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June 13, 2012

Bicycling in Cape Town

Bicycling in Cape Town has become a popular way of getting around the Mother City. Photo courtesy Lauren Fowler

Bicycling is fast becoming a growing trend in Cape Town and South Africa. Wherever you go, you’re sure to spot at least one local on a bicycle, sans the spandex.

Bicyclists use their bicycles for transport, fun and social gatherings rather than for the usual fitness reasons, but it does promote a healthier lifestyle. What's more, since you don't use a car, there's no need for petrol, added money or guilt. If you have large distances or hills to cover in between your bicycle rides you can always hop onto the MyCiti Bus, which allows you to take your bicycle on board with you. You can find information on fares here.

The Cape Town Bicycle Commuter website is a great place to find out what’s going on in Cape Town's bicycling world and it often publishes new ways for people to get together and ride. They also have a very active Facebook page and Twitter account, which I love in a brand.

You could start your own social bicycle event with your fellow bicyclists or you could pop along to any of the events that take place in the Mother City every month, the first of which is Critical Mass. Taking place worldwide on the last Friday of every month, Critical Mass kicks off at the crack of dawn and takes serious commitment in the winter time. The aim of the ride is to raise bicycle awareness in the eyes and minds of motorists and help them to remember to share the road with us. Once the ride is finished, the crowd meets at Deluxe coffee works to drink a couple of flat whites and chat about bicycles.

Click here for more information on Critical Mass.

Events, such as the Moonlight Mass, are reviving the bicycling trend in Cape Town. Photo courtesy Lauren Fowler

The next event frequented by locals, (including, most recently, Premier Helen Zille) is Moonlight Mass, which takes place at the Green Point Circle from 9pm until 11pm, once a month on a full moon. The event is extremely social, with the most recent frequented by about 700 bicyclists. This is one of the bicycle highlights in my diary every month, as I get to see old friends, meet new people and admire other bicycles. For more information, visit Moonlight Mass.

Sunday Shootout is an event I have yet to attend, but it sounds like fun. According to the Facebook page it is: “A Sunday afternoon race through the streets of Cape Town with the emphasis on having a good time. And possibly winning some cash on your fixie, single speed, roadie or MTB." Entry is R5 per person, which goes towards the prizes. For more information, visit Sunday Shootout.

If you would like to join but don't have the necessary wheels at your disposal, I've included a few reputable establishments where you can buy a bicycle. But remember to do your research – think about the type of bicycle you would like and whether it should be a new or used model.  

My favourite neighbourhood bicycle store is Woodstock Cycleworks. The gentlemen in the store can help you find the perfect bike, help maintain or fix it or even build you your very own stead! If you're looking for something 'out of the box', you will find an array of new bikes at Olympic Cycles, however, if a vintage bike would suit your style better, keep an eye on the Beatnik Bazaar blog for gorgeous, one-of-a-kind vintage bicycles.

If you've just arrived in our beautful city, pop along to Olympic CyclesCape Town Cycle Hire and Bike and Saddle for a selection of rentals to choose from.

When it comes to bicycling in Cape Town, the sky’s the limit. But if you would like further guidance as to the routes to take, certain retail outlets sell maps that point out all the bicycle routes in Cape Town, including a winelands bicycle map. A great way to get out of the city, bicycling the winelands route will afford you the opportunity to taste sumptuous wines, enjoy the fresh air and really take in the scenery at bicycle pace.

A few pointers on bike riding:

- Wear a helmet. Keep your head safe.
- If cycling at night, or even during daylight hours for that matter, make sure you wear a light on your bicycle on the back and front.
- Keep your distance between cars and fellow cyclists.
- Make yourself known to pedestrians with a bell or a warning. You could say, for example, “Coming up on your left!”
- Make sure you have water and a backpack.
- Get a bicycle lock.
- Smile and be aware of your surroundings.

The more people on bicycles in our city, the better and safer it will be to ride. You can read more about donating, helping and taking part in bicycling initiatives at Bicycling Empowerment Networks.

BEN promotes giving back to the community, creating jobs and getting people on bicycles. Read more about BEN here

To keep up to date with local and international city cycling visit Ride Your City.

Here's a video to whet your bicycling appetite:

Lauren Fowler is a graphic designer living in Cape Town, keen city bicyclist and occassional model (if you look closely at our branding you're sure to spot her). Follow her on twitter at @LaurenXFowler.

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