By Brice Minnigh
Would you go to Afghanistan to ride mountain bikes? What do you think the riding—and the overall experience—would be like? It might not be remotely close to what you think it is.
Bike magazine recently completed a world-first expedition to Afghanistan’s remote Wakhan Corridor with Matt Hunter and Anthill Films for the cover story of our November issue, which will be dropping onto your local newsstand any day now.
We were so inspired by the adventure that we also created our first-ever web magazine dedicated to a single story. Click above to check out more than 50 pages of English photographer Dan Milner’s images from the journey, along with some anecdotes from Bike editor Brice Minnigh that you won’t find in the November issue.
Oh, and did we mention that Anthill Films made a short movie about the expedition? Well, they did. It’s called Forgotten Dirt, and it’s unlike any mountain-bike flick you’ve ever seen. Check out this white-knuckle roller-coaster of a ride (which was shot entirely on the Sony Action Cam) below:
If you’ve seen the above film or checked out our web feature, it’s probably clear that the trip took its toll on the entire crew. But Islamic militants and the inevitable automatic weapons were the least of our concerns. Our route took us deep into some of the world’s highest mountains, where military and political concerns are virtually non-existent. In the inhospitable no-man’s land where high-altitude desert and glacier grapple for top honors, the relentlessness of the elements is the great equalizer. Grueling hike-a-bikes at 16,000-plus-feet of elevation, sudden blizzards and potentially deadly river crossings were our primary concerns.
“In over 30 years of mountain biking in remote places, this trip was the toughest yet for me,” said photographer Dan Milner, whose image of Matt Hunter cresting the Dalriz Pass landed the cover of Bike’s November issue. “We covered some serious distance on and off the bike, and challenging elevation gains at high altitudes in every type of weather that could be thrown at us.
“With that kind of pressure, it is sometimes a hard call to decide whether to stop to get the shot,” added Milner. “But some scenes just can’t be passed by—like this one that emerged as we clawed our way over the top of the Dalriz Pass. Looking back at where we’d climbed from, the scene has everything that is the Wakhan Corridor: snow-laden peaks, gaping valleys, icy rivers and the ancient singletrack that enabled us to explore it all.”
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