Where to Ride MTB: Morocco

May 15, 2017

Lisa Mansell headed out to ride the loose natural terrain of Morocco

A few years ago I booked flights to Marrakesh and planned to go on a mountain bike trip in the Atlas Mountains, however the trip was cancelled so instead, I spent 10 days at a surf and yoga camp (not so bad!) My boyfriend, a recent convert to mountain biking, knew of this scuppered trip and very kindly for Christmas bought me flights to Marrakesh with the intention of going mountain biking.

After a bit of research, we decided to go with Mountain Bike Morocco for 3.5 days of riding in the Atlas Mountains. We were sent a kit list and when searching for weather reports, we found some giving high 30’s and others giving -1 so, we really had no idea what to expect!

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We decided to save effort and money and hire one of their own bikes after being assured they had suitable bikes to rent. Off we set with no idea what to expect or even if Houssain, our contact, was going to greet us at the airport upon arrival. After standing around in multiple queues we were finally out of departures where we met Houssain. We hopped in our taxi, stopped off to withdraw some money, and continued on a stunning 90-minute journey into the mountains.

We arrived in Imlil on Friday lunchtime and instantly felt relaxed. The town is situated at the base of Mount Toubkal (Africa’s second highest peak) and it felt like we had stepped back in time. A number of shops lined the high street with crampons, second-hand clothes and 80’s ski’s. Donkeys paraded up and down the gravel paths and the call to prayer echoed throughout the valley. Time had really stood still in this town and there was still the romantic idea of travel evident here with only a few tourists mingling with friendly locals.

We were greeted by our guide, Mohammad, and then sat down to have some lunch. Our requests for vegetarian food (we didn’t even try to explain that Rik was vegan) had clearly been lost in translