys all said no. They knew that she was better than them,” Johns laughed.
In Port Elizabeth, Xatasi approached a local radio station and reached out to communities. “When the listeners heard me on the radio I began to get the phone calls,” he added.
“It began as part of the mandate of the federation which requires all provinces to form cycling academies as part of transformation,” he said.
He says that the interest has been massive, and that there are 12 riders in the academy already. “I am getting more and more calls of others who interested. We have 12 new bikes so far, and a container filled with old bikes earmarked for women and girls only – all they need are some spare parts and some fixing.”
“Of course financial support is often a struggle, but bikes, spare parts, hemets – anything is welcomed with open arms to be able to get more women on bicyles in the community,” he said.
Xatasi also mentioned Margie Rudman from Cycle Pro, who has assisted with the development of the academy, and also donated helmets for the riders.