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Monkey business

If the thrill of track riding has started to fade, the whizz-bang dashboard on your bike gives you a headache and you’re concerned about becoming a Sunday couch potato rather than living life to the full, then The Monkey Run is for you. If it can’t rekindle your love for bikes then it really is time to hang up your boots and buy yourself a new pair of novelty slippers.

The Monkey Run took place for the first time this April and involved 14 brave/stupid guinea pigs being led blindfolded into the Sahara desert, 12 hours from Marrakech, and told they had to get to a destination on the Atlantic Coast, 1,000km away, six days later.

The only slight glitch, they had to travel the 1,000 unknown kilometres on a Monkey Bike. For those who aren’t familiar with the 49cc Monkey Bike, it’s very small, standing not much taller than knee height. It’s totally inappropriate for riding across a desert and almost guaranteed to break down every few miles.

For all their shortcomings, however, the riders on the pioneer Monkey Run agreed they wouldn’t have wanted to ride it on any other bike. Not only were they able to fit through tiny gaps in traffic, but there wasn’t far to fall when they came off. The bikes were light enough to carry when they inevitably broke down and so mechanically basic that a roll of gaffer tape went a long way.

A whole lot of fun

Most importantly, though, the bikes were a whole lot of fun. Being so low to the ground meant travelling at 20mph felt like racing at ten times that speed, and they were unwavering in their ability to bring a smile to the faces of all around, whether the riders themselves or those rolling around on the floor laughing as grown men went past on bikes fit for children.

It wasn’t just about the bikes, however, and once au fait with their totally inadequate steeds, the riders had to deal with the fact there was no set route to their destination, the Atlas Mountains were in the way and getting lost and staying with strangers was encouraged.

It was this “being thrown in at the deep end” that made the trip so memorable for most. As riders struggled with their bikes across the Sahara, looking like something out of Mad Max, they were blown away by the vastness and beauty of the desert landscape, nights were spent sleeping under the stars in the Atlas Mountains without even a tent for protection, sweeping roads were swapped for potholed, unmapped tracks and river crossings, bizarre wildlife encountered and a lot of new friends, especially local mechanics, made.

“I expected fun on a motorcycle while getting lost and a lot of off-road. Did it match it? We made it match, taking around 100km off-road pistes and paths every day. Was it good fun? Very. Dangerous? Sometimes while riding along the cliffs. Not Ngalawa Cup dangerous, but still risky, depending on where you ride and how.

It didn’t take us long to get lost, around 15 minutes after the start line, since my teammate and I had no maps whatsoever. A cool chap called Jules appeared just in that moment and from there on, we three rode the hell out of those Chinese Monkey Bikes for the remaining 1,370km.

Going flat out downhill

The bikes were pretty good fun, riding flat out downhill on off-road pistes. You could actually make them jump and they were much more competent in the dirt than I thought. I can assure you that I abused my bike as much as I could. Including taking her one metre deep into the sea water of the Taghazout Beach. Twice. Even then it started (after taking all the water out, obviously, and pushing a lot). Not everybody had that luck.

We had been in Morocco before, and people have always been very kind to us. The other riders were also all pure adventurers and very cool guys. All in all, The Monkey Run was a very funny little adventure. If you do it well, you can find some pretty funny and good troubles.”