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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    TR: Bikepack Racing in Morocco

    Atlas Mountain Race - 720 miles/54,000 ft



    First bivvy of the trip - Edinbrugh Airport Starbucks





    My first pay-to-enter bikepacking race, Iím not really sure how I feel about paying money for these events. On the one hand; itís somewhat reassuring to know that there will be familiar faces out there keeping watch to make sure everything will be ok, and hopefully you donít die. On the other; I have grown to appreciate the lack of organization in a lot of bikepacking races and being way out there, completely on my own. I donít have a problem supporting the promoters who are trying to make a living by offering these experiences to us, but it does create a different atmosphere than other events that Iíve done in the past.

















    We spent four days in Marrakesh prior to the race. That is a very hectic place! It was fun to try and blend in with the local traffic as best as we could. Somehow the chaos of the roads worked, no one from our group got squished.











    The anticipation grew with each day leading up to the Saturday start. The night before I had an especially high amount of anxiety. Itís funny, I donít really know what I was nervous about, probably just the unknown of what I was getting myself into. Races never fails to bring out all the feelings.









    Everyone we met was so welcoming and nice.










    Time to start. Finally.






















    Day one had about 70 miles with 10k of climbing to reach the high point of the race. The descent off the pass was a really fun singletrack that we were warned to walk down. Most people were walking, I stayed on the bike for most of it, riding down with one other guy. It was really fun.










    A storm started to close in just as it was getting dark. It was very windy with intermittent showers. The route went into a wide canyon, every 20-30 seconds the whole valley would get illuminated from lightning. It wasnít too cold, the rain was on and off. I kept cruising along, there were 4 or 5 others following me, probably spread out by about 10 minutes. Every once in a while I would see their lights as they crested a hill or came around a corner.





    At midnight I stopped at a rather fast flowing river, the track headed upstream, on what is usually a dry riverbed. The water was pushing up a few feet onto the trees in the middle of the river and the level was rising. I saw someoneís head lamp on the far side of the river, the current was so loud that we couldnít communicate. Luckily, as forecasted, the rain had started to stop. There were 5 of us stuck at the river thinking about what to do. I cooked up some hot food, decided that I would bivvy there for the night. 2 others decided to push on after about 30 minutes of evaluating the water level. I watched them set off through the river that was about knee deep, the current was easing off.







    I woke up a few times to other riders passing. I would listen to hear what they were riding through. The first few were splashing through water. Eventually, I heard one of the others that had slept nearby set off, she was able to ride right through. When I got up I had a look around, the water had completely subsided. I found a riding pack with a SPOT tracker, it was in a bush that had been under water when I arrived the night before. Turns out, someone (I assume the person with the light that I had seen on the far side of the river) decided to sleep in the dry wash before the storm had really hit. A flash flood came through while he was sleeping and washed his stuff away. He lost his bike and his pack. He ended up walking out to the nearest town and was able to recover his stuff the next day.















    After the floody first night, the ride started going smoothly. I found a nice rhythm and was able to cruise, mostly uneventfully, through the rest of the route. My intention was never to finish as fast as possible, I wanted to push myself, but not to the point where it wouldnít be enjoyable. I slept between 3 to 4 hours per night.






    I leap-frogged with my buddy Marcus that I flew down with. We didnít ride together for more than a handful of minutes but we bumped into each other every day at resupply points.



















  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
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    A few times I got a bit tired of riding double-track all day, I had to remind myself of how special of a place I was in, that made the boredom go away. It felt like an overlanding bicycle trip. Ride through remote sections of deserts and mountains of rough roads, resupply when you get to a town.












    Checkpoint 2








    This town wasn't on the cuesheet, I was happy to find a shop there to top up on water.




















    Omlettes for days, literally.









    This guy, Claus. He's so rad.













    The start of the final night. I toyed with the idea of riding straight through but ended up stopping for 4 hours. Was glad that I did.















    The last 40 miles appear on the elevation profile to be all downhill. While that may technically be true, the profile does not show environmental conditions such as riding through industrial produce farms for 4-5 hours on narrow, sandy lanes. Eventually, the outskirts of town were reached. Traffic was heavy, navigation frustrating. Lots and lots of poverty on the edge of town. Finished at a hotel, anticlimactic, no fanfare. That was cool. The last day of riding really made me appreciate the things that I have and how privileged I am.







