Posted by Miles Arbour
Photos by Andy Buchs (TransBike Adventures)
Morocco Bike Adventure 2019 started in Tangier and finished in Essaouira. Most of the route followed side roads with almost no traffic. The standard route was 1,750km and spent most of the time in the mountains. Extension 1 consisted of one loop of 650km with one part in the dunes of Sahara and the second extension added about 400km with one long, remote section of desert. The riders had to get to the start of each extension by a set time if they wanted to go for the longer alternative. Out of the nine riders, one (Steffen Streich) completed the full course with both extensions, three cyclists did extension 1 (2,450km in total), one rider rode the standard route, and four had to scratch. Read two of their stories below.
Words by Daniel Johansson (@cykeldanne)
Right from the start we were greeted by a lot of climbing and roads with very little traffic. I was not really acclimatized to the heat, arriving in Morocco from Sweden only two days prior to the start. I was very lucky to ride, though, because my bike was delayed for one day. The first 900km was the hardest part, with more than 20,000 meters of climbing. The Moroccan gravel roads, called piste, has very little in common with Swedish gravel. The piste was everything from smooth gravel roads to sand, rocks, and almost unrideable. I was really happy that I was riding my Salsa Cutthroat with 2.2″ tires, although some were riding skinny 35mm rubbwe. Most of the route passed through sparsely populated areas where it was hard to find proper food. The small shops offered not much more than water, sodas, wafers, and small bags of crisps. I was struggling to get enough fuel for the demanding route.
I really wanted to ride the dunes in Sahara and was happy to get to the checkpoint in time to take on the first extension. At this time, I was leapfrogging with German rider Julian Klose and we ended up sharing a room a couple of times. Finding accommodation was mostly pretty easy if you stopped in time. An auberge with a room, shower, and dinner typically was around 20€ and was perfect for a tired and hungry bikepacker. Later on, I had some issues with my body and had to stay in a hotel to recover for a full day, resulting in skipping extension 2 and continuing with the standard route to the finish. Apart from a very well-designed route, my biggest take away from this event is the extreme hospitality of the friendly people of Morocco. I felt safe and welcome and was invited for tea, food, and lodging numerous times. Morocco is a great place for bikepacking, and those signing up for Morocco Bike Adventure 2020 are in for a treat.
Words by Mark Courter (@miscsheep)
I decided to take part in MBA 2019 after completing the NorthCape-Tarifa Bike Adventure the previous year. Having seen Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar from the finish in Tarifa, the opportunity to keep riding south was too much of a temptation. I knew it would be a very different challenge with large sections not on tarmac, something of which I did not have much experience.
By lunch time of day two, and after some tricky gravel climbs, often resorting to hike-a-bike, I realized riding the second extension would be beyond me. I was on the skinner end of tire choice with 40mm tires. However, I was determined to ride at a pace where I could complete the standard route plus the first extension. The sparseness of resupply options on parts of the route was a real challenge. On more than one occasion I would arrive at a small town worried about food, only to be greeted by fantastic Moroccan hospitality and a large meal. Over the first six days I regularly overlapped with other riders and enjoyed sharing meals, accommodation, and stories. I was the last rider to take the first extension and after this it was a solo experience. I upped my daily distance targets in order to finish before the finisher’s party.
The weather in Morocco was hot and sunny, although I did get caught in an afternoon of extremely heavy thunderstorms. Having brought all my wet weather gear and being a Briton used to rain, I was determined to continue riding. However, the runoff water formed streams and rivers and I came to one that was impossible to ford in the late afternoon. This left me rather stuck, so I retreated to a nearby village and got chatting (via my poor French and Google Translate) with the locals who were waiting the rain out. I mentally prepared to sit into the night as I waited for the water to recede, but was kindly offered a place to stay for the night and spent the evening being generously fed and watching movies. It was a very life affirming evening. I think every rider has stories of Moroccans willingly offering aid and hospitality, and I have been left with such a positive impression of the people of Morocco.
I was the last rider to finish Morocco Bike Adventure 2019 and finished in the middle of the night, which was a bit of a mistake. The following morning, after napping on the beach, I was warmly welcomed by all the other finishers and enjoyed spending a couple of days hearing everyone’s stories and eating as much as I possibly could!
The second edition of the Morocco Bike Adventure is already scheduled to start from Tangier on October 10th, 2020. Keep an eye on the events calendar for more details. Registration will open December 1st, 2019.