Basil bike baskets – find them at GreenDrinks 28 May, Josephine Mill, CT, and at urbancyclist.co.za

My much-loved and well-worn bicycle commuting backpack is feeling twinges of insecurity – because Basil messenger bags, baskets, panniers and other general bits of bicycle beauty are now easily available in SA…

Cape Bike Supply: urban cycling outfitters was founded by Simone Lilienfeld and Riaz Arbi, who ‘were more or less forced into cycling while on exchange at UC Berkeley in 2009.’

‘After the initial wobbly learning curve was over we were astonished to find that it was really fun. In fact, so much fun that when we came back we packed our bikes and brought them with – we haven’t stopped since.’

Riaz still cycles the the same 33 year old steel cruiser that he bought in a backyard in Berkeley.

‘We started Urban Cyclist SA because we know that if we hadn’t lived in a cycling city, we probably wouldn’t be cycling today. We started riding at Berkeley because everyone else was riding. In every neighbourhood there were bike racks, shops that sold (nice) helmets, u-locks, bags and baskets. You could take a bike lane for ten miles in every direction. And as soon as we started cycling, we realized that it was really, really fun.’

‘So much fun, in fact, that it took us a long time to figure out why nobody cycles in Cape Town. But we finally figured it out. Nobody cycles because… nobody cycles.’

‘So how do we get everyone cycling when nobody cycles? There are a lot of people working on that problem in Cape Town today. The various up-cycle bike shops in Woodstock/Salt River are keeping bikes cool, moonlight mass shows cyclists how wonderful a city dominated by bikes can be and the City of Cape Town is rolling out bike lanes (more of them, please!). And, as we are learning fast, the incredibly well organized Cape cycling community on twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere are keeping us connected together, and to the rest of the cycling world.’

‘We feel there is a gap, though – for bags that look cool, locks that are transported easily and bullet proof, helmets that are customizable.

‘All cycling is fun,’ says Simone, ‘but fast cycling – sports or otherwise – is “closed”. You’re leaning forward, focused on the path, going much to fast to appreciate the world around you, and pedestrians experience you as either a traumatic experience or one that is alien to them. Slow cycling is open to its environment. You can look around, smile at the people around you. Pedestrians can see and appreciate the smile on your face, the stylishness of your bag, how easy it is to take home 10 kg of groceries on your rack.


‘We want to make cycling “open”. We want to lower the barriers that prevent people from making the leap. We feel that our part in this is to make stylish bike bags and baskets available at a reasonable price. Basil bags fit the bill. They’re not intimidating (they look like regular bags), they’re easy to attach and they can be used for transporting anything – groceries, laptops, children, dogs. We’ve adopted a rule to keep the bags priced at the same as cycling stores in the US or Europe – we want it to be as easy to buy one here as it is elsewhere.

‘We’ll see what the future holds. But we can’t help feeling that the people working on this in Cape Town – the bloggers, builders, and believers – are so good at what they do that something wonderful is going to happen.’

We look forward to meeting Simone and Riaz at Green Drinks / CycleLINKS on Monday 28 May:-)

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