Ground-breaking international partnership will bring cycling to thousands of children in rural South Africa

An innovative partnership has been developed between organisations from the UK and South Africa to establish a specialist cycle hub which will enable thousands of children in rural South Africa to learn how to ride and maintain bicycles.

Since 2016, the University of Leeds and the Bambisanani Partnership have devised and delivered a Cycling to Success programme based at Mnyakanya High School in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

This programme has led to almost 200 young people learning how to ride bikes safely, and to also maintain and fix bikes in the community. The programme has also operated a bike rental scheme to allow leaners who live great distances from school to ride to and from school.

The project has gained widespread acclaim, including praise from World Champion professional cyclist, Lizzie Diegan MBE, who has even given her own kit to support it. 

The ambition has always been to expand and grow the programme to further schools in the area to broaden the reach and numbers of children gaining these valuable life skills.

Over the last two years, the University of Leeds and the Bambisanani Partnership have been working with the highly respected KZN Cycling, the provincial cycling federation, to identify opportunities for collaboration and to expand the project across a great number of schools and across the calendar year.

The Bambisanani Cycling to Success programme introduced in the remote Nkandla region has had an enormous impact.

This is an area where children can routinely walk two hours to and from school each day. The bikes have subsequently been used for transportation, recreation, informal sport and even by the local football team for fitness training. Other remote rural communities also approached the Partnership to see if they could be involved, but until now this has not been possible.

The collaboration with KZN Cycling dramatically increases capacity to bring cycling, with all its transformative benefits, to other communities.

Over the past week, the Bambisanani Partnership and KZN Cycling have signed a three-year agreement worth over R520 000 to establish a cycling hub in the Nkandla region.

This new hub will have a local community member as a member of staff to deliver schools cycling programmes, as well as community clinics and organise races and events across the area.

The new hub will enable 5 000 young people per year to attend training clinics, as well as acting as a talent identification programme for KZN-Cycling performance pathway. This new partnership provides an exciting opportunity to empower the young people of Nkandla, as well as providing a blueprint for future programmes and projects.

The commitment and enthusiasm for this project is clearly evident from those involved:

“We are all excited to develop this new partnership. A cycling hub like this, run by the community, for the community is development at its best,” said Andrew Lockwood from the University of Leeds who is a Bambisanani Partnership Trustee.

“We have already seen the significant impact our cycling projects have had in Nkandla; and this expansion is great news and I am sure will make a long-term impact on those who benefit from it.”

Alec Lenferna, Chief Executive Officer of KZN Cycling, is excited to see the province’s already impressive programme expanding.

“We’ve always believed that we have a good programme in place across all eleven districts in the province, and every year we have tens of thousands of youngsters that get included in the various elements,” said Lenferna.

“However, the new agreement that has been put in place with the Bambisanani Partnership, not only endorses the hard work being done by all, but more significantly, allows for longer-term strategic planning linked to elements that are going to positively impact on the lives of the people of the Nkandla region.”

“For people in the deep rural areas of KZN, bikes, and the linked opportunities that bikes have, are life changing. If there were more organisations like the Bambisanani Partnership that got behind development programmes like this, whether here or elsewhere in the world, there would be more smiles on more faces every day.”

David Geldart, CEO and Founder of the Bambisanani Partnership, is grateful for the partnerships that have allowed the programme to grow.

“I am absolutely delighted to have signed this agreement to work in partnership with KZN Cycling,” he said. “Our own cycling programmes in the deep rural areas have been a resounding success and it is a wonderful opportunity to be now collaborating with KZN Cycling to bring cycling to thousands more young people.”

“Significantly, this work will also involve the KZN Department of Education and the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation, who we have worked with closely for many years. Massive thanks must go to Andy and Alec for working tirelessly to create this pioneering programme.”

With final preparations now underway the first children will be participating in the programme by early June of this year.

KZN District Final

In the week of 25th – 30th April, 110 x young riders from all 11 x districts were transported to Pietermaritzburg on Sunday 25th April to take part in the KZN District Final, with training activities and competitions taking place in all four major cycling disciplines, namely Road, Track, MTB & BMX. This event was the culmination of the clinics training programme that has been ongoing in all 11 x districts, and district events were held so as to be able to select the ten best riders from each region – from the clinics programme and not those that are already in the HP squads or who have taken part in provincial events previously – so as to allow them to be able to compete against their compatriots from all over the province.

On the first two days, the group was divided into smaller training groups and they all received training in the different disciplines and to get them used to using geared road and mountain bikes, as well as using the track bikes and competition level BMX bikes. On Wednesday and Thursday, competitions were then held in all four disciplines so that the youngsters could put into practise what had been learnt in the training sessions. Apart from allowing the riders to be able to compete – and also win individual trophies in their respective age categories – it is an event that allowed for those riders with talent in the different elements to be identified so that they can be progressed into the HP groups in each of the districts, to receive additional training from the HP officers during this next phase of the programme in the 21/22 time period. This portion in itself was extremely successful in that a significant number of youngsters have been identified – the future looks bright for the next crop of riders.

