Biking a hit with women

Biking a hit with women

Maseru – Motorbikes are becoming increasingly popular in Lesotho. Everyday more and more people are opening up to the idea of riding bikes and the sport in general has grown markedly over the past decade.

This continued rise is helped by an increase in events for riders such as the annual Fun Ride Motor Promotion in Sehlabeng and the yearly excitement of the Roof of Africa which is one of the premier off-road motorbike races in the world.

However, even with the intensifying roar of bikes across Lesotho, the sport remains a male dominated one with women still on the fringes.

For example, according to the Lesotho Off-Road Association (LORA), women make up less than 25 percent of riders in the country with a lack of opportunities and biking clubs being the main reasons.

Of course, there are social hurdles as well.

Even with Lesotho’s ever increasing modernisation, it is not yet common for women to ride bikes with parents preferring their daughters to engage in “more female” sports such as netball.

Pitso Ntsukunyane, 20, and Oupa Moloi, 21, are determined to change this and in July the two friends founded Biker Boys Riding Club in Lithabaneng with its doors particularly open to female riders.

Already the club has 11 members and all are women.

But its ambitions don’t end there. The club’s aim is to reach 30 female members by the end of the year.

“We want to end the stereotype that bikes are for men and we want to train women how to ride a bike,” Moloi says.

“The women are being encouraged to use bikes as a means of transport to get to anywhere they want,” Ntsukunyane adds. “We have to open up the biking industry and show that it is not just a man’s world.”

Ntsukunyane and Moloi are both avid bikers.

Ntsukunyane frequently races outside Lesotho and last year won the Swazi Rally in Swaziland. He has also competed in bike championships in Bloemfontein, Thaba-Nchu and the Vaal in South Africa.

However, Ntsukunyane’s passion for competing has been held back by a lack of funds. Simply put, getting to international races is difficult without sponsorship.

Ntsukunyane’s own struggles are a major reason he now devotes his time to teaching Basotho how to ride bikes.

“We have been trying to get sponsors but so far we don’t have any,” Ntsukunyane says when asked about funding for Biker Boys Club.

“On Fridays we go out riding with the women and we hope by doing that we can impress and attract potential sponsors.”

“The people love our club. When we first started my neighbours were very happy for me and we have had a positive response,” Moloi adds.

“We realised that women are afraid of bikes and we decided to start a club to teach them how to ride and use bikes as a means of transport. We are targeting women mostly, at any age. As long as you have a desire to learn, you are welcome,” he says.

The hopefuls meet in Lithabaneng where they go through their paces and where the club’s modest offices are set up.

“Our vision is to see women riding bikes everywhere they go,” Ntsukunyane says. “It is not easy at the moment but there are women that have made enquiries on our social media pages after seeing our work.”

The experience certainly seems to be a hit with the ladies. For many of them the “feeling of freedom”, “fun and recreation”, and “being outdoors” are the top reasons they choose to ride.

Violet Valashiya says she joined Biker Boys Club because she enjoys riding motorbikes. She says it is a stress reliever. Whenever she is on a bike she forgets all her troubles.

“My husband is a rider, he loves bikes and I would go with him everywhere he went with his bike. I developed a love for bikes and decided to learn how to ride one,” she explains.

“For me it’s for fun, it relieves stress,” Violet adds.

“I ride for happiness and I think women should not be afraid of bikes. If you love it, learn how to ride and enjoy. Yes, it is true bikes are not cheap but there are small ones that are affordable.”

The Biker Boys Riding Club, she adds, also aims to break stereotypes among them that female motorcycle riders are rough, uncultured and have tattoos.

Women bikers can also be ladies who love good lipstick and the latest pair of heels, the club’s motto says. They can also be mothers, grandmothers, writers, teachers, nurses and business owners. They are smart, independent, accomplished women, who also love to ride their own bikes.

Ntsukunyane says he hopes their work will one day lead to Basotho looking towards their own bikers and not foreign acts. He points to political rallies by Alliance of Democratic (AD) and All Basotho Convention (ABC) before May’s general elections which hired bikers from South Africa.

“We are hoping to woo our leaders to invite bikers in the country instead of bringing foreigners to their events,” Ntsukunyane says.

“It doesn’t take a long time to teach a person how to ride a bike, maybe a month or two depending on your understanding,” he adds.

“With this club we also hope the politicians will stop going outside the country to hire bikers but use Basotho women.

 Luciah Phahla

 

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