“I first became interested in bike mechanics at the age of 14 when I cycled to school and I had to repair my own bike – a silver Raleigh. I loved getting my hands dirty and figuring out how stuff worked… That bicycle gave me freedom and independence”.
After leaving school, Beverley knew she wanted to work with bicycles. In those days being a bike mechanic was seen as a man’s job. But that didn’t deter Bev. With her can-do attitude, she started her professional career as a bicycle mechanic by first working as a shop assistant for Soloped Cycles in Cape Town. Here she began her training, and eventually traveled to England where she completed a level 3 bicycle mechanic training with Cycle Systems Academy.
After returning to Cape Town, Beverley worked for the Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN), an NPO that uses bicycles to socially and economically uplift communities. Beverley has always been concerned with helping others and at BEN she was finally able to add this element to her work with bicycles. As she recalls,
“My school mottos – To serve and not to be served and Knowledge Enlightens – have guided me through life. The knowledge I have received, I want to pass on to others – that is the code that I live by”.
Seeing the need for a dedicated programme that would empower women and youth through cycling, Beverley and her business partner, Janine van Beulen Johnson, started a non-profit organization, Bicycles and Beyond (BAB), in 2015. Since then BAB has played a vital role in teaching women and youths to ride, cycle safely and fix their bikes. They also host women’s cycling events and community cycling clinics to keep vulnerable youths busy during the school holidays.
In 2016 Bev and Janine were approached by a non-profit organisation Qhubeka to manage a new bicycle assembly facility at Nederburg, the first of its kind in the Western Cape, with the aim of building over 5 000 bicycles per year. These robust, purpose-built bikes would then be distributed to people through Qhubeka’s learn-to-earn, work-to-earn and disaster relief programmes throughout South Africa.
“When Qhubeka asked us to oversee a bicycle assembly plant that would be run by women, employing an all women team of bicycle builders, we jumped at the opportunity. We had to set up the plant from start – source equipment and recruit employees”.
Six women from the local Paarl East community were chosen to join the BAB team. While they had no previous training in bike building or mechanics, they showed an aptitude for it. In a short time, Bev had imparted her knowledge and skills to them – training them in wheel building, bicycle assembly, maintenance and repair.
Today this all-women team produces around 50 bicycles per week! Not only are they changing perceptions about the role of women in the cycling industry, but they are encouraging women to be change makers in their own lives and communities. As Bev says,
“I want to encourage all women to believe in themselves and what they are capable of. You are the leaders of tomorrow, you are the ones to empower the youth. Don’t underestimate yourself, honour yourself and make the most of your life.”
Photographs by Jo Higgs Director of GO TROLLEY FILMS.
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