    I'm happy to have done the race and would consider giving it another go sometime, I highly recommend it. Overall, I had an amazing experience.
    Last edited by springsproject; 11-21-2022 at 02:22 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    50 miles E of Paradise
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    13,928
    Well, that was pretty amazing.
    What proportion of the riders were local/Africans vs euros?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
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    in the brew room
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    2,190
    Wow! Nice work.


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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    PNW
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    7,269
    Outstanding. Thank you for taking the time to share.

    Excellent, thoughtful photography.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    1,402
    Great TR, thank you

    Sent from my SM-T580 using Tapatalk

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Dystopia
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    18,377
    Wow.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    between campus and church
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    8,971
    Thank you for sharing.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    the most beautiful place in the whole wide world
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    2,438
    Love this springsproject. thanks for capturing so beautifully and sharing. what gearing did you settle on?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Live Free or Die
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    1,260
    Fantastic pictures

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
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    1,981
    Wow, that is amazing, thanks for sharing.

    It very much falls into the category of "I think it's so cool that I'm really glad someone else did it."

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Paper St. Soap Co.
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    3,061
    very cool, thanks for the TR

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Glasgow, UK
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    Quote Originally Posted by TBS View Post
    Well, that was pretty amazing.
    What proportion of the riders were local/Africans vs euros?
    I think it was about 5% Africans. Lots of Brits, Italians, French, Germans. A handful of Americans.

    Quote Originally Posted by chaka View Post
    Love this springsproject. thanks for capturing so beautifully and sharing. what gearing did you settle on?
    Thanks. I rode 32x18 with fast rolling 29x2.4 f/r

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    Access to Granlibakken
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    10,425
    Nice work, great pics

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    slc
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    16,419
    Stoked to see this in TR form. Amazing stuff. I can't comprehend sleeping 3-4 hours per night for days on end.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
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    Shadynasty's Jazz Club
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    9,935
    Very cool. Thanks for sharing!
    Remind me. We'll send him a red cap and a Speedo.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
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    Hell Track
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    12,441
    This is awesome. Great pictures. Looks like an awesome experience.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
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    shadow of HS butte
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    Thanks for documenting your race, seems like an experience of a lifetime.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
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    7,619
    this is sweet!

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2020
    Location
    PDX
    Posts
    92
    Man that race looks cool as hell. Silk Mountain race, which I think is put on by the same group, is another one that looks like it would really be something

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    tetons
    Posts
    8,286
    Great TR and what a BA for doing it single speed

    Quote Originally Posted by springsproject View Post
    Atlas Mountain Race - 720 miles/54,000 ft




    We spent four days in Marrakesh prior to the race. That is a very hectic place! It was fun to try and blend in with the local traffic as best as we could. Somehow the chaos of the roads worked, no one from our group got squished.
    when we were in Morocco we saw a family of four on a small motorcycle

    ps I wanted to quote your traffic picture above but got the moroccan tea instead. which is also pretty great
    skid luxury

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    8,944
    this is incredible! Thank you for going to the trouble of uploading and reporting all that.

    Inspiring

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    SLCizzy
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    3,182
    Yes man! Nice work! Thanks for the recap and the beautiful pictures


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  24. #24
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Ogden
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    8,096
    Very cool!




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  25. #25
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    People's Republic of OB
    Posts
    3,517
    Very cool Mike, thanks for the TR. Looks amazing!

    I'm with you on preferring the free/no prize/unorganized/unsupported style of bikepack events. But I'd still like to do events like AMR or Silk Road Mtn Race at some point. Given the lack of biking info on these regions there is a lot of value in having the route and route info provided. It's not like I could easily piece an awesome route together from Trailforks or other apps. I'd treat these races like a paid tour, but much harder and with minimal hand holding.

    My bigger issue with these events is the time limit. I'm consistently half the speed of the fastest riders so might not meet their cutoffs. So it might depend how they treat stragglers. If they think they're going to pick me up off the course and not let me finish, F that. I'm finishing my coffee.

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