CREATIVE CLUB DISCOVERS HOW THREE BIKE ENTHUSIASTS BUILT A COMMUNITY THROUGH AN URBAN RIDING MOVEMENT.
THE BIRTH OF AN URBAN MOVEMENT
Synonymous with tight bib shorts and jerseys, for years cycling was considered an expensive hobby enjoyed by a privileged few. Enter a trio of friends who make up the founding members of the Biking Bandits. The three devoted cyclists launched a grassroots cycling movement in the heart of Soweto born out of the isolation caused by Covid in 2020. Titi Mashele, Tebogo ‘Tebza’ Galagala and Tsatsi Rantsatsi started riding with a handful of friends and from this grew their desire to share their passion for cycling with the rest of the community. A labour of love is what Titi calls it. And they haven’t stopped pedalling since.
Not so long ago, urban cycling was big around Soweto, with brands such as Thesis Lifestyle, a local streetwear store and cultural hub for cyclists, playing a pivotal role. In fact, it is the very same spot where Tebza and Titi decided to open their bicycle shop. Throughout the neighbourhood, they’d noticed a marked decline in the number of recreational cyclists. “So we thought we should bring it back, especially in the area where we’re from, and resurrect that aspect of our existence and the lifestyle,” says Titi.
Since then, evening jaunts have become integral to the urban hip culture, bringing large numbers of young black riders to the township’s youthful lifestyle playground, Maboneng Precinct. As a result, the Biking Bandits movement has grown in size and offering. They now have three stores, one in Bryanston and two in Maboneng, which offer everything from sales and rentals to repairs and custom builds. For them, Biking Bandits isn’t just about hustling. “It’s a community. Without the community, there is no Biking Bandits; it’s just a name,” says Tsatsi. “We’re also using it as an ideas incubator. It’s not just about us,” Tsatsi adds. Titi agrees. “The intention is to get people to understand what cycling is about and how it can change lives.” The friends are determined to change people’s perception about black people cycling.
The Biking Bandits cycle through different neighbourhoods, exploring the rich and varied culture of each. Building on their desire to use culture as a base to revive cycling in the community, the three friends launched Homies Night Rides, the crown jewel in the Biking Bandits events. This event takes place every two weeks and brings together local cycling aficionados to scout out new routes to ride. “You get to see and feel different parts of the city,” explains Titi. “The experience is something I can’t put into words. It takes you back to your childhood; that’s the very feeling we want to capture during the rides.”
And their urban movement is growing to nearby townships like Alexandra. Their intention is to bring back the pleasure of night rides. “There is something about the peace and quiet of the roads at night,” says Titi.
Because everyone has a bicycle story – that scar on your ankle from a fall, the day you actually balanced, and rode unassisted, or just the camaraderie of neighbourhood bike rides with friends. These are the nostalgic memories the Biking Bandits try to capture with its urban cycling movement. “When you’re a kid, riding a bike is like breathing; it’s one of those rites of passage every kid must master,” says Titi.
THE POWER OF BROTHERHOOD
Although their mission is about bringing people with a shared love of cycling together, their story also talks to the power of brotherhood, creating real change and inspiring others. It highlights the power of friendship and shared purpose. “It’s not all about who does what better; it’s about supporting each other when it truly matters,” adds Tebogo. “The Biking Bandits show us what we are capable of and prove we can accomplish our dreams and help others do the same.”
One can hope that township kids will see the anomaly of the Biking Bandits and be inspired to become cyclists or even perhaps disruptors in their own spaces.