“Cycling is my life.” The simple words of Tumisang (Tumi) Taabe, competitive cyclist, bike shop owner and President of the Lesotho Cycling Association.
Tumi is 31 years old and Lesotho Mountain Bike Champion. He is a talented athlete but in no way a professional cyclist. He owns a shop, Tumi’s Bicycle Shop, in the Lesotho capital of Maseru where he works with his wife and two fellow cyclists. On top of that he is also President of his country’s National Cycling Federation.
So what motivates a cyclist of his level to fit in training around running a business and presiding over the National Federation?
“Cycling changed my life and I want to change the life of others,” states the young man whose small stature houses boundless energy and huge motivation. In the course of his work he travels hundreds of kilometres to deliver bikes to schools and orphanages.
California – Lesotho partnership
Tumi collaborates with the Mike’s Bikes family of local bike shops in California, which runs a project to help start up shops in Africa. Not far off celebrating its second anniversary, Tumi’s Bicycle Shop started off as a container but quickly grew and developed a reputation. Thanks to its partnership with California, Tumi’s Bicycle Shop received more than 1000 used bikes in 2013 that Tumi and his team have brought up to working order and delivered to children in areas of need.
It sounds like a lot of bikes, but the need is greater and Tumi is often obliged to draw names out of a hat when he gets to a school to decide who will receive one of the recycled machines.
“I love going to these places and seeing the smiles on their faces when they receive their bikes,” says Tumi. “Some of these kids have never been on a bike before. I go with some of the other riders and we show the youth how to cycle and do tricks on our bikes. It inspires them. Then we give them the bikes and show them how to ride and put them in touch with clubs.”
Number and level of cyclists on the up
He is convinced that Lesotho can produce top cyclists, and he organises regular races at a local level. He takes pride in the fact that the number of participants at these competitions has increased from 40 to 150 and that the level of cycling has also taken a jump.
“We must introduce cycling to the youth. We have some funds but not enough, so we can only run local competitions. Our riders have potential and talent and a real passion for cycling. And when I look where they come from…
He is particularly proud of the performance of two of his country’s junior road riders who competed in the African Continental Road Championships last December in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The two 17-year-olds finished at the back of the peloton but according to Tumi, who accompanied them as team manager, they showed enthusiasm despite being in the midst of experienced international junior riders from well-developed cycling countries.
UCI Sharing Platform in Egypt
Tumi stayed on in Egypt after the championships to participate in the UCI Sharing Platform. He explained his country’s situation to representatives of other African cycling nations, underlining Lesotho’s need for bicycles, helmets and training equipment.
“Our Association tries all in its power to raise funds but we have little to keep cycling going,” he said.
Tumi irons out key issues with his Executive Committee at their monthly meetings. They don’t meet more often because they have to rent the rooms, an expensive business.
But the President of the Lesotho Cycling Association knows where he is going and has incredible faith in his country’s ability to produce top cyclists.
“The first step is to provide them with bicycles and helmets. Rather than keeping bikes in a garage, people should realise that somewhere there is somebody who has talent and needs to use that bicycle. We have youth who need those bikes and then we can prove that we have talent…”
Photo: Tumi Taabe travels hundred of kilometres to distribute bikes in schools and villages.