Changing lives through cycling

Bonga Ngqobane, the founder of Bonga.org Cycling Academy in Khayelitsha with squad members, from left, Lubabalo Bongweni, Hlumelo Ngqobongwana, Asakha Dyantyi, Siyabonga Nyathela, Siyasanga Ngaqisa, Asakhe Dyantyi and Aviwe Matina.

Site B cycling enthusiast, Bonga Ngqobane, 29, is a real changemaker and is excited to help develop youngsters from from Khayelitsha into provincial and national riders.

Ngqobane’s Bonga.org Cycling Academy, in Makhaza, was recently featured as one of six academies addressing challenges faced by up-and-coming cyclists, by the National Cycling Academy Forum (NCAF), supported by Coronation Fund Managers and Ride2Live, a platform connecting development cyclists, academies and triathletes in the country.

NCAF and Ride2Live recently launched the #RideWithMe campaign, calling on the public to help support SA’s township-based cycling academies.

Funds raised will provide 21 cyclists from the academy with nutrition, race entries, transport, cycling and training equipment, and specialised training.

Originally from Nqadu, a small village in the Eastern Cape, Ngqobane is South Africa’s first and only black sporting director at Cycling SA, and the founder of the six-year-old cycling academy.

Ngqobane, who has close to two decades of experience in cycling, wants to create a safe space for young people to cycle and progress in society.

On a sunny afternoon in 2005 Ngqobane followed a group of cyclists that passed by Kukhanyile Public Primary School where he was a pupil.

He was in Grade 7 and their destination was around the corner at what is now known as Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy in H-section.

An avid long distance runner while at school, Ngqobane described the transition, from running to cycling, as “ peanuts”.

Besides, he was up for the challenge.

He joined Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy, which was then Millennial Cycling Academy, from the under-15 division up until the under-23 side.

A couple of years later Ngqobane spent some time abroad before he joined Exxaro MTB Academy in Johannesburg.

He returned to Cape Town, and joined the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) Clan as a rider and coach before progressing to a management role and sponsorship co-ordinator.

Among Ngqobane’s fondest memories with YEP, is finishing in the top 200 of the Cape Epic 2015 challenge, with a former gang leader, Sinethemba Vapi.

Ngqobane said Vapi did not only inspire him as a cyclist, but the way he turned his life around was testimony that youngsters with a challenging background may be able to become community leaders.

“In the process, I started a programme for schools, events and funding for kids. We believe that you can transform a kid through cycling and education, through commitment and development,” he said.

Although he did not wear the national colours as a cyclist, Ngqobane became the MTB Regional Commissaire and the director at Cycling SA.

During his reign as the director of the national team; they took part in the African Continental Championships, Tour of Taipei and Tour de Cameroon.

Ngqobane’s Bonga.org Cycling Academy has about 50 registered riders, with 35 of them owning bikes.

“Some of our young riders were listed in the top nine young South Africans in 2017, and also listed in the top 200 last year.

“We want them to achieve their goals to become national cyclists. In the next two years we want to produce cyclists that will participate in national and international events,” he said.

“The lockdown has forced us to reschedule our timelines.

“Events were cancelled and training was delayed. However, events will be back soon. We are creating a positive space for young people and creating future leaders,” he said.

Ngqobane said it is quite challenging to have an academy in Khayelitsha, in particular as some parents cannot afford to buy bikes or to get their children to events.

However, the support shown by the community has been consistent throughout the years.

They also have a Backabuddy account called #EnableOurDreams. Ngqobane said his academy has also opened doors to young female riders.

“I always try my best and that is what I really want for our riders and our community.

“We are the brothers that need to protect our sisters and take care of them,” said Ngqobane.