Iran. For most of us this country stands for the axis of evil, religious fundamentalists and the fear of the nuclear program. But apropos of nothing in this often misjudged country there is much more. For example a fast developing gravity mountain bike scene that is worth discovering.
It all began two years ago, when I was employed to develop an extreme sport web series. My idea was to go beyond the mainstream and give an insight into the off the wall mountain bike scene of the Asian continent. Unfortunately the project ended up in the drawer. Nevertheless I already got in contact with some very passionate riders and the Iranian guys were the most ambitious ones. They sent me stunning pics from them flying in front of the Tehran skyline or flipping into a crystal-clear mountain lake - all of that in the middle of Iran!
A friend of mine, who is a cameraman was also fascinated and one evening after a few beers we just booked flights. Five weeks later, after a little Visa bickering we arrived in Tehran. Tehran is a fascinating city – 15 million people live there and contrary to what we were expecting, the city was surprisingly neat and tidy. But certainly there is the air pollution, which all Asian mega-cities suffer from. The car is status symbol number one and you barely see bikes in the heavy traffic. Hossein Zanjanian – Iran’s best downhill rider is an exception. He rides every free minute and due to his home and workplace in the south of Tehran he has to improvise.
“During the week there’s no possibility for him to get out of the city.” Sina, one of Hosseins best friends, told us. “But fortunately in the north of Tehran the big mountains are touching the city. So after work he’s grabbing hold of car after car to get there." The snow covered summits of the Alborz mountain range in the north of Theran are breathtaking: The mighty Tochal rises up to 3,964 meters.
The rest of the evening we enjoyed the fresh air and the breathtaking sunset view over the mega-city and saw firsthand that Hossein is not just a phenomenal urban rider, but also an incredibly fast downhill rider.
That talent is reflected in the UCI world ranking where Hossein is currently holding position 96 of 796 riders! His good performance in Iranian national downhill championships since age 16 and international races; Asian Championships Lebanon 2012 4th place, and China 2013 10th place attracted the attention of sponsors and in 2013 the Iranian Specialized importer supplied him with a Demo II and this year he’s riding for Giant. Coming from a relatively poor background (making 60 bucks a month in his father’s repair shop) it was the only possibility for him to get his hands on a good Downhill bike.
High prices for good bikes and parts are the main problem for Iranian riders. Due to the sanctions, imports are so expensive that good bike parts are not affordable for most, considering the average monthly income is $270. But they are masters in improvising and know how to have fun on the trails nevertheless.
The day ends in one of the many kebab restaurants with great food and non-alcoholic beer. There’s a wide flavour variety of this drink – some of them even advertise with German brewing technology. But all of them taste like lemonade. Drinking real alcohol is a serious crime in Iran. The penalty is up to 80 lashes. When they catch you more than twice there can also stand death penalty. But Mountain bikers in Iran and also tourists don’t have to fear the revolutionary guards or the religious police. If anything the mullah regime likes it when young people do sports – then they are away from drugs and dangerous ideas. This is the reason why we found one of the most modern skate parks we have ever seen in the middle of Tehran! The government owned bank sponsored it and every night it is crowded with skaters, roller-skaters and bmx riders. We have even seen a few girls with roller-skates. But the “extreme sports” like skateboarding, bmx and downhill riding are still male dominated sports.
The next day Hossein and his friends picked us up at 06:00 am for Kale Pache – a traditional Iranian breakfast. A few minutes later we sat in front of well-cooked parts of the sheep head – including the brain and the jelly legs all sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon. We managed the greasy brain and the tender tongue but we couldn't stand the legs. The dish did the job it’s famous for quite well: We didn’t get hungry for the rest of the day.
We had the perfect start to an amazing road trip, to some of the best mountain bike locations in northern Iran. During this trip, we delved even deeper into the Iranian mountain bike scene, shredded stunning trails, met incredible people and witnessed a national downhill race through a rain dripping, misty green jungle. But we can't do justice to those stories, by trying to include them in this article.
Our adventures, unexpected experiences and amazing mountain bike action captured on film is around 700 GB of well-organized footage waiting to be edited, to become a new kind of mountain bike film combining the best elements from documentary and bikeporn: “Mountain Bike out of the Box IRAN”. And that’s where we need your help!
We’re trying to fund the post production cost via crowd funding on Kickstarter: by supporting creative and independent projects you are offered tangible rewards and special experiences in exchange for your donation. It’s really fast and easy to make your pledge - you only need a credit card. There’s no risk at all - if we can't reach our goal all the pledges will be automatically refunded. You can support this film and be a part of our project starting from only 1,23 € (1£ or 1,67 $)! Please consider it, choose a reward, and help this extraordinary film become a reality!Click this link
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