Three years ago, I became the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan, a country where women are not allowed to ride bikes. I wrote about that fateful day on my 35th birthday in another blogpost, it was also my third close call with death – being nearly driven off a cliff in the Panjshir Valley, just past Massoud’s tomb.
One year later, on my 36th birthday, I returned with Outside Magazine writer, Nick Heil in tow in an attempt to both mark the anniversary of my first series of rides, and to attempt to ride across the entire length of the Panjshir Valley. Marking the day with me, were riders in several communities back in the US riding in grassroots rides united in an event we dubbed,The Panjshir Tour. The Tour was an effort to connect communities and cultures on both sides of the geographic coin in order to raise awareness and funding for our projects in Afghanistan, using the bike as a vehicle for social justice.
Two years later, on my 37th birthday, I found myself on my bike just home from my most recent trip to Afghanistan, filming in the recent early snowfall in the mountains of Colorado with filmmaker, Alexandria Bombach for the film series, MoveShake.
Three years later, literally to the day of the very first series of rides in the mountains of Afghanistan – I found myself surrounded by adventurers, mountain people, and fellow activists and humanitarians – all brought together by Adventure Film Festival in Boulder, Colorado – watching a small snapshot of my story, Shannon Galpin: A MoveShake Story, unfold on the screen at the Boulder Theater. Following the film and a quick Q&A with Malcom Daly and the audience – Alexandria Bombach was presented with the award for best film in adventure through activism. A better way to mark my 38th birthday and the third anniversary of my rides in Afghanistan, I couldn’t possibly imagine.
As I prepare for my next trip to Afghanistan, for my continued work with Mountain2Mountain, I can’t help but pack up my singlespeed one more time, to sneak in one more ride – determined to make it four years in a row that I’ve been able to spin my wheels in a country that doesn’t allow my fellow sisters to ride – in an effort to continue to challenge gender barriers and experience Afghanistan in a way few ever will.