Meet The Locals: Kim Nguyen From Soft Cogs Inc.

Whether it’s rallying to help a friend, fundraising for a good cause, helping kids get into mountain biking or supporting young mining leaders, Kim Nguyen is always ready to lend a hand.

Kim is a founding member and President of Singleton bike riding group Soft Cogs Inc, as well as Founder and Director of local business Core Mine Training.

What is Soft Cogs, Kim?

It’s a cycling team of community members who’ve banded together to raise funds for people who need it. We’re mainly from the Singleton and Hunter Valley area, but we do have members come from afar, even interstate, to participate in our events.

We aren’t elite racers (well, some of us are, but most are normal!). Our networks are mainly mums, dads and families – but we also have an army of volunteers and corporate sponsors who we consider part of our tribe. We’ve currently got over 80 official members.

Tell us about your fundraising efforts through Soft Cogs?

We’ve raised over $1.3 million since 2006. Our pinnacle event is the MS Sydney to Wollongong bike ride. The Gong Ride raises money for Multiple Sclerosis Australia, and through our years of riding it, we’ve found just how extensive MS is. There are several people in our networks who are impacted by it, from people who are living with MS themselves, right through to people who have got parents or siblings or friends that are living with the disease.

We’ve also partnered with the Rotary Club of Singleton to organise a local ride at Lake St Clair. Rotary wanted to get people out to Lake St. Clair, the recreation area north of Singleton, as well as support community initiatives, and we were only too happy to lend a hand. The ride is in its fifth year, and it keeps growing each year, which is great.

So how did it all begin for Soft Cogs?

It was just a band of mates coming together at a cycling event in Newcastle, and we saw all these teams and we thought ‘we could do that too’. The primary thing for us was community. We wanted to create something that was fun, that socialises this active pastime and creates a community activity.

The name itself is obviously tongue in cheek. I think it’s a good representation of our light-hearted approach!

It’s a bit of fun! How did COVID impact your bike riding events, and your fundraising?

It had a massive impact, especially in the heart of lockdown. For instance, we’ve teamed up with a local brewery at IronBark Hill and twice a year we ride out there. We’d have 20 or 25 riders on the ride and then 50 people at the brewery, and obviously, you could not do that during COVID.

Now we’re starting to revamp our social rides and we’re seeing a real hunger for it because people want to return to normality. We’ve already got this year’s schedule mapped out, which we’re really excited about.

Tell us what’s on the cards for Soft Cogs in 2021?

We’ve got our usual monthly social rides. We’ve also got a racing team for the more serious mountain bikers in our group, called the Tricon Soft Cogs Racing. We’ve got the Lake Ride which will be in late August this year. And then we’ve got the Gong Ride, and we’re going to have a 15-year milestone celebration this year. But one thing that we’re really stoked to put on is the Groms Mountain Bike, or MTB, academy.

We’re putting together social rides aimed at the younger riders, kids and teens, to provide a safe environment for them to ride in and to provide them with coaching. We’re going to do social events like barbecues too, so it’s not only kids getting into it, it’s the mums and dads, and they can catch up and do their own rides afterwards.

We have heard that you’ve made a big career move recently. Tell us about that?

It was a really personal decision, brought about after a significant loss. One of Soft Cogs’ founding members, Tony Campbell, was lost in a tragic accident last year whilst he was on a family holiday. Tony was a very close companion of mine. He was best man at my wedding and I’m a godparent to his youngest daughter. His accident really gave me a new perspective.

I left my role as a mining manager and started up this business, Core Mine Training, which is still mining related and still based in the community, but it’s geared at helping others develop their careers. We help people get their statutory qualifications in mining. It’s also focused on those who already have their qualifications and are honing their skills.

In April we held the first networking forum aimed at this specific level of mining leadership. It’s never been done before in New South Wales, and it was an overwhelming success. It’s something the industry has been screaming for for a long time and we’re really proud to be able to bring it to life. The next one is scheduled for August.

I’m so sorry for your loss. Your new venture sounds exciting. You didn’t grow up in Singleton, did you?

No, I grew up in a small town in central Queensland. I went to Brisbane for uni and then came straight down to the Hunter Valley. That was in 2001 and I’ve stayed here ever since. I’ve had a couple of secondments to other mining areas, but you can’t compare it. You’re in the middle of the desert in the Pilbara, versus the lush Hunter Valley area. You’ve got to keep in mind, Sydneysiders come up here for their weekends. So it’s pretty bloody good, right?

It sure is. What is it that you love about living in Singleton?

It’s definitely the strong sense of community. When Tony passed, we did a fundraiser to help his family, which you and OneAgency helped support. Again, we lent on our push bikes. We said, “Let’s have a social ride. We’ll have a barbecue at our place.” We had 250 people there. To get that many people, it was just crazy. And that’s what I mean by community. The sense of community that we have here, you can feel it. It’s palpable. What we’ve got here is great.

There’s no doubt about it, Singleton is pretty special. Thanks for the chat Kim, and good luck with your new business!

For more information about Soft Cogs or Core Mine Training, visit their websites.

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