Tag Archives: mountain biking

Panjshir Tour – Afghanistan and beyond

October 2009 – the first female rode a mountain bike in Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan.   One year later I returned to be the first to attempt to ride the entire Panjshir Valley, from the gates of Panjshir that mark the entrance to the province, straight through to the imposing 14,000 foot Anjuman Pass.   I wanted to break stereotypes of what Afghanistan really is beyond the ongoing conflict.   We videoed to show the incredible beauty of Afghanistan and the reaction of those we met along the way – Panjshiris that were surprised, excited, and gracious.  Click here!

2 days, 132km, and 14 hours of steady uphill riding passed through breathtaking mountains surrounding a land where time has stood still.   Security issues in the form of neighboring provincial gun runners, made it impossible to push on for the third and final day of climbing up to the top of the pass.  But that was hardly the point.  Along the way, boys and men raced me on their bikes, as we shared the road with cars, motorcycles, sheep, and the occasional camel.  Old men with large turbans stopped in every village to smile, wave, and shout greetings and often offers of tea at their home.  Road construction workers took my bike for a spin when I walked it across a dodgy looking bridge.  All of this in a country known as a dangerous war zone where women are not allowed to ride bikes anymore.  Yet every face I encountered was one of smiles, encouragement, and curiosity.

6 days later, 8 communities in the United States will be riding their bikes in support of Mountain2Mountain’s projects in Afghanistan.  Dubbed the Panjshir Tour, each ride raises money through the power of the pedal to support projects with the deaf community, rural midwife training, and girls education.

SO!  Get your bike lubed up and join us THIS Sunday, October 3rd – be part of the inaugural event and help us grow it for next year!

Rides are on in California, Colorado, Washington DC, Oregon, and New York!  We need your help, we need your muscles, and we need your sweat to change the lives of women and girls and the future of Afghanistan for generations to come!

Want to learn more and find out where you can ride and register?  Click here!!

photo credit:  Travis Beard


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Breaking Barriers in Afghanistan – Singlespeed Style

On October 3rd this year, my birthday coincidentally, I became the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan.   The irony of accomplishing something like this was that it started out so simply….each trip I’ve spent in Afghanistan I’ve longed for my bike.  The goat trails, the dirt roads, and the incredible mountains scream out to me to get pedalling!

THe non profit that Team M2M supports, Mountain 2 Mountain, is focused on women and children’s education and empowerment in remote mountain communities, in particularly in Afghanistan.  Yet a large part of our ethos is connecting communities and cultures.  I have come to realize that being the founder of a non profit and a mountain biker is not necessarily mutually exclusive.

So this trip, I made the decision to lug my trusted steed on the arduous journey from Colorado to Kabul.  Mountain to Mountain becoming quite literal as my Niner biked its way through Singlespeed World Championships in Durango, Colorado on a Saturday, only to be packed up, still dirty, to join me on a series of flights to Afghanistan the following week.

It wasn’t intended to be any sort of record creating, being the first at something, kind of excursion.  It’s simply a way for me to do what I do, in a country that I love, and perhaps change a few perceptions about what women can and can’t do in the process.  After some googling and researching, we discovered that no other woman had done this.   Not really surprising as this is Afghanistan we’re talking about.  Women don’t ride bikes here.  Foreign women try to stay relatively low key.  For good reason.  Between the land mines, suicide bombers, the Taliban, and the usual crap against women that exists in many Islamic countries, mountain biking isn’t high on anyone’s (male or female) priority list.

I decided to ride my bike in two provinces of Afghanistan, which happen to be two of the provinces that Mountain to Mountain is working in…connecting our mission with our ethos.  Education and cultural exchange.  Couple that with my desire to break barriers and crack open the long held stereotypes that pigeon hole women in many regions of the world, it was a no brainer.  The long term vision being that this trip I challenge perceptions and stereotypes on both sides of the coin.

