About Shannon Galpin

Fueled by her own experience with gender violence Shannon Galpin founded Mountain2Mountain, a grassroots nonprofit that fights for the voice of women and youth in conflict zones through education, street art, and activism. An avid mountain biker, she became the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan. She has worked in Afghanistan since 2008, and been featured on Dateline NBC, Huffington Post, and Outside Magazine. Shannon was recently chosen as a 2013 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.

Combat Apathy


The bicycle is a commonly used metaphor for change and freedom – wheels in motion, self powered movement, pedaling a revolution…

The bicycle lives up to this metaphor in Afghanistan as the Women’s National Cycling Team begins to take shape.

Cycling is not an acceptable thing for women to do in Afghanistan, even while women’s sports grow and the first Afghan women have competed in the Olympics, cycling is still considered culturally offensive.  But when the men’s team formed, Kabul girls wanted to ride. At this point, the team is made up of 10-12 women, and despite officially forming the national women’s team, they must be kept as an underground sport. Using borrowed gear, they are trying to build the team and the sport. Whether or not they are aware of it, what they are doing is a huge step for Afghan women as there are only 60-70 female riders…

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Mountain2Mountain: Field Notes

Its time for a good old fashioned gear drive.  Cycling gear that is.

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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.

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The Long Way Around

Everywhere you look you see men and boys on bikes, in the mountains, in villages, and in city centers like Kabul.  But never women. For the past four years, I’ve been riding my bike in Afghanistan every chance I get.  When a local offers up his bike, complete with pinwheel and three horns, I don’t hesitate.  Ever.

It was October 2009 when I first put two wheels to dirt in the mountains of the Panjshir Valley, no big deal if you live in Colorado, but a first for any women in Afghanistan.

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Strength in Numbers Builds in Strength

As I ended my talk at the IMBAx event last Friday at the IMBA World Summit, I concluded with:

I believe our strength is in our numbers.

I believe we can empower voice and strength with young women labeled victims, because as I know firsthand, a victim is only a victim if she believes it.

I believe a mountain bike can be the vehicle to create a ripple of change in our communities.

I KNOW that one woman can make a difference.  I know that once voice matters.  But I also know that our strength IS in our numbers and together, we CAN pedal a revolution that can change the world!

As we lay the foundation for the development of our domestic program, Strength in Numbers, one thing has emerged – our desire to partner with companies that lead with soul, and ethics, and passion. Companies led by founders that believe that the bottom line is only part of the goal, but that what we do in our communities to create change, is what we should be striving for.

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Hipstamatic Biking in Kabul

Mountain2Mountain: Field Notes

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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Strength in Numbers

This summer, after almost five years working in Afghanistan, Mountain2Mountain will launch it first domestic program, ‘Strength in Numbers’, in the United States, targeting young women at-risk, female military veterans, and violence survivors. Utilizing the bike as a vehicle for social justice, beyond traditional bike donations, instead considering mountain biking as a seed for cultural exchange and self-determination abroad and at home.

‘Strength in Numbers’ is an evolution from our ongoing work with women and girls in Afghanistan and our founder, Shannon Galpin’s, own personal experience as a victim of violence, and her continued push on gender and cultural barriers by becoming the first woman to mountain bike in Afghanistan, a country where women are not allowed to ride bikes.  The first program will launch this July in Aspen, followed by Breckenridge in August, Moab in October, and a winter camp in December.

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