Tag Archives: biking

Strength in Numbers 2014 – A Global Launch on Two Wheels

Mountain2Mountain has been lucky to be involved in a variety of arenas in the support of women and girls over the past 7 years since its inception.  2 years of partnerships and 5  years of working in Afghanistan have taught us much, and we have been lucky to be involved with a variety of projects that empower women and girls.   Going forward, our focus is built around our Strength in Numbers program.

The backbone of Strength in Numbers is the belief that one woman can make a difference but an army of women could change the world.  Using bikes, long a symbol of freedom of mobility, and a tool of the women’s suffrage movement in America in the early 1900′s, to unify the women we work with to pedal a revolution of change for women’s rights.

Photo credit Mariam Alimi (39)

Why the bike?  As you know, I became the first person to mountain bike in Afghanistan in 2009, a country that does not allow women to ride.  I have continued to do so for the past four years on every visit as a way of challenging gender barriers and opening conversations.  When I met the first women to bike in Afghanistan, members of the Afghan National cycling Team, I immediately moved forward with supporting the burgeoning cycling movement.

Around the world the bike is used a direct tool for social justice for women and girls – fighting gender violence, increasing access to education and healthcare, and providing overall freedom of mobility.  Not to mention two-wheeled joy.   The bike was an integral part of our own American women’s suffrage movement, as I illustrate in my recent TEDx talk, A Two Wheeled Revolution.

Now we need your support.  Mountain2Mountain has existed with no staff, no offices, and minimal funding for the previous five years.  I have traveled to Afghanistan 15 times with three more trips scheduled this year, several funded by myself.  I have worked full time for M2M since 2007, leveraging the sale of my house and bank loans against my car to support myself and my daughter Devon, in order to create M2M and the projects in the belief that I could create something beautiful and lasting that could have a ripple effect.  It has evolved, gotten a clearer vision, and become my own, but I cannot continue to do this alone.

2014 is set to be a major breakthrough year, we have a entirely new Board of Directors based in Colorado and a vibrant and international Advisory Council to help shepherd in a new era of Mountain2Mountain’s work.  We need your help to create a solid foundation that will allow us to do more good work in the years to come.   The first goal is to build an organizational budget that can support a small staff to work with me on the myriad of programs that support girls and women’s rights and opportunities.  We have developed the Strength in Numbers program, including its expansion beyond Afghanistan with our Global Launch in Rome next year.  We need everyone’s help to come together and make the world a better place for women and girls around the world!

The main programming support for 2014 and beyond is Strength in Numbers with three main programming arms.

1.    Afghanistan Women’s Cycling 2014 Support

  • Ongoing support of the women’s and the men’s national team with gear, equipment, and coaching.  Gear drives and sponsorship.  This is done directly with the Afghan Cycling Federation.
  • Finance a minibus for the women’s team to safely travel to and from training and to transport the bikes
  • Develop solutions for the overall lack of coaching, training, and racing opportunities in Afghanistan
  • Finance racing outside of Afghanistan – travel, lodging, race fees to allow the women to interact with their regional counterparts
  • Petition their involvement in 2016 Olympics in Brazil as observers
  • Focus on team development for future racing / possible exchange outside of Afghanistan to gain spot for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
  • Expansion of the women’s cycling movement outside of Kabul spring 2014
    • New cycling team development and support of burgeoning cycling groups
      • First ever women’s mountain bike team in Afghanistan started in Bamiyan province
      • First women’s road bike team in Bamiyan province
        • Gear, bikes, clothing
        • Recognition by Afghan Cycling Federation and Afghan Olympic Committee
        • First ever women’s bike race in Afghanistan

 2.    Global Strength in Numbers Launch

  • Women’s Summit:  Launching in Rome in fall 2014 with women from other key countries where women’s rights issues are key to discuss SIN participation
  • Solidarity Ride 2014 in Rome with participation in the US, Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, and India confirmed
  • Announce the spread of  Strength in Numbers into other countries with the goal of spearheading women’s rights activism and future projects.

