Over the years, AWOL Tours has been growing its commitment to support the Songezo Jim Cycling Academy based in Masiphumelele Cape Town. Songezo Jim is a professional South African cyclist riding for Kuwait–Cartucho.es. He rode in the 2015 Vuelta a España & 2016 Giro d’Italia, becoming the first black South African rider to compete in the race. Our Tour Guide Bevan recently went on a training ride with the youth team and discovered just how serious they really are and why they truly do deserve the support of the Cape Town cycling community.

“Stay together as a group and ride as fast as the slowest rider” was the brief before heading out on a coffee ride with the Songezo Jim Cycling academy.  Little did I know that this group did not have a slow rider in it, from the minute we got on the road they got into a fast rolling group and before I knew it they were catching and over taking other riders as they climbed up the Atlantic seaboard. By the time we got to Chapmans Peak there was a string of cyclists trying to hang on to the back of the group, many of them dropped off as the gradient of the climb steepend.

When we finally did stop for a coffee;  I got to sit down with Lubalalo (Luba) a mentor at the academy to get a better understanding of the behind the scenes and to better understand some of the challenges of the academy. Luba was very enthusiastic about how hard the team train and race, saying racing is their dream. When he is not on the bike, he is a mentor to the younger group of riders in the academy. He said the bikes often go out two or three times a day depending on how many youngsters are at the academy. All of them aspiring to race professionally one day if the opportunity presents itself.

Having spent a bit of time at the shared headquarters of the Songezo Jim Academy (and AWOL Tours workshop)   I have seen first hand how much mileage the donated bicycles are racking up and of coarse how much wear and tear comes with so many kilometers of cycling. Which in turn means that trying to find and repair  parts is a continuous challenge – keeping these bicycles on the road is an enormous feat especially without consistent funding.

What I found most interesting when listening to Luba talk was that one of the largest hurdles that the team faced as well as why many children stayed away from participating is that the intense exercise increases their appetite and nutritional needs, something that many people living outside of townships often do not have to be too concerned about but equally something that is vital for anyone (especially the youth) to consider when trying to perform at your best. Their families are not in the financial position to purchase any additional food to sustain the demands of training and racing bicycles, in fact as it is many of them frequently go without meals due to poor financial circumstances. This information humbled me and I realised that these guys need some real assistance.

Many people have already kindly donated bicycle parts as well as cycling kit and others have assisted with financial contributions which help pay for the team to get to races, all of these may seem like a raindrop in the bucket individually but together it makes a massive difference and often helps keep the teams dreams alive. It was a wonderful experience hanging out with the team, their passion will stay with me for years to come.

For our guests joining the Masiphumelele Bicycle Township Tour the opportunity to include a donation of choice to the cycling academy is available on the AWOL Tours booking platform by clicking the donate now button. Guests are also welcome to bring high energy non perishable food to leave at the workshop for the young cyclists. Another way to support the team is to join a team ride, come and meet the team and enjoy high level training experience.

AWOL Tours is reaching out now to the greater Cape Town cycling community to support the Songezo Jim Cycling Academy in any way. If you would like to make a donation please contact AWOL Tours on email info@awoltours.co.za or call /whatsapp on Mobile: +27-832346428

Written by Bevan Hope- Bailie