Afghanistan has the scenery and terrain, but not history or culture  conducive to women's bike racing. © Ricardo Mangual (flickr)

Afghanistan has the scenery and terrain, but not history or culture conducive to women’s bike racing. © Ricardo Mangual (flickr)

Afghanistan’s culture isn’t exactly conducive to women’s athletics or freedom, but that’s starting to change, and the country’s only women’s cycling team is playing a small role in accelerating that change. NPR has a report and short podcast on the team today, and perhaps it will bring a bit on inspiration to your day.

Afghan Female Cyclists Breaking Away  And Breaking Taboos  © Parallels   NPR

Afghan Female Cyclists Breaking Away And Breaking Taboos © Parallels NPR

Think riding in your area is dangerous? These women not only have to avoid cars and navigate rough roads, but also escape the dangers of a still-disapproving society. The report explains that their coach says the riders “try to turn a deaf ear to criticism that Muslim women shouldn’t be out riding bicycles” but that “riders have been hit by stones and shot at with slingshots.”

Thanks to the team, there are a hundred women now involved in road cycling, with a racing team of 10 racers. The nonprofit Mountain 2 Mountain provided the women with carbon road bikes, after the team started on steel kick-stand equipped clunkers. The team has already traveled to Pakistan to race, and plans to compete in the Asian Cycling Championships.

Might we see a cyclocross team at Worlds in the near future? We hope so, but to get there, these women have to hop much bigger barriers than the 40cm planks that trip most of us up. Have a listen below, or read the full story here.