Category Archives: Mountain Biking

Shannon Galpin: Riding to Revolution in Afghanistan

Shannon Galpin Mountain Biking Afghanistan
Shannon Galpin mountain biking in Afghanistan. Photo by Deni Bechard.

Most cyclists would agree that the bicycle is far more than the sum of its parts. As a means of transportation it has implications for climate change, socioeconomics, equity. As a sport it is medicine for our mental and physical well being. As a culture it connects us to people far and wide. And though it touches so many facets of our lives and is an important tool for change, most of us in developed countries would stop short of saying that bicycling is revolutionary. In a country such as Afghanistan however, bicycling has the potential for revolutionary transformation. It is, as Shannon Galpin discovered, a metaphorical and literal vehicle for improving the lives of women and girls living in a country consistently ranked among the worst on women’s rights.

Galpin first traveled to Afghanistan in 2008 as as founder and President of Mountain2Mountain, a nonprofit focused on women’s rights in conflict zones. Her work initially involved a wide array of arts and education projects. Then in 2009 she brought her mountain bike to the country, went for some rides, sparked the sort of conversations with locals she needed to have about why women weren’t allowed to bike, and found the new focal point for her mission. The intersection of bicycling and Afghani women’s rights was further solidified in 2012 when she met the newly-created women’s National Cycling Team. Now Galpin is working to support the team and use cycling as sport to shift the cultural taboos about women biking for transportation and fun. Along the way, she has written a memoir, helped produce a documentary, given TED talks, and continued advancing Mountain2Mountain’s mission. I spoke to Galpin about her work in Afghanistan, breaking norms as a woman on a bike, projects with Mountain2Mountain, the National Cycling Team, and much more.

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Dogs That Shred

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Photo via pinkbike.com.

Mountain biking is awesome. Dogs are awesome. Ergo, mountain biking with dogs must be doubly awesome. That’s certainly the impression given by these two short videos of trail dogs who shred just as hard as their owners.

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Mike Curiak: Finding the Edge of Human Endurance

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Mike Curiak at an Iditarod race in Alaska. Photo by Chris McLennan.

From the early rebels racing down the Repack to today’s craziest freeriders flipping off massive cliffs, every era of mountain biking has needed pioneering figures to push the boundaries of what’s possible on a bike. In endurance racing, Mike Curiak was one of those key people who helped define just how long and far the human body can go on a mountain bike. He is best known for his exploits at Alaska’s brutal Iditaraces. Over his 17 year race career, he won numerous iterations of the 225-mile Iditasport and 350-mile Iditarod Trail Invitational, set a course record on the 1,100-mile Iditasport Impossible, and later completed the 1,100-mile race fully self-supported. He also helped organize the first successful Great Divide race, won the Kokopelli Trail Race, and was a nominee for the mountain bike hall of fame among other palmares.

Curiak retired from racing almost 10 years ago after winning the 2005 Iditarod Trail Invitational. These days he says he’s focused more on fun, though it’s his version of fun, i.e. multi-day bikepacking trips that require packrafting across lakes and down rivers and other adventures like that. He’s also focused on his well established Lace Mine 29 wheel-building business. I spoke to Curiak before he set off on a three-week packrafting trip through the Grand Canyon. We talked about his early entry into endurance racing, endless laps on 24-hour race courses, his experience racing in Alaska, helping create the Great Divide race, his disappointment with the direction endurance racing has gone recently, and much more.

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A Different Kind of Mountain Climbing by Bike

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One of my qualms with outdoors sports such as mountain biking, skiing, hiking and climbing is the need to hop in the car and drive to do them. Though there are plenty of towns with great trailhead access out the front door, the majority of us make a few hours of driving part of the equation each weekend to participate in the sports we love. A little bit of driving is never the end of the world, but it certainly contributes to it. As such, it’s exciting to see people using bikes for adventures in the mountains. These three videos document a few different mountain climbing trips by bike, from the Great Divide mountain bike route to the high alpine in Kyrgyzstan. All of them center on weeks- and even months-long tours–certainly not practical for the day to day–but inspiration nonetheless about the possibilities for human powered adventure.

Sam and Kurt are riding the Great Divide Mountain bike with trad climbing gear in tow.

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Kat Sweet: Building the Sisterhood of Shred

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Kat Sweet at the I5 Colonnade mountain bike park in Seattle. Photo by Meg Valliant.

Though mountain biking has been a male-dominated sport from the get go, there have always been a small contingent of women along for the ride. Jacquie Phelan, Juli Furtado, Rebecca Rusch, Marla Streb and many others all played pioneering roles in mountain biking’s development. Like them, Kat Sweet‘s mountain bike career has helped break down barriers for women and clear a path for today’s riders, especially in downhill where she was one of just a handful of women racing in those early days.

Sweet’s bike life has spanned nearly three decades of professional racing, freeride competitions, contest promotion, and coaching. These days her focus is on the latter two with her Sugar Showdown contest series for women freeriders and her Sweetlines Coaching business. Specializing in freeride coaching for women and kids, Sweet is working to foster the next generation of mountain biker rippers and grow the “sisterhood of shred.” I spoke with her about her long history in mountain biking, her unexpected foray into coaching, breaking down barriers to entry as a mentor for women riders, and much more.

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