3.    US based Strength in Numbers Camp

  • One week mountain biking camps that target women who have survived gender violence or girls at risk to empower them to become leaders in the fight for women’s rights globally
  • Summer of 2014 with 1-2 camps in Colorado
  • 2015 they would be one of several global programs under Strength in Numbers and the only US based program of Mountain2Mountain
  • Women would be chosen out of this program to take part in cultural exchanges with women in the global programs to provide cross cultural connections through cycling while developing solutions and programs around the issues of women’s rights and gender violence.

Our biggest roadblock is financial.  We have the support and the development to achieve the global launch of Strength in Numbers, but we need everyone’s help to build the financial foundation to manage this program for the next 5-10 years if we want to see a true ripple of change occur and create a two wheeled revolution with women worldwide.

We have several major assets to help us reach our goals in the long term.  My memoir: Mountain to Mountain: An Adventurer’s Journey Through Afghanistan on Two Wheels  comes out with St. Martin’s press on October 1, 2014.  Afghan Cycles, the documentary film by Let Media is in production and will release in the fall or winter of 2014/2015 and as the film’s non profit partner, all outreach and marketing will direct people to get involved via our Strength in Numbers program.  Major national and international press are covering the team and our work with them in the spring and summer of 2014.  We have amazing partners in the cycling industry with PrimalWear, Skratch Labs, Osprey Packs, Shredly, Handlebar Mustache, Pedros, and Alchemy Bicycles giving their support in year one.  The pieces are in place, we simply need to build our foundational support to allow us to plan long term, not project by project, trip by trip.  The time has come to grow, building a strong and capable team that can lead Mountain2Mountain and our projects forward.

Our Strength IS in our numbers and its time to come together as a global community to support a global program uniting women and girls around the world to tackle gender violence and women’s rights.

You can donate today, or email me directly atinfo@mountain2mountain.org to get more information or discuss your support further.

All my appreciation and gratitude,

Shannon

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Bamiyan Women’s Bike Team to Launch 2014.

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4 years ago exactly, I rode my mountain bike throughout Panjshir and on the hills that surround Kabul.  It was one part experiment and one part adventure.  In a country that doesn’t allow its women to ride bikes, I wanted to challenge the gender barrier as a foreign woman and test the reactions.  I also wanted to experience a country known mostly for  war, poverty, and oppression on two wheels, surrounded by the beauty of the Panjshir mountains and the kindness of the people I encountered, and share a different view of Afghanistan back home.

It wasn’t until three years later that I found women who rode.  I met Coach Seddiq in late 2012,  the head of the Afghan bicycing federation who was coaching not only the boys but also started a women’s team.  My heart soared and we immediately got to work to support with equipment, gear, and training.  NBC Nightly News covered the story and we collected an enormous amount of gear along with 5 carbon racing bikes from Liv/giant.

This spring, we delivered the gear, and introduced a film crew from Let Media to the team.  Filmmaker Sarah Menzies, came to make a film about the women’s national team, the first women to ride and race.  Afghan Cycles launches in 2014 and it couldn’t be more fitting as the next steps with women’s cycling launch.

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Gear Drive, Bikes, Women, and Afghanistan

Thanks to the talents of Sarah Menzies of Let Media, we had a filmmaker on hand for our most recent trip to Afghanistan.  She generously gave her time and skills to edit a behind the scenes peek at the gear drive to support the men’s and women’s cycling teams of Afghanistan, while she was in Kabul to start production on Afghan Cycles, a film about the women’s national cycling team.  We are so excited to share this with the Mountain2Mountain community who helped make this happen, and hope you’ll share it with your community and networks to help us rally more support for these incredible cyclists as we rally for a second round of gear donation this fall, and are raising money to rent a minibus and driver so that the women’s team has safer transportation to and from training rides on the outskirts of Kabul.  We hope you’ll be inspired by the women that dare to ride and be part of our next steps with the teams this fall.

We need your help to get the second round of bikes and gear over to Afghanistan this fall in support of the women’s national team.  Please donate today and help us rally the funding we need to continue to support the women that are changing the face of women in sport!

