Puso Mtimkulu, a System Analyst at Sasfin, is a fitness enthusiast. He plays soccer, gyms, runs, and has participated in many Sasfin/Smile Foundation Spinathons. “I'm always trying to push my body and mind to the limit,” he says.
When an old high school friend called him a year ago asking him to join The Soweto Cycling Foundation, it was a no-brainer – Puso was in. He’d never cycled before but went, got on the bike, and has never looked back.
The Soweto Cycling Foundation is an NPO that was founded in 2018 in Diepkloof, Soweto. Its purpose is to introduce youth in Soweto to cycling. Cycling is an active sport that not only has health benefits, it gets the township kids off the street and away from negative influences.
We just want the kids to come, and we’ll do the rest. Just come and have fun.
The Soweto Cycling Foundation is funded by the community, donors, and fundraising initiatives. Most of the bikes are second hand and the kits are either donated or bought using money that’s raised. The foundation provides the kids with bikes, kits, lessons, and group rides. “We just want the kids to come, and we’ll do the rest. Just come and have fun,” Puso says.
There are training lessons every afternoon from Monday to Friday. During these lessons, kids do cardio and strength workouts and get lessons on how to ride a bike. One of the first lessons they learn is that there are two types of riders, “those who have fallen and those who are still going to fall”. When someone falls, everyone stops and helps them get back up – “we are like family” says Puso.
On Saturday afternoons they fix and maintain the bikes. Only after committing to the first six days of training and work do the kids get to join the ride on Sunday. The Sunday ride starts at 06:00, no matter the season.
Puso rides with the group every Sunday making sure that the kids are safe and doing ok. Having grown up in Diepkloof, being part of this community upliftment is especially meaningful to him.
“These are kids that can barely afford a packet of chips. They’re now riding these bikes worth thousands of rands and having the time of their life. There is a phrase these kids use. It’s loosely translated to ‘eat my dust’ – they go out and challenge each other to outcycle each other. Just seeing the euphoria in their eyes is amazing”. Puso continues, “we’ve had kids who couldn’t ride, learn to ride. Kids who are introverted come out of their shell. We go to races, and they get to build relationships with other kids. It’s beautiful to see these friendships between kids of different colours and backgrounds develop through a mutual love of riding.”
We’ve had kids who couldn’t ride, learn to ride. Kids who are introverted come out of their shell.
The Soweto Cycling Foundation is not only concerned about getting kids off the street, but also encouraging and supporting education. There is a strict rule that when kids have exams they cannot do races – cycling cannot interfere with schoolwork. To ensure this happens there is a WhatsApp group that the parents are on, so they too know what is happening.
The biggest highlights include nurturing talent like Siyamthanda, aka “Siyamthunder”, a 14-year-old that is so strong and fast he is racing with guys who are 26 and 27 years old. One of the women received a sponsorship from Gill hair products which included a bike to use for the 94.7 cycling race.
In addition, the club has been able to participate in track racing. Last year the club got funding to attend the SA National Track Champs in Cape Town. This year, with no funding, only three kids whose family could afford to send them were able to go. “It was heartsore for those who couldn’t go. The reality is that not all families can afford groceries for a full month, never mind a cycling kit and tickets to Cape Town,” Puso says.
The foundation would like to raise enough money to build a cycling track in Soweto with a storage area for the bikes and an admin office. Things that would help them serve more youth and provide more opportunities for upliftment.
One of their most recent fundraisers was a Youth Day Fun Ride which saw over 60 riders doing a 25 km ride. The ride began in Diepkloof going into Orlando East where they stopped at the Hector Pieterson Memorial. They rode past both the Orlando Stadium and FNB Stadium and past The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital before returning to the start. The event ended with a day of stalls selling clothing, cycling merch and other goodies and a performance by South Africa rapper, Reasonhd_.
If there’s one thing Puso wants people to know about cycling, it’s that “it’s possible for a black child in Soweto to go pro. Yes, it’s an expensive sport, but as a black person from a previously disadvantaged upbringing [I’m telling you], you can do it. If you’ve got the passion for it and determination, through the Cycling Foundation, we can help”.
If you have a cycling kit or equipment to donate, please email email@example.com, and we will gladly arrange for it to be collected and donated to the club.
Warren Lester grew up in a family of Comrades runners. It was only a matter of time before he joined the club. In 2022 he ran his first Comrades, and in 2023 he returned, smashing his time by more than one hour to get a sub-nine-hour medal.