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Building life, changing bicycles!

FELLOW JOURNALIST, Len Maseko always makes me salivate with his eye-lolly Instagram posts depicting the wondrous events always having something and anything to do with grapefruits and epicurean delights, he exclusively covers: a hedonistic and enviable beat the big, veteran scribe exclusively traverses!

Building life, changing bicycles!

But on a Friday morrow in the Mofolo neighbourhood of Soweto, with the spring weather perfectly agreeable, I got to disrupt his separatist attendance of such top notch occasions when I also cracked an invite (actually initially meant for a colleague – who’d be beating himself for not honouring it, after perusing through this article, I dare him) phrased in verbatim thus: Join Nederburg, Qhubeka in Soweto for an exciting and fun bicycle building workshop

At the tail-end, the invite concluded: After the hard work, sit down to a relaxing lunch, matched with a selection of Nederburg’s finest wines.

Publicity agency, August Collective ensured that every letter of the promise was kept – welcoming us to the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre venue with warm greetings by its team of two friendly and efficient ladies. 

Attendance confirmed at a registration table, each guest was then issued with a name tag reflecting the two stakeholders responsible for the event, viz, the 228-year old winery, Nederburg and Qhubeka – a South African non-profit organisation that uses bicycles to make a positive difference in communities. 

That procedure dispensed with the ladies, disarming smiles in abundance, then directed visitors to waitresses at the ready with trays laden with welcoming sparkling wine flutes.  All of the arrival procedure unfolding in seamless sequence, visitors then got ushered to an outdoor seating area furnished with cane couches where strangers and companions wasted no time in mingling and networking over the sparkling wine, freshly brewed coffee, soft drinks, water and the event’s chef’s selection of canapés!

Whilst the banter was building to carefree crescendo, one wouldn’t help but notice the cluster of tables, bicycle parts and tools located around the centre’s open space.  That was where guests’ basic engineering acumen was going to be put to the test through a build a bike exercise – to be embarked upon by teams of five persons identified by colour-coded armbands.  The time allotted for the challenge was a mere 30 minutes, with the standing construction completion record standing at around half of that time frame!

Our presence – being a mix of media practitioners, business owners and restaurateurs – at the event was more symbolic as we were meant to assemble some 10 bicycles which would be distributed as part of a batch of 100 sponsored by Nederburg to support community safety upliftment efforts in Soweto. 

Although issued with assemblage guidelines and the option of consulting the quality control personnel team of Doc Nkomanzane (Chief Head Mechanic responsible for training mechanics and quality control at Qhubeka’s East London assembly factory) as we went along, building the bicycles in the limited amount of time, proved to expose our rudimentary judgements – with some, either consulting the trained mechanics rather periodically and others ultimately finishing the task well behind schedule.

To the delight and knowing giggles of the likes of Qhubeka’s Events Activation Manager, Gaylene Campbell and Nederburg Managing Director, Niel Groenewald – whilst observing teams immersing themselves into the exercise with the gusto of playground children – we fumbled over spanner numbers to be utilized on varying parts of the transportation as we exasperatedly enlisted the assistance of the mechanics to figure out progress on posers whilst being ever mindful of the ticking clock!

Disappointedly, my team didn’t win, beaten to the clock by two other which tied on completion time – with the lucky impromptu mechanics rewarded by each member in a team getting a case of the Paarl-based entity’s wines!  We the losers got consolations of a bottle of white or red each.

I’ll let slip that our team wouldn’t had made it by a fair shot – what with the brakes of our completed bike not gripping enough upon my taking the two-wheeler for a brief spin outside the venue’s grounds.  At a photo op with Qhubeka and Nederburg’s representatives, with the bikes line up, defects on some of the assembled products were visible for everyone to note, prompting others to audibly express their misgivings regarding other teams’ efforts.

Now palpably hanging in the air above the thatched roof structures of the centre – the laughter then moved inside a gallery turned into a dining area for the occasion, and for the latter part of our visit: the lunch featuring a food and wine pairing courtesy of Executive Private Chef Mahlomola Thamae and Nederburg.

Against the background of the sounds of young Soweto-based musical outfit Bantu Social Jam, waiters began a to-and-fro between the kitchen and the improvised restaurant, maintaining a momentum of precision whilst carrying around trays of starters of seared Line fish served with minted pea puree, broad beans and beetroot, infused chickpeas and Dill, and butter lime sauce.

The opening culinary gambit was accompanied by tipple introduced by Groenewald as, The Anchorman, a Chenin Blanc in tribute to the heroes of Nederburg, as well as a wine he described as a restaurant wine which likes sunlight. 

With the mercury registering in the late twenties outside, there was plenty of sunlight indeed and the grapefruits were certainly adorning the eatery whose tables were also decorated with fresh bouquets of South Africa’s national flower, the Protea! 

The ambience and Bacchus’ waters were now encouraging the banter amongst diners who included some of the chefs from restaurant lining up the touristy Vilakazi Street in Orlando West. 

“Terry, approach the table!”  Ali Mphaki, a fellow journalist and Maseko’s accomplice (I can confirm this, having encountered the duo at a shindig erstwhile Lux model Charmaine Modjadji hosted for Toronto-based writer, Suzette Mafuna, at her Orlando West digs, in January), fancying himself to be a judge of the space, commanded socialite, Terry Mokoena, seated at the opposite end of the long table.