In addition – a huge thanks to the film crew that was part of this journey; Sarah Menzies, Whitney Conner Clapper, Claudia Lopez who along with myself as producer, make up the crew for the upcoming film, Afghan Cycles, about the Afghan National Women’s Cycling Team – the women that DARE TO RIDE!   You can follow the progress and behind the scenes photos and blogs on Facebook and stay tuned for details as the film is in production with plans for a spring 2014 premiere!

Read more about our spring gear drive and support for the women’s national cycling team here!

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Hipstamatic Biking in Kabul

6:00am in Kabul.  A light rain was falling, but Georgian photographer, Mikhail Galustov and I agreed, rain or no rain, let’s go for a bike ride.  Our destination?  Kabul’s historic Darulamon Palace.

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Team M2M

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Mountain to Mountain was founded by a mountain-lovin’ girl, in a high altitude mountain town, to benefit mountain communities halfway around the world, by uniting mountain communities at home through our common mountain culture.  

It was my desire to start an organization that didn’t take itself too seriously despite the seriousness of the issues facing the communities we aim to help.  I love mountain living.  I seem to thrive in the thin air.  I love trail running, mountain biking, and the crisp mornings that greet me when I leave in search of morning caffeine even in the middle of summer.  Could I start an organization that would raise money for other mountain regions by tapping into what makes my own mountain town thrive?

It literally started with the idea for a trail race, Race for the Mountains.  It grew into the desire to include mountain sports of all types as a way to raise awareness and money for our projects.   This year sees that desire take another step forward as we continue Race for the Mountains, become a non profit beneficiary of two elite mountain bike races and one randonnee ski race, and the creation of Team Mountain to Mountain (Team M2M).  

Team M2M is a mostly women’s mountain sport team.  Team M2M aims to tap into the energy and drive of mountain athletes to raise awareness and raise funds through racing, networking, group rides, and online fundraising.  Firstgiving.com is a fantastic fundraising tool for athletes to set goals and share their story and our mission with friends, family, and colleagues.   

Launching at this year’s inaugural Breck Epic mountain bike extravaganza, this ‘mostly women’s team’ will compete alongside some of the best mountain bikers in the country during a 6 day stage race.  As race director, Mike McCormick states, “If this course was a person, it would be dressed in black leather and brandishing a whip”.  It is a not a race for the faint of heart.  But if Mountain to Mountain was founded by the faint of heart we wouldn’t be working in Afghanistan….we’d stick to the safety of Iceland.   

I say, mostly women, because there are a few good hearted, and strong legged, men on our Board of Directors, staff, and supporters that want to get involved.  So while we target women, we include our male counterparts.  In the case of the Breck Epic, estrogen and testosterone will ride together in coed teams united under the Team M2M blue and pink bike jersey.  The only difference?  The men’s say “domestique” across the back!  So we’ll have two, maybe three, teams of Board Members, staff (including yours truly), and racer friends to represent.   Each five person team will ride one or two stages of the race, while Advisory Council member, and hardcore racer Heidi Volpe, is competing the entire six day event with her teammate in the 2 man coed team division!  

Now, that’s not to say that Team M2M is full of elite athletes only.  We encourage women of all levels to get involved.  Beginner racers taking part in their first mountain bike or trail running race are as much a part of the team as elite racers striving to come in first.  Its about building a community of support through the sports that unite our mountain towns.  One of our very own Board Members set up a fundraising page at Firstgiving to raise money for her involvement in this year’s Race for the Mountains in the 5km race.  Having dealt with a debilitating case of lupus for two years, she is on the mend and wants to use the race as a training goal and as a way to garner support by her friends as volunteers, pacers, cheerleaders, and fundraisers.  She set a lofty goal of $5,000 and looks set to reach it!

Bikers, runners, skiers, rock climbers… come one come all.   The only requirement is a strong desire to get muddy, sweat, and support M2M while you do it!  

Follow our Team M2M blog at:  www.teamm2m.wordpress.com  to follow our inaugural launch at the Breck Epic and everything that follows!

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