Giving up? Not an option. My past pushes me forward
Dressed in a slick kit, Zola Ngxakeni balances his bike on its back wheel. Children call out his name as he cycles through the community of Kayamandi, Stellenbosch. When Ngxakeni started competing, he never set out to become a role model. Instead, riding was a form of escape. Growing up with a single mother, his father’s absence left an indelible mark. “Some of my only memories are of my dad coming home drunk,” he says. “But it’s that history that keeps me moving forward today.”
Ngxakeni spent his childhood roaming on two wheels alongside his friends. A local pump track offered the kids the opportunity to try out their biking tricks. There, Ngxakeni landed the jumps with ease. As his skills improved, his horizons widened. Ngxakeni transitioned from BMX competitions to mountain biking. The sport gave him the courage to persevere. “Cycling helped me navigate through life and its challenges,” Ngxakeni says. In 2018, he took on his most gruelling race yet, the Cape Epic. Despite only four months of preparation under his belt, Ngxakeni crossed the finish line. “It tests your limits,” he says. “But giving up is never an option.”
The constant whirring of his tyres reminds Ngxakeni to keep chasing his path. “The reason I push so hard is because cycling gives me purpose,” he says. “We need that one thing in life that makes it all worth it.” By demonstrating his skills to the children of his community, Ngxakeni inspires them to steer their own futures. One day, they too will ride through the streets, as the excited cries of a new generation echo behind them.