Westerners assume Afghan men won’t accept women on bikes, because no women do it.   Truth, many won’t and don’t.  But the majority we encountered not only tolerated it, but chatted with us, joked and supported it.

Afghans expect that Westerners are too scared and too closed off to come out of their NGO and military compounds to interact with them and their country.  Westerners (including many that live and work in Afghanistan) assume you’ll be shot dead or kidnapped the moment you leave the confines of your secure car or compound.  I try to do my errands on my own whenever possible via walking or motorbike. I walk in the markets, stay in residential neighborhoods, and often conduct my daily errands alone so that I can take the time to connect with shopkeepers and security guards.  I buy my naan bread from a local baker round the block, have learned where to buy fresh yogurt measured out into a plastic bag and sold by the weight.

Mountain biking is just another extension of that desire to interact with Afghans more fully by doing what comes naturally.

Now this is not to say, it is without danger, or that all men would tolerate this.  There are men, especially in other, more conservative provinces, that wouldn’t.  I am fully aware of security concerns and am not ignorant of the risks I take by exposing myself on a bike.  I chose and discussed my location choices carefully.  Baby steps were taken on remote mountain paths and dirt roads before riding my bike through a village.  There are still areas of this country where I couldn’t step out of my car without a burqa on.   Areas where foreigners of either sex, are at risk, simply by trying to do their work.   Assassinations and kidnappings still occur and foreigners are not trusted.  But there are areas where genuine human interaction and cultural exchange are not only possible but desired.

Yet as I’ve said many times before, if no one ever does it, it will never change.  Its my own version of:  ”Just because that’s the way things are, doesn’t mean its the way they should be.”

photo credit Travis Beard


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Team M2M – August Sightings

Jersey sightings continue through August with triathletes in Steamboat Springs classic tri, and mountain bikes at the Laramie Enduro and Tipperary Creek, and of course runners at Pikes’s Peak Ascent and at Mountain to Mountain’s 2nd Annual Race for the Mountains!

Thanks especially to riders like Denver resident, Paula Telck, for her kind words after racing 70 miles on her mountain bike in the Laramie Enduro a few weeks ago.  Riders like this capture the spirit of what we are attempting to do.

“From the 7 am start and one of 400 racers, I wait anxiously to start the Laramie Enduro. This is not your sit back and relax kind of day, but one that requires the right amount of energy and to a much bigger degree endurance. Over the course of the 111km race, I will feel exhilarated, hopefully, anxious and, yes, pain but mostly honored. Today I was given the opportunity by Shannon Galpin, to represent Mountain to Mountain, an organization making an impact in young woman’s lives in Afghanistan. I’m fortunate to have been born in America where opportunities like today’s race exist for women. In America, nobody can deny me this moment. Something this wonderful and simple should be universal and afforded to all women. There are endless streams of smiles and cheers as the riders cross the finish line including myself. It feels good to be done, but the smiles from my face also come from a place deeper in my heart. I wear my Mountain to Mountain jersey with great pride, honor and in support of the efforts of this absolutely amazing organization. ”

Next month keep an eye out for us at  Singlespeed World Championship 09 in Durango, CO.   More than one of us will be riding our singlespeeds at this epic event!!

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Breck 100


Whew – one epic mountain bike race down and another high class event in our own backyard hits this Saturday, July 18.   Thane Wright of Warriors Cycling has supported Mountain to Mountain since our first event in 2007, and this year has dedicated part of his hallmark race proceeds to our organization. 

Several members of Team M2M that raced in the Epic are showing up for the short course which benefits Mountain to Mountain.  The Breck 32 is the first loop of the 100 mile course.  If you fancy joining us, we’d love to help bring more racers to this shorter course which is suitable for intermediate riders and racers.  Want to take a bite of something a bit meatier?  Take on the 68 and ride the first two loops, or take on all three for the endurance 100 milers.  As Race Director, Thane Wright describes it, “You’ll cross the Continental Divide three times, climb 12,000 foot passes and forge high mountain streams while all the time returning to the support and encouragement of our staff, friends and teammates who are waiting for you at Carter Park in historic downtown Breckenridge. ”

Resistance is futile!

