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Matador Ambassador Shannon Galpin documents her attempt to mountain bike across the Panjshir Valley.

IN 2009, I BECAME THE FIRST WOMAN to mountain bike in Afghanistan, during a series of rides in Panjshir province and the hilltops of Kabul on my beloved 29′er single-speed, in an attempt to challenge gender barriers. Afghanistan is one of the few countries in the world where women are not allowed to ride bikes.

In 2010, I returned with my bike again, this time with Outside writer Nick Heil, to ride across the Panjshir Valley in a much more public and linear manner. The main road in the province runs straight through its heart, following the river, with steep mountains forming walls on either side. This road is slowly being paved, and in a year or so will become a major trucking route, forever changing the valley that encloses it.

I convinced Nick he should ride the same bike as me, and enlisted Niner to set him up on a 29′er single-speed as well. He reluctantly agreed. I also informed him he should grow a beard — to look less contractor-ish. He informed me he’d ‘try.’ He arrived in Kabul ready to ride, with both the single-speed and a decent start at a beard. A week later, we found ourselves spilling out of an over-packed Land Cruiser just inside the gates that mark the entrance to the province.

Our goal? To cross the valley and finish at the summit of the 14,000ft Anjuman Pass.

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About The Author

Shannon Galpin

Fueled by her own experience with violence against women and inspired by becoming a mother, Shannon Galpin founded Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide education and opportunities to women in conflict zones. An avid mountain biker continually focused on breaking gender barriers, in 2009 she became the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan, a country where the culture does not permit women to ride bikes. A TEDx speaker, she has been featured on Dateline NBC, Today Show, Huffington Post, and in Outside Magazine.

  • Scott Hartman

    Amazing, Shannon. Thank you

  • Priyanka Kher

    Kudos…absolutely incredible!

  • Marie Lisa Jose

    Wonderful! GO Shannon!

  • Jenny Williams

    Great story–beautiful pictures–thank you, Shannon!

  • Kelly Himsl Arthur

    Beautiful photos, an inspirational woman, a man with an open mind and a country that longs to be understood. thank you for shining a light on the beauty of Afghanistan.

  • Mary Adams

    Thank you, Shannon, for showing the beauty of the country and the people!

  • Daniel Yu

    Stunning achievement!

  • Justin Heller

    This girl is a badass.

  • Singlespeed Belgique

    Congratulations for this fantastic trip.

    • Dominique de Kaesteker


  • Alan Curr

    You can visit Afghanistan with these guys: – congrats on a cool journey.

  • Michele L Appel

    Shannon, thank you for your bravery and strength. I also dare to make some dangerous sojourns on the bike, and am very fond of the Middle East. One of my other great inspirations is Dervla Murphy. In her first book, Full Tilt, and her first major tour, in the 1960s, she rode from Ireland to India, including through Afghanistan. If you have the penchant, it’s an incredible read. Look forward to more of your adventures!

  • Phoebe Gallagher-Reedman

    Truly inspirational and fantastic photography, thank you!

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