What started as a hobby for a young Soweto tourist has turned into a bicycle touring agency that offers free riding lessons to locals looking to learn and improve their pedaling skills.

But there’s a catch, locals have to donate books to ‘Book Ibhoni’ before they’re allowed to saddle around West Orlando, from house number 7189 on Vilakazi Street, a stone’s throw from the well-known tourist attraction, Mandela House.

Since 2015, Mpumelelo Mthintwa, the marketing director of Book Ibhoni, which loosely translates to “reserve a bike”, has donated dozens of books collected from his customers to various community libraries to support the #FeesMustFall movement, which advocates a free premium quality. education.

Mthintwa says the Book Ibhoni initiative gave birth to the free bike lessons after the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) gifted him bikes to help support the idea of ​​teaching community members how to ride. biking.

The donation came shortly after the JDA extended bike lanes in Soweto from Orlando and Noordgesig on the western outskirts to Bara and Maponya Mall in the central southeast.

The free bike lesson program began in 2021 when Mthintwa began teaching pupils from three different schools in the nearby town of Pimville how to ride a bike.

“We had people coming from Pretoria just because they heard about the lessons on the city’s Twitter page, Facebook account and on our social media platforms. Our social media page plays an important role in the business because that’s how we’ve grown so much,” he explains.

Book Ibhoni offers free cycling lessons for children and adults who want to learn to ride a bike as a means of transportation or as a hobby. The company uses effective and safe methods to get individuals to master cycling in no time.

Classes are held at the Klipspruit Sports Center every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Participants are equipped with a bicycle and a helmet; those who have theirs are encouraged to bring them. There are plenty of on-sight bike trainers or instructors, and there is no need to fill out any documentation or pay a fee to join.

Mthintwa says it takes an average of 45 minutes to learn to ride a bike, but for some it takes a maximum of two days. Lessons include balance, paddling and learning the rules of the road and all the intricacies of navigating the two-wheeled saddle.

“We created our business model to fit all types of people. For example, if we teach you how to ride a bike for free, we will sell you a bike from Book Ibhoni once you know how to ride a bike,” says Tinyiko Nkuna, Sales Manager at Book Ibhoni.

Nkuna says Book Ibhoni aspires to change stereotypes that cycling is an elite sport.

“Cycling as a sport does not belong to a certain racial group, people of status or a specific demographic group, it is a sport that should be practiced by different people from different communities, regardless of their origin. “, he adds.

With South Africa considered one of the 30 most obese countries in the world, Nkuna says Book Ibhoni is also focused on encouraging participants to adopt healthy lifestyles through cycling.

“As the country faces high unemployment, we use bicycles to earn a living. We want to share information with the next generation, but it starts with you knowing how to ride a bike,” he adds.

Residents interested in learning to ride a bike or wanting more information about the free bike lesson program should visit its Facebook and Instagram pages @Sowetobicyclenetwork or WhatsApp 061 371 9013; you can also email [email protected]

Written by Gontse ‘GeE’ Hlophe