South Africa’s pronouncement of Level 2 lockdown this month has made it possible for social activist Lindsay van der Byl not only to go back to work but also to restart his passion, Cycle 4 Change.
Fitness instructor Van der Byl founded the Cycle 4 Change project in 2016 to improve literacy levels among the youth. He does this by collecting books and cycling thousands of sponsored kilometres across the country.
However, due to lockdown restrictions over the past months, Van der Byl was neither able to cycle between provinces nor work at his local gym.
Now, thanks to Level 2 lockdown, he can be reunited with his bike on the road and his beloved gym members.
What Cycle 4 Change is about
In Cycle 4 Change, Van der Byl raises literacy awareness by cycling 1 450km from the Union Buildings in Pretoria to Parliament in Cape Town. Along the way, he engages communities on the importance of reading.
The Cycle 4 Change campaign aims to donate a book for every gruelling kilometre he travels.
There are many other ways to encourage children to read, but Van der Byl chose cycling because it is aligned with his love for physical activity.
He said increasing literacy levels among the youth is the best chance the country has to improve and believes “reading is only second to oxygen”.
“For any and every problem that you encounter, there’s a solution in a book and I believe once we start becoming a reading nation, we’re just going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Van der Byl said.
“If we can assist in increasing the literacy levels, half of our problems are solved.”
Back on his bike
Van der Byl is relieved to be able to work at the gym again, and get out to cycle.
“I am very relieved that I’ll be able to earn an income again albeit under completely new regulations,” he said.
“Some of these limits include a 50-person limit within the gym. Group exercise classes have also been dropped from 32 to 13 in an effort to promote social distancing and avoid the spread of COVID-19 virus.”
The National Library of South Africa and St John’s College have supported Cycle 4 Change.
St John’s College IT technician Sibusiso Buthelezi has so far been the only person attempting the arduous journey with Van der Byl, for safety reasons.
“We generally don’t encourage people to do the full distance with us because it’s not as easy as it looks,” Van der Byl warned.
He said you would need “at least a year of cycling to be fit for Cycle 4 Change”, plus a whole lot of mental toughness as “physical fitness counts 40% of the journey and the other 60% is mental”.
Lockdown limitations on Cycle 4 Change
The revised lockdown restrictions now allow him to prepare for the long cycle which lies ahead.
“I am slightly relieved because at least training is not limited any more. However the downside is still the curfew that is imposed,” he said.
“The disadvantage of the latter is that should one decide to cycle inter province and have a breakdown, one runs the possibility of getting arrested.
“This is also a challenge should you be facing winds, as it can drastically slow your speed down. That means you are on the road for longer than expected.”
That also exposes Van der Byl to the harsh elements, such as bad weather and opportunist criminals.
He recounted an occasion when he nearly lost the tips of his fingers due to frostbite in Parys.
He also almost lost his bike to robbers near the Huguenot Tunnel separating Paarl from Worcester in the Western Cape.
Luckily, police officer Danie Erasmus intervened and stopped the would-be robbers from taking his bicycle. He then escorted Van der Byl for a portion of the journey to ensure he was safe.
Van der Byl remains in contact with Erasmus, as he does with everyone he meets along his journey.
The beauty of Cycle 4 change
“That’s the beauty of Cycle 4 Change. It has taken me on my bicycle to places where I would have never ever thought I would go, and it has given me families.”
Van der Byl’s efforts were duly recognised when he was elected as a Lead SA hero in 2017. Media24 named him as one of its “100 Young Mandelas of the Future” in a commemoration of late former president Nelson Mandela’s centenary in 2018.
These sorts of acknowledgments are fulfilling for Van der Byl as he sees them as opportunities to prove to people that anything is possible.
He credits DJ Sbu, who he considers his mentor, for encouraging him to get the campaign up and running and to document his experiences in a book.
“I’ve documented an entire trip from how I was feeling to the weather, the cold, and the challenges that I had on the road. It’s like a journal with the origins of where the idea came from,” he said.
“With [Dj Sbu] being my mentor and him being an integral part of what makes Cycle 4 Change tick, I just thought it was appropriate for him to do the forward [of my book].”
Van der Byl ’s favourite book is Kasinomics by GG Alcock which he said is “the real hustlers’ bible”. He believes it is essential reading for young people who want to venture into entrepreneurship.
This year, because of the pandemic, Cycle 4 Change has decided to alter its approach slightly.
“The plan is to use Level 2 and 1 to train and get the fitness level back to where it’s supposed to be. Then, come the end of lockdown, the first Joburg to Cape Town #100HourChallenge can be completed,” he said.
After the epic cycle, he will start strength training to ensure he can also tackle the Pretoria (Union Buildings) to Cape Town (Parliament) ride as well.
- Find out more about the Cycle 4 Change campaign and how you can get involved to donate books here https://www.facebook.com/c4cZA/