Mountain Biking In Afghanistan: Riding To The Ends Of The Earth

Say "Afghanistan" to most people and they'll think "war zone". But for one intrepid group of mountain bikers, it meant adventure.

Snow blows through the mesh wall of my inner tent. Of all the challenges Afghanistan would throw at me, this wasn’t one I’d thought I’d face. Stepping on a landmine, stumbling upon a Taliban hideout or having to eat sheep ball stew are the kind of risks that might, quite understandably, rank higher on my “try to avoid” list. But here I am, high on an Afghan mountainside with a face full of snow in the middle of the night. In the big scheme of things, I guess I can’t complain.

I’m here, along with 5 other Westerners to ride bikes. Or perhaps that’s understating our intention. Along with pro rider Matt Hunter, 2 Anthill film cameramen Dary Wittenburgh and Colin Jones, a hardened travel journo Brice Minnigh and our guide Tom Bodkin, we’re attempting the first ever mountain bike expedition through Afghanistan’s remote North East Wakhan Corridor.

The Wakhan is high –our 250Km ride kicks off at 3000 metres altitude and hurls us immediately into a big climb to around 4000m at which we’ll stay for much of the next 12 days. It’s a wild place, inhabited by nomadic goat herders and roaming wolves. And it gets snow on any of 320 days of any year, meaning our trip in June is not immune from wintery weather, as I am discovering.

The snow that falls that night is just a teaser for what’s to come. Three days later we’ll be pushing bikes through a knee deep snowpack and heaving our stranded horses from its clutches high on one of the three near-5000m passes we need to cross.

But for now at least, I pull my sleeping bag over my head and hunker down, aware that this is quite possibly the quietest campground I have ever slept in.

The Wakhan is eerily quiet, or would be if not for the ever pervasive rush of another meltwater river nearby. But there is no rumble of Humvees, no explosions, no rattle of gunfire here.

Created in the 1800’s as a demilitarised buffer zone to ensure peace between the expanding British and Russian empires, the Wakhan has remained peaceful since.

Sure, a skeleton of an old tank greets us at our border crossing at Ishkashim, a remnant of the 1980’s Soviet war, but once into the Wakhan proper, there is not a whiff of conflict, past or present.

Geographically and culturally isolated from the war raging around Kabul to the south, and so impoverished and sparsely populated so as to be of little interest to the Taliban, the Wakhan Corridor might as well be a different country.

Which is great. After all, we’re adventure mountain bikers, not idiots.

Get the best in action sports straight to your inbox

MTB Articles

View all mtb articles
Photo: Christian Pondella/Oakley

'I'm Doing A 100ft Backflip This Summer. No One's Ever Done It Before...'

The MTB legend is attempting a 100ft backflip this summer, but what's the secret to his success? Mpora caught up with him at Crankworx France to find out...

Aaron Chase tearing up Turkey back in 2006. Photo: Red Bull

"It Didn't Hurt When I Hit The Ground. My Spinal Cord Crunched Like A Can Of Soda. I Was Paralysed..."

Freeride legend Aaron Chase suffered a tragic accident seven years ago - but that hasn't stopped him from continuing to rip

Hammy MacNahskill

Watch This Brilliant Spoof of Danny MacAskill's Street Trials Movies

Hammy MacNahskill has some insane skills


What's The Secret To The Perfect Whip?

We asked six of the best riders in the world for their advice

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 14.15.33

This is Why You Should Never Ride a Mountain Bike Drunk...

This is hilarious!

Nicholi Rogatkin crash crankworx 2014

Guy Attempts To Land A Massive Front Flip - And Fails Badly!



This Downhill Bike Is Not In A Good Way! You Won't Believe How He Did It...

This is how you break a mountain bike...

There is such a thing as hammering it too hard in practise. Photo: Laurence Crossman-Ems

The Mpora Guide to Mountain Bike Racing (For First Timers)

10 Mistakes That Every Racer Makes When They're Starting Out

gee atherton pov run

Want To See Exactly How Fast Gee Atherton Can Ride?

It's like the man is turbo-powered!

Needles Fast Run

Unbelievably Fast Downhill Street Run From Andrew Neethling

Horse & Dragon Tasting Tray. It's like a beer journey, I was told. Completely sold. Photo: Nina Zietman

Bikes And Beer: Could There Be A Better Combination?

Colorado is known for two things: world-class mountain bike trails and seriously good beer. We went along to do some testing...

Photo: Dirt Magazine/Ben Winder

Enduro World Series 2014: Jared Graves And Tracy Moseley Win Round Three

Competitors fiercely battled it out on the steepest course yet

More Radness is Imminent...

Mpora © 2014 Factory Media Ltd.