Following up on her Mountain2Mountain mission to improve living conditions in war-torn Afghanistan – specifically for women – National Geographic Adventurer of the Year finalist Shannon Galpin has launched a month-long gear collection drive for the country's national cycling teams.
"After talking with their coach, we found out that there are women cycling in Afghanistan, and as part of the national cycling team under his support," Galpin posted on her blog.
"There are 10-12 women on the national team, and a total of 60-70 riding in the country. They are taking their love of bikes to extremes – Afghanistan still does not culturally accept women riding bikes, and right now the women only train once a week due to safety concerns and support.
"In four years of riding bikes in Afghanistan I have yet to meet a woman that rides, so finding women in Kabul and Mazar i Sharif that are riding, and desire to race, made my heart swell with excitement. The more women that ride, the more that will become accepted, and perhaps we’ll soon see girls riding bikes to school like in other countries!"
According to Galpin, the nascent teams currently have only one sponsor, to help with jerseys, while the rest of the gear is mostly purchased in neighboring Pakistan.
"At this point in time they have no supporters, sponsors, or benefactors," Galpin told BikeRadar. "They ride because they love it, and have great national pride and believe that they could represent their country in the Olympics if they had better equipment and coaching and opportunity to race. Most of the racing happens in Pakistan and India."
Galpin says the official national teams are road-only, but several team members are also riding off-road.
"The national teams are road cyclists, and that is the majority of gear that we need to support them in their training, but there are several small mountains in and around Kabul where many of them are riding 'sport bikes' – essentially old-school rigid mountain bikes. They put on a local race up one of the hills and these are on 4x4-worthy dirt roads, on bikes with poor brakes and no suspension."
Shannon Galpin speaks with the coach of the Afghan national cycling teams
Donations of any and all new and used equipment, clothing, and even complete bikes can be dropped off at one of five locations in Colorado and one in Pennsylvania:
- Wheel Wright Bike Shop – Abington, Pennsylvania
- Boulder Cycle Sport (both locations) – Boulder, Colorado
- Osprey Packs – Cortez, Colorado
- Podium Sports – Frisco, Colorado
- Rise Above Cycles – Golden, Colorado
- Salvagetti Bicycle Workshop – Denver, Colorado
Other participating shops are being added in Plano and Austin, Texas, and program sponsor Alchemy Bicycles will also field a collection box at the upcoming North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Denver, Colorado, later this month.
In addition to donations of new and used equipment and clothing, Mountain2Mountain is also requesting cash contributions for freight costs. Donations will be picked up on 15 March and Galpin will transport all the gear to Afghanistan on her next trip there.
"I'm literally bringing it along with me as extra baggage," she said. "We anticipate 20 to 30 pieces of extra baggage. It's the safest and cheapest way to ensure that the equipment arrives. We will have to pay for the extra baggage allowances but that's still cheaper than shipping and guarantees it will arrive.
"I am accepting full bike donations and we'll box them up and bring them, too," she continued. "Ideally, we'd love to get the entire women's team proper road bikes of their own – 12 women in all. Most of them are on borrowed cycles from a male family member."