The story of Khayelitsha’s first bike shop

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The Khaltsha Cycles crew, keep Khayelitsha's riders going (Photo: R24)
The Khaltsha Cycles crew, keep Khayelitsha's riders going (Photo: R24)
  • Khaltsha Cycles is the first cycle shop in the history of Khayelitsha
  • Many residents of Khayelitsha now prefer cycling over public transport
  • Fixies and cruisers are among the most popular styles of bicycle sold by Khaltsha cycles

Cape Town is arguably the hot bed of cycling in South Africa, with many suppliers and manufacturers basing themselves in the Western Cape.

The area is also home to some of the most prestigious events and boasts a well-developed cycling culture. However this was not true for one of the most densely populated areas, Khayelitsha.

Entrepreneurs Sindile Mavundla and Juma Mkwela had a vision of a bicycle shop catering for local residents but little did they know that their vision would start an entire cycling revolution.

khayelitsha riding
Everything you'd expect from a community bike shop, cleverly packaged (Photo: R24)

Digital - first

Khaltsha cycles started as an online store in 2017 before setting up as a small pop up style showroom in the Woodstock exchange. When the pandemic hit being based in Woodstock was no longer viable. Khaltsha cycles was forced to head back home to Khayelitsha. In retrospect this move was exactly what was needed to take their business to the next level.

“As soon as we were back in Khayelitsha we saw that essential workers, such as health care workers were in desperate need of transport. We started a Back-a-Buddy campaign to raise funds and that first campaign saw us donate 20 bikes to essential workers. We then got involved with Qhubeka and have since gotten 500 front line workers onto bikes,“ says founder Sindile Mavundla.

Qhubeka also assisted with the first shipping container, which was transformed into a retail facility, and the first bicycle shop in the history of Khayelitsha opened its doors.

Khaltsha cycles sells bicycles, fixes bicycles and teaches people how to ride.

“It is incredible that there has never been a bicycle shop in Khayelitsha and I suppose if a business can make it in Khayelitsha, during a pandemic, it can make it anywhere,” says Mavundla.

khayelitsha rider
Like all great bike shops, this one is a place for riders to meet - and start rides (Photo: R24)

Establishing a cycling culture

Khayelitsha has not traditionally boasted a vibrant cycling culture. Khaltsha Cycles have started changing this by making quality, good looking, yet affordable bikes available to the community.

Affordable pricing really means that more people can get on bikes. For would be cyclists that still need some assistance in order to buy their first set of wheels, Khaltsha cycles offers interest free four-month lay-bye options.

“Apart from our lay-bye option I think we are also the only shop in South Africa that facilitates a bicycle stokvel. Members of the stokvel put money together and each month one member of the group rides away on a new bicycle,” says Mavundla.

There was a perception within the community that riding bicycles was dangerous but Khaltsha Cycles have worked hard at convincing people otherwise.

The store has created a cycling culture by offering social rides, which help build the confidence of newer riders. Engagement with fellow road users and taxi associations has helped educate them that the roads are there for everyone to use and this has really made a difference.

“The global pandemic has had an effect on this renewed cycling trend. People who used public transport exclusively, now feel that it is safer to ride a bicycle. Especially woman now prefer to ride their bicycles to work, to the shops and everywhere in between,” says Mavundla.

Khaltsha cycles
New bike day, is always special for any rider. And Khaltsha Cycles handover in style (Photo: Ride24)

One gear is all you need

Single-speed fixie bikes have become one of the most popular styles of bicycle sold by Khaltsha cycles.

This was never really the intention but they work well on the flat roads of Khayelitsha. The style of bike is also very aesthetically appealing in addition to being affordable and easy to maintain.

They are a real hit thanks to their bright colours and sleek looks. With narrow tyres and the right gear fixies also appeal to the younger generations need for speed.

At first it was challenging finding affordable bikes that would appeal to ladies but one of the most popular options these days is a Dutch bike in the cruiser style complete with a basket upfront. These bikes look great but are also practical and perfect for everyday use.

The hybrid gravel bike style is also becoming increasingly popular with ladies as it offers a good combination between a road and mountain bike thanks to the wider tyres.

“We have a lot of return customers and are happy to trade in their old bicycles when they feel it is time for something new. With the global supply issues of new bicycles we need that second hand stock and we don't struggle to find owners for these bikes,” says Mavundla.

khayelitsha cycling
Services are an important function, to keep the Khayelitsha fleet moving (Photo: R24)

Keeping the wheels turning

“The workshop at Khaltsha cycles is the heart of the business. We are seeing more and more people bringing old rusted bicycles in to be repaired and recomissioned. This tells us that many people had bikes lying in a garage or a shed but never rode them. Now they would like to and we help them get back on the road,” says Mavundla.

The nomad mechanic service is a great way of serving the community and was recently expanded to three trailers.

These trailers carry all the tools and some parts and are towed behind bicycles in order to reach people in need on the popular routes or anywhere they are stuck. Cyclists can request help via instant messenger and the trailer is even equipped with a contactless payment system.

“Very soon we will be opening our second store and our goal is to take this concept to townships nationally. We want to be part of the community, providing two wheeled mobility to the community,” is a confident Mavundla’s prediction. 

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