Regardless of where the riders finished in each of the competitions on an individual basis, all riders were allocated points in the competitions towards the District prize, and the top three performing districts overall were as follows:

  • 1st place – eThekwini
  • 2nd place – Zululand
  • 3rd place – uMkhanyakude

The attitude and willingness of the youngsters that were at the event this week was great to see and they all gave of their best and tried really hard throughout which was fantastic to see. The event also showed that the district programmes are working, and the various district officers are working hard to ensure the youngsters in their regions are being well trained. They have now all returned to their home districts with new skills and with added incentive to continue training hard.

Leading Development Programme

For the past number of years, all involved with the KZN Cycling Development plan have been making continual improvements and innovations and now, the programme is recognised as the leading development programme on the African Continent and there are very few programmes anywhere in the world that can rival what has been achieved in KZN with the support of the KZN Department of Sport & Recreation over the past few  years. This is certainly the case in the cycling realm, and it is even looked at as one of the leading general sports development programme with principles that can be used across all disciplines.

Alec Lenferna was asked to meet with and make a presentation to the leading role players of the Egyptian Cycling Federation as well as the Egyptian Ministry of Youth and Sport so that they can learn of what KZN Cycling is doing and how these lessons could be transposed into their cycling and other sports programmes.

It is great to see a homegrown programme receiving international attention that has been very well received.

Capacity Building Programme Bearing Fruit

Apart from introducing young riders to the sport through the clinics programme and nurturing the talented riders in the higher performance element of the project, a significant pillar of the KZN Cycling Development programme is to undertake capacity building programmes across all the districts. This programme is structured so as to be able to provide training in the various “backend” elements of the sport to adults across the province so that the sport can be grown at all levels.

Introductory courses are run in elements such as coaching, mechanics, event safety, event management, officiating and club and event administration and over the past years, a large number of people have passed through the programmes and are active in the different fields.

This year, focus was also given to some “high end” courses to not only increase the overall capacity in the province, but also with the express aim of making people more employable in the different elements allied to the sport. A national commissaire course and also a team manager’s course was held earlier in the year, and a number of people from these courses have already been active at the different events in the province. These courses were supplemented by a “bike technicians course” at the end of 2019 and recently the first ever Trail Builders course being held with 15 x representatives from four of the KZN districts attending. The course was run by Tim Keep who was able to impart his knowledge and experience to the attendees – both in the lecture room and more importantly, in the practical sessions that made up part of the course. This all culminated with a new trail being designed and built at the Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg and the experience gained by all will stand them in good stead in being more employable with new skills in their home districts.

It’s no use running training programmes if people are not going to be able to use the skills learnt so it’s exciting that those that attended the bike technicians course have now been contracted to undertake the extensive bike maintenance programme that has started to roll out across the province. KZN Cycling has a large number of clinic and racing standard bikes in all 11 x districts that require continual maintenance, and as time goes on, through the normal rollout of the programme, these bikes and other linked equipment require more and more upkeep. The process has started this past week with all of the trained mechanics being on duty sorting out all the uMgungundlovu District bikes and equipment and over the next weeks, they will be going out to all the districts to carry out the necessary repairs and upkeep of the equipment.

As the programme builds, so too will all these elements increase.

New Year Update

Since the start of the New Year, it seems that things have been moving in fast forward around the development programme with all that has been going on of late. The district officers have been at the schools on a regular basis making sure that the clinics programme across all eleven districts are ongoing and more than 8000 x youngsters have gone through the programme since the beginning of January alone. Capacity building courses in King Cetshwayo, eThekwini and iLembe have all gone ahead and these will be followed soon by the courses in uMgungundlovu. The racing seasons have all started off and large groups from the respective development HP squads have all been competing with some superb results being achieved including various provincial championships titles and a number of podium positions across the board.

The development programme is ever changing and what started three years ago, is now a mature programme that is now being used as a template for all provinces in the country as well as other countries in the developing world. A good result for all that have been involved thus far.

End of Year Update

It has been a very busy period of the year in the development programme these past months. In October alone there have been 112 scheduled clinics held which 4742 children attended and this far more than 23 000 children having come through the development programme this year. As well as clinics, there have also been capacity building courses that have been held this last month with coaching, mechanics, officiating, event management and safety and security courses held. There has also been marshal training courses which has resulted in 230 new marshals being trained. Several district races have also been held across the whole province which allows the children to practice and show the new skills that they have learnt over the last couple of months and to also allow the children to have some friendly competition against their peers. As this year draws to a close and children start going on holiday so the schedule starts to slow down, and we can begin preparations in order to start in January again with a bang. 

A Busy Events Schedule

It’s been a busy few weeks for the development programme with riders competing all over the country in a variety of events and activities.

The BMX National Series rounds 9 & 10 as well as the National BMX Championships was staged in Gauteng on the 21st & 22nd September and KZN sent through a large contingent of riders including 14 x riders that have progressed through the KZN Cycling Development programme. The smaller size of berms and jumps lent itself to being better suited to younger riders however made the Elite races no less exciting and the KZN team achieved some excellent results with a few outstanding performances.