We have more jerseys, so any new riders for the Team itself are welcome to race with us.  Your only requirement (besides loving to mountain bike) is setting up a fundraising page on Firstgiving.com and trying to raise some cash to offset your sweat equity.   Super simple and totally secure, it’s a fantastic way to help Mountain to Mountain gets our projects off the ground in Afghanistan. 

We want to help out Thane and make the Breck 100, 68, and 32 run smoothly – so besides our call for racers, we are also rounding up course marshalls and volunteers for registration, or whatever else Thane needs.   Contact Thane at thane@warriorscycling.com or check out the race 411 at    www.warriorscycling.com

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A singlespeeder, a pro, and four sport riders walk into a bar…

The inaugural Breck Epic came to a close on Friday with the final stage on Gold Dust.   Board chair, Steve Recca and Breck local, Lauren Ross had a fantastic time – so much so that Lauren didn’t need the pepper spray swinging from her camelback for mountain lions.  (I’ll never let her live that down!)

Team M2M did what it set out to do.  It launched two co-ed teams that included: one pro, two expert, one singlespeeder, three sport, and one beginner racer.   They raced alongside some of the best mountain bike racers in the country, finishing mid pack every stage.   The team also raised over $3,000 for Mountain to Mountain by setting up online fundraising pages on Firstgiving.com 

It also started to build on another long term aim: exposure.   The day after the race ended, one of the Team members, Mark Wiggins, rode in the Triple Bypass – called such for the three mountain passes it climbs over 120 miles on its way from Evergreen to Avon, Colorado.   He rode in his Team M2M jersey, and was asked by a total stranger if he had rode in the Breck Epic.   Nice!  Yours truly wore her jersey proudly as I raced my singlespeed in Winter Park for their Cross Country Point to Point race, with a 2nd place podium finish.  

Big thanks go out to our initial private donor that wanted to see this concept come together, despite the time restraints, in the hopes that we would be able to benefit from some early exposure to line up sponsors, racers, and tap into the energy of mountain sports and culture to help fund our projects in Afghanistan. 

Many thanks to all that donor who believed in us, and all the racers that wore our jersey while burning up their legs and lungs on steep mountain passes and donating some skin at times on knarly descents.  You guys rock!!



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Breck Epic’s Two Big Stages



The two toughest stages of the Breck Epic are history.  

Stage three was the truly epic 47 mile 9,800 feet of climbing circumnavigation of Guyot.  Two front range riders, and long time friends, Mark Wiggins and Jeff Kobriger tackled the beast.  But first Jeff pounded some Go Fast, and offered up some Go Fast gum that had a warning label promising some heady side effects if you chewed more than 2 pieces an hour.  I value my digestive tract and politely declined.  Next up, Jeff pulled out the retro pink fanny pack filled with various gu and gels for the ride.  This was in addition to two aid station bags and his camelback.  I grabbed the camera after slapping a Mountain to Mountain sticker on the front, and nearly doubled up with laughter when he modeled it in all seriousness ready to ride.  A few minutes later, he determined that it might cause too much chafing and it was left in the car.  

Three massive climbs over French Pass, Georgia Pass, and Humbug Hill that had more than one biker walking were paired with some of the most technical descents of the race and lengthy rocky descents that had hands and triceps screaming for mercy.   Mark came in at 5:14, grabbed an ice-cold coke from the cooler, some pretzels, and then sat in the shade to wait for Jeff to come in.  Jeff had some cramping issues and came in about a half hour later.  Turns out, that despite have ridden in 24 hour races, this had been Jeff’s longest ride EVER in one chunk, and both agreed it was one of the challenging days in the saddle they had ridden.  

