Accessibility links

Breaking News

South African Boys Bike to Stay out of Trouble

FILE - Members of the Seven K Stunts Bicycle Foundation look on before showing off bike skills to a crowd of onlookers in Johannesburg, South Africa, March 5, 2023.

JOHANNESBURG — At the Wheelz N Smoke arena in the outskirts of Johannesburg, 15-year-old Mzwakhe Ngwenya waited eagerly for his chance to show off his bike skills to a crowd of onlookers.

Wearing denim shorts and a floppy purple hat, he pedaled fast towards a large metal can, spun around it on his front wheel and rode backwards before planting his feet, arms raised triumphantly to the sound of whistles and cheers.

Ngwenya usually practices stunts with his friends in Kahlehong township, east of Johannesburg, where he is part of a club that encourages young boys to fix up old bikes and get into spinning so they stay away from crime and gang violence.

They were invited for the first time to "Revved up Sunday," a monthly event which is usually reserved for car spinning but has added a stunt bike exhibition for its younger participants.

"I'm happy that we are now spinning in front of a crowd. We don't only spin in our township anymore but we can now be seen by other people," said Ngwenya, who started spinning in 2016 after a friend introduced him to it.

Spinning, or drifting, is a technique in a bike or car where you allow your back tires to lose traction with the ground as momentum propels you around a corner.

Ngwenya, who lives with his grandmother and uncle, saved up his school spending money for three months to get the 2,500 rand ($137) needed to build his bike from spare parts.

His club, the Seven K Stunt Bicycle Foundation, started during the COVID-19 pandemic when exercise, including biking, was one of the only reasons people were allowed to leave their homes.

"What I love about spinning bikes is that when we are bored and not doing anything, we don't get into trouble but we spin," said Ngwenya. "I love that it makes me happy."