Following in his big brother’s footsteps with a clear natural talent for riding bicycles, Mongezi Madida who is the younger brother of Manqoba managed to achieve an SA 4 placing in the final which as a novice rider who only started riding BMX this year and racing in the Expert Class, was a fantastic achievement. Wandile Mbili from Ilembe also achieved an excellent result considering this was his first national event winning through to the finals and attaining a SA7 number. Tyler Thompson managed to retain his SA 1 title with clinical racing from start to finish and other good results from the development group came from Tate Barnard – SA3, Mvelo Ntombela – SA6, Sphelele Ntombela – SA7, Mongezi Madida – SA4, Anele Ndlovu SA3, Logan Lambert SA6, Manasseh Meintkies SA6, Jordan Smallbone SA6, Zaid Stofberg SA3 and Sisanda Ngcobo SA3.

The Hi Q Hoedspruit Youth Festival took place at the Swadini Resort in Limpopo from 22nd – 25th September with a large KZN squad of junior riders that took part to compete against riders from all of the provinces across the country.  The event consists of a mountain bike race, road race, hill climb, individual time-trial and criterium with points being accrued by all the riders throughout and allocated to the overall points to determine the winning teams at the end of the competition. Part of this year’s KZN team were four young men from the development programme that were selected to compete in the event, these being Chad Singh, Smagaliso Msomi, Thabiso Shange and Banele Khanyile .

Apart from the excellent performance of the KZN squad as a whole, the youngsters from the development squad rode extremely well and contributed along with all others to the dominance of the KZN team at the event. As the competition progressed, and as they got used to the conditions and the type of competitions each day, the young boys got stronger and stronger and started finishing higher up the results sheets which is good to see. The KZN team won the event overall dominating the score sheets racking up a total of 316 points to take the title with Gauteng a very distant 2nd place with 139 points and Mpumalanga in 3rd with 135 points.

Six young riders from the programme qualified for the national finals of the Spur Schools Series and Lihle Ngidi, Unathi Nxumalo Thabiso Zindela, Mnelisi Khomo, Lerato Mokela and Anele Khoza made the trip to the event. It is fantastic to see the two girls qualifying and is testament to their massive improvement and efforts this year and is a huge achievement for them as well as the boys on the list, especially Mnelisi who has given his all at every event. They all rode well with varying success at the event and did not disappoint on look out of place at all against the best school riders in the country.

While all the events were going on, the work of the development district officers continued this month and another 86 x training clinics were held across the country with another 4 144 learners being included in the programme. To date, a total of 18 166 youngsters have been through the clinics programme which is great news.

Safire Baynesfield MTB Classic & Swadini Youth Road Tour

The top mountain riders from the KZN Cycling Development MTB HP squad took part in the Safire Baynesfield MTB Classic on Sunday 15th September and once again, they did themselves and the team proud with their performances. In the 65km race, Lihle Ngidi was again the standout rider on the day and came 2nd overall and 2nd in his age category, Unathi Nxumalo and Chad Singh also performed well in this long race. In the 45km race, Lerato Mokela and Anele Khoza performed exceptionally well to attain 2nd & 3rd places respectively in the Youth Female categories and in the 21km race, Thabiso Zindela took line honours in his age category. Apart from these standout performances, all the other riders competing did very well and these youngsters are no longer there to just make up the numbers at events and are performing fantastically well and showing real grit and determination. Their exponential growth each time they go out to race is wonderful to see.

The Swadini Youth Road Tour is taking place in Mpumalanga from 20th – 25th September and four young men from the development programme have been selected to compete in the event as part of the KZN Squad that will be competing against riders from all of the provinces across the country . Chad Singh, Smagaliso Msomi, Thabiso Shange and Banele Khanyile will be making the trip and this tour – with its concentrated racing every day – will be a huge challenge for them all but at the same time, will be a huge step up for them in their overall development and we look forward to seeing how they match up against the top young riders from across the country.

SA National BMX Championships

For the past number of weeks, the KZN BMX Commission has been staging their BMX events that have included a Development Racing Class as part of the programme so as to allow new riders to compete at BMX races against riders of a similar level with the aim being to graduate the better riders into the open classes as they progress and develop. This plan has worked exceptionally well and more and more riders are taking part in the open classes where the aim was then to be able to development sufficiently to be able to qualify for the SA National BMX Championships that is taking place in Johannesburg from the 20th – 22nd September. It really is great to see that a total of 14 x development riders have been selected to compete at the National Championships and are being supported by KZN Cycling (with the funding supplied by KZN Department of Sport & Recreation) and will travel with the large KZN contingent to take on the best BMX riders in the country.

Mandela Day Marathon MTB Dash

The Mandela Day Marathon MTB Dash was a big day for the development programme with more than 270 young riders from six different districts being involved. Fifty of those took part in the 42km and 21km races with 20 of these attaining top 10 positions in their categories on the day – a fantastic achievement. The Mandela MTB Shootout event was for the feeder riders to the HP programme and fierce racing ensued all day there too. It was also great to be able to donate a number of bikes to the Lions River Primary youngsters too. A great day all around.