Its time for a good old fashioned gear drive. Cycling gear that is.
After mountain biking in Afghanistan for the past three years, usually the only bikes I see are simple Pakistani made commuters bikes, ridden around the country on dirt roads and highways by men and boys of all ages. This is a country that does not allow women to ride bikes, something I have challenged by continuing to mountain bike throughout different areas of the country and starting conversations. Thus the bike has been a continuing thread throughout the story of Mountain2Mountain, leading up to our newest program launching this summer, Strength in Numbers, which uses the mountain bike as a vehicle for social change with women that have survived gender violence here in the US.
Last November, I got to meet the Men’s National Cycling Team in Afghanistan. They have been racing in Kabul on road and dirt, with a motley arrangement of gear and various road and sport bikes. They have one sponsor which helps with jerseys, but otherwise, no other support. They have a real love of the sport, racing in Kabul and in Pakistan. Several mentioned their hope to compete one day in the Olympics.
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. 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!
Thanks again to the amazing crew at Alchemy Bicycles, I’ll be bringing over my first road bike, handbuilt by Alchemy, to ride with the teams and talk bikes and collect their stories to share with you to further the thread of bikes and voice and cultural collisions that has been at the heart of Mountain2Mountain. Our hope is to continue to support the teams while at the same time we launch our bike driven program, Strength in Numbers in Colorado this July.
As a first step to support the burgeoning cycling scene in Afghanistan we are launching a gear drive in 6 Colorado cities ahead of our return visit to Afghanistan this spring. Starting February 15th, you can drop off cycling gear, tools, equipment, and cash donations to help with transport costs, at five Colorado locations. We will pick up donations March 15 – so you have a month to rally! Of course if anyone wants to do a gear drive in their town we’d welcome it, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss! We will pack it all up and deliver to both the teams on our next visit and share the photos and video with you while we are there.
Denver – Salvagetti Bicycle Workshop
Boulder – Boulder Cycle Sport – at both north and south Boulder store locations
Golden – Rise Above Cycles
Frisco – Podium Sports
Cortez – Osprey Packs HQ
Aspen – Shredly’s founder Ashley Rankin is going to donate Shredly women’s chamois and rally the community!
Going to NAHBS?? Our amazing partners at Alchemy Bicycles will have a collection box. Stop by and see their amazing handbuilt bikes and drop off some cycling gear, tools, clothing while you are at it!
Abington, PA – Abington Wheel Works Bicycle Shop
We have gear drives in Texas in Plano and Austin getting together too, so we’ll share that information as it develops!
Gear suggestions for men and women, both road and mountain bikes: helmets, pedals, shoes, cleats, seats, chammies, long pants, jerseys, gloves, jackets, windbreakers, sunglasses, socks, tools, tubes (no 29’ers please), tires, lube, air pumps. Lightly used old gear and new gear is welcomed!! We’re going to try to figure out a bike fleet next. Baby steps.
Spread the word and help make this a roaring success to support Afghan cycling!!
If you want to make an online donation to support the teams or our upcoming Strength in Numbers program you can do that here!
photo credit Tony Di Zinno