Cycling bug becomes proud family business

Kgothatso Masemene's grandfather, Puleng Masemene, started the family's bicycle shop back in 1985 in Diepkloof, Soweto. /Thulani Mbele.
Kgothatso Masemene's grandfather, Puleng Masemene, started the family's bicycle shop back in 1985 in Diepkloof, Soweto. /Thulani Mbele.

Puleng Masemene is a soft-spoken man with his sights set on powering Soweto's cyclists forward - one bicycle at a time.

The 90-year-old former delivery and repairman for Western Flyer bicycle company has a sense of pride watching the small business passing down three generations in his family.

Masemene suffered a stroke in 1983, losing the use of his right-hand side. But, despite this, he went on two years later to open a bicycle repair shop at his home in Diepkloof, Soweto, to sustain his family.

Fast forward 33 years later, and Masemene's grandson Kgothatso has relocated the repair shop a few streets away from the family home, and closer to the community.

"What he [Kgothatso] did is extraordinary. His father, Sello, was also in the trade and once ran this business before he passed on. I am proud to see my grandson doing what his father did," Masemene said.

Masemene can now be seen as an ever-present figure toiling, in his old age, in the repair centre at Masemene Cycles.

The shop repairs and sells bicycles as well as leases them out to those who cannot afford them.

Clad in a blue overall, Masemene sits next to his work station where a stack of greasy cog sets, cassettes, pedals, and chains are on a desk.

He is a wise figure, embodying a wealth of knowledge that he passes on to those working in the shop.

An assortment of bicycles lie around as maintenance work is carried out.

"Kgothatso is now my boss," jokes Masemene. "He has the knowledge to carry out the work that his father and I did."

On any given day the cycle shop is a hive of activity.

Kgothatso, now in charge of the family business, has been exposed to the trade from a young age.

The 30-year-old has formalised the family business in what he hopes will be the first step towards making cycling more fashionable in Soweto.

Graduating from the University of Johannesburg with an accounting qualification, Kgothatso spent his childhood watching his father repair bicycles.

"My grandfather taught my father the trade. I used to follow my father around and had a part-time job in a cycle shop while I was growing up."

However, his true passion is in BMX stunts and riding with friends. He recently sprained a back muscle while practising BMX stunts.

After obtaining his degreeand opening his own accounting firm, he realised his real passion was in bicycles.

He said opening the store was a way of sharing the family's passion with the community while growing a cycling culture in Soweto.

"If I did not pursue a qualification in accounting, I would have continued with bicycles. Accounting is simply a means to an end, but bicycles are my life. I want to make my grandfather proud," he said.

Masemene hosted a cycle event last year, and is holding a similar event this month.

"We are having a cycle event on Saturday called Shova Nathi [cycle with us] to promote cycling in Soweto.

"We want to promote the BMX scene in the township. We have not tapped into the potential of what the sport can be," he said.

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