Riders at the Epic have been griping about the length of the rides, as in, they weren’t long enough.   Race director, Mike McCormick, asked the riders to reserve judgement till Friday after the two tough stages.  Racing at 10-12,000 feet is unlike racing at lower altitudes.   Your body just doesn’t recover in the oxygen deprived environment.  Sure enough by the end of Stage 4 today, the same riders that had been complaining were lining up for massages at the Mountain to Mountain massage tent, and comparing aching body parts.   Back to back long, strenuous stages in the middle of the race were making themselves felt. 

Monique Merrill and Mountain to Mountain’s Development Director, Jake Quigley took on Stage 4.  Jake and others were rocked by the extended hike-a-bike section on Wheeler.  Jake hit it about two hours in, about an hour behind Mona and the other speedster pro leaders.  It drained energy and rhythm, and riders still had two-three hours of riding ahead.  Five and half hours in the saddle, a rest and a shower was quickly followed by three bratwursts and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s before heading to bed around 8:30pm.   Mona no doubt rode from the finish back to work at Amazing Grace, just another day in the saddle for her.  

Tomorrow is the best stage of the race, the fun Gold Dust trail.  Board Chair, Steve Recca is up for round two, after Monday’s stage, alongside Breckenridge local, Lauren Ross.  A shorter, 32 mile stage, with great singletrack riding.  The awards ceremony and party move to the Riverwalk Center from the elementary school campsite, assuming that beers and celebratory pub crawls can ensue.  

Want more?  Check out coverage on VeloNews of Stage Four and Five.


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Breck Epic Stage Two

Stage 2 tv interview


Day Three, Stage Two – a day for full suspension if I ever saw one!  Today team leader and M2M founder, yours truly, was paired up against speedster and Breckenridge local, Chris Brown.  Chris raced the prologue on Sunday and was itching for something a bit more – MORE.  Today’s course was the short one, 30 plus miles and over 7,000 feet of climbing, so I think that’s more enough for us all.  

Chris stayed with the speedsters at the front while I did my best to hang in the middle of the singlespeed men.  Riding a hardtail singlespeed Niner means that I’m used to what the climbs have in store for me, but today the descents rattled my brain and bounced me around so much that I found myself sitting in my saddle maybe 10% of the entire ride.  I was either climbing out of the saddle or descending off the back of the saddle.  The ‘saddle cream’ was relegated to its moisturizing qualities only as the only time my ass touched the seat was on the gentler of the climbs.   Its one of the few races where the descents were nearly as painful as the climbs. Nearly?  Hell…they were!

Chris did us proud and is already ‘in’ for next year!  He seemed to relish the chance to race alongside some of the best in the mountain bike racing as the small field and group starts keep the fast riders together regardless of classification.  My goal was to keep in front of at least a couple of the singlespeed men.  We also got some Canadian air time as a television crew interviewed us at the start line. Couple that with Chri bike use as a prop for Indonesian television after the prologue, he’s going to have to come on as a a permanent spokesperson for Team M2M.  

The best racer by far in this race is Wendy Stack from southern Colorado.  Wendy is rockin’ the solo women’s category at the ripe ol’ age of 65.  65!!  She’s all smiles at the end of the stages and is the oldest finisher of the Leadville 100 if rumors are to be true – I need to get the google going on that one to confirm.   She’s been at the Team M2M massage tent we set up for the Breck Epic more than once, taking care to do all she can to recover each night and prepare for whatever the next stage throws at us.  

Tomorrow is Stage three and its the biggest and baddest of them all (sorry Mark and Jeff).  47 miles and nearly 10,000 feet of climbing.  Our two riders from the Front Range nabbed that bad boy – by a fluke of a stage switcheroo.  Race Director, Mike McCormick, switched up the races on us Sunday night and the power team were given a big ask.   This ride includes a snow field crossing, and several BIG climbs as well as some of the more technical downhills of the race.   Needless to say, team leader owes them beer and dinner after this stage!

Remember help all the riders out by visiting Firstgiving.com and searching Mountain 2 Mountain to donate to each riders fundraising goal!  You can’t give them a lung transplant, but you can get them $20 closer to their goal of helping out our non profit!

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