The live music would periodically be interrupted just so as for Thamae and Groenewald to introduce and give brief descriptions of the menu courses and what was available for washing down with. 

“For me, making wine is like baking an omelette!” Groenewald had gloated pending one of such intervals – whilst going on to offer us his recipe!

Groenewald and the waiters kept the tipple topped up with the big fellow ordering the serving of the red duo of the 2015 and 2017 vintages of The Motorcycle Marvel and The Winemasters Cabernet Sauvignon simultaneous, to accompany Thamae’s mains of slow roasted beef sirloin served with rosemary and garlic infused potato fondants, baby vegetables and red win jus.  Gourmands were now at the zenith of Nirvana as the laughter grew raucous whilst punctuating the networking and the musing.

The bespectacled Thamae took it upon himself to caution some of the curious diners to adhere to wine-tasting etiquette by waiting until everyone had been served, before tucking into fare.  His dessert of chocolate Pana Cotta served with Hazelnut Praline and Barrie Compote was complimented by a 2015 Noble Late Harvest – lingering on the sweet tooth’s palate!

The Cape winelands folks were not done with us yet, with the same friendly, warm and smiles spotting faces from arrivals in the morning now in the sun-baked afternoon moment of departure handing out each guest a bottle of their wow-inducing range such as the 2016 vintage, The Brew Master.

With Qhubeka’s roll-out of bicycles nearing the 100 000 mark, a mooted distribution on the 3rd of October in Nederburg’s hometown of Paarl, is hoped to achieve that milestone.

Below follows information on the bicycle (designed by World Bicycle Relief) as contained on Qhubeka’s website:     

Students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in rural Africa transport heavy loads long distances over rugged terrain to meet basic livelihood needs. Compared to walking, bicycles allow them to haul more goods over longer distances in less time – provided the bicycle is strong and durable. In Africa, the disconnect between suppliers and end-users has resulted in bicycles designed to be inexpensive rather than robust; most begin to fall apart within weeks because they are not suitable for rugged terrain and bulky loads. This has dire consequences for people without access to other modes of transportation.

The Qhubeka Buffalo bicycle is a robust bicycle engineered specifically for African terrain and load requirements. It is designed by World Bicycle Relief in Chicago USA, tested and assembled in South Africa with close attention to end-user feedback and rigorous quality control. We are committed to providing the highest quality, most durable bicycles in Africa, and we operate with constant attention to innovation and product improvement to ensure that our bicycles meet their users’ needs. Our product management team oversees a fleet of riders who test current and potential components under the most punishing field conditions; their feedback is used to improve our bicycles. 

Furthermore, Buffalo Bicycles are compatible with locally available spare parts, ensuring that with proper maintenance they will last for years.

These design innovations make Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycles the best on the market: our bicycle is built for Africa!

Assembly

Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycles are sourced from manufacturers in Asia with some components made by fabricators in South Africa who produce each component to our specifications. Our bicycles are built from the highest quality parts. The bicycles arrive completely unassembled at Qhubeka facilities in South Africa where local teams put them together. Our assembly staff take great pride in their work and ensure that each bicycle is properly assembled.

Maintenance

Even the most robust bicycle needs maintenance, particularly in the harsh conditions of Africa. Each Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycle comes with a helmet, a pump and a cable-lock and a small tool for basic maintenance. To ensure that bicycle owners have access to local, qualified repair service, Qhubeka has developed a Field Mechanics Training Program to accompany bicycle distribution. Mechanics are trained in bicycle assembly, maintenance and repair as well as basic business, marketing and management skills. Each trained mechanic receives a set of bicycle tools, and some mechanics establish businesses and purchase a stock of spare parts.

Branding

Why Buffalo? Qhubeka Bicycles were designed by World Bicycle Relief and are built to be as tough as the fierce African buffalo, a symbol of strength and power; hence the brand name Buffalo Bicycle. All Buffalo Bicycles and spare parts are carefully branded to assure the end-users that they have purchased the genuine product rather than a low-quality imitation. In addition, Qhubeka offers the CSI investor the opportunity to individualise your Qhubeka Buffalo bicycles with your brand colours and logos for orders in multiples of 1,100 bicycles.

Awards

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship and World Economic Forum have recognised our bicycle supplier, Buffalo Bicycle Company, with the 2013 Award for Social Entrepreneurship. The Entrepreneur of the Year award acknowledges innovative approaches and outstanding work in health, education, employment and the environment. As a wholly owned subsidiary of World Bicycle Relief, the Buffalo Bicycle Company manufactures the specially designed Buffalo Bicycles. Purpose-built for rugged terrain and heavy loads, these bikes help people better access education, healthcare and economic opportunity.

In August 2014, BBC named the Buffalo Bicycle one of the 10 most beautiful bicycles in the world.

#Nederburg #BicyclesChangeLives.

Image Jacob MAWELA ( A spanner in the works pending a bicycle building workshop with a duo of guests – with Nederburg MD, Niel Groenewald nearby – at the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre in Mofolo, Soweto.

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