Getting Khayelitsha kids to Cape Town’s best MTB trails

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The Pedal Project is an after-school programme taking Khayelitsha kids to South Africa’s best mountain biking venues. (Photo: Jaco van der Linde)
The Pedal Project is an after-school programme taking Khayelitsha kids to South Africa’s best mountain biking venues. (Photo: Jaco van der Linde)
  • Nobody has a negative experience riding mountain bikes on forest trails.
  • This non-profit helps Khayaletshi primary school learners to ride bikes on some of the world's best trails.
  • It is an after-school activity that teaches kids confidence, especially those from traumatised backgrounds.

Mountain biking is proven to benefit physical and mental health. But mountain bikes are expensive. And mountain bike trails are mostly beyond underprivileged riders' logistical reach and access.

Pedal Project is a non-profit organisation that brings after-school mountain biking to kids who could never dream of riding trails. Much less - owning a mountain bike.

With new bikes, including new Apex 24- and 26-inch wheeled mountain bikes from Rush Sports, ten kids a day are accommodated in the Pedal Project experience. Using a rotational system, 50 kids can have a trail riding experience in a week.

mountain bike
In Europe, forest time is part of mental wellbeing prescriptions by doctors. These Khayelitsha kids know all about it. (Photo: Jaco van der Linde)

Rolling tyres to better mental health

Stellenbosch's Eden trail network is one of South Africa's oldest and most cherished riding venues. And a favourite for Pedal Project riders.

The programme is structured to have contact with riders for one day per week, over 35 weeks. Although the goal is to make the kids proficient as riders, it's equally important to allow the healthy escapism that forests and trails enable, to work their healing magic.

kids mtb
Jaco van der Linde leading a group of Pedal Project riders, in Eden. (Photo: Jaco van der Linde)

Taxi association provides the trail shuttle  

It's a reality that absentee parents can't teach kids to ride in poor communities. Equipment remains unaffordable, and riding infrastructure is inadequate. This is where the Pedal Project acts as a school-to-trailhead solution.

Targeting kids between 10-13, Pedal Project use the Codeta taxi association to collect riders from Injongo primary school in Khayelitsha. After their weekly ride, the taxis return these kids to the local community, just after 18:00. It parallels the traditional South African after-school activity routine.

mountain bike
Pedal Project works on basic bike skills, as most kids have never ridden. Developing elementary bike skills is a huge confidence boost. (Photo: Jaco van der Linde)

A proven bike advocate gives his support  

Andrew Neethling has been supporting Pedal Power since its establishment in 2020. For more than a decade, Andrew was one of the world's elite downhill riders. And someone who has experienced cycling as a transformative experience.

From the World Cup circuit to trail riding in exotic locations such as Iran, Andrew has done everything on bikes.

"I didn't want to play cricket and was too small for rugby. There is not a lot to do after school in Somerset West. And bikes kept me out of trouble. I was a newspaper delivery boy, too"

"I watched the 1997 World Cup downhill mountain bike event in Stellenbosch And that is what I wanted to do. And my family had the means to launch me overseas. And I've had a life around bikes since."

Andrew knows the value of bikes. "Bikes build confidence and mental health. And these kids, who come from the toughest backgrounds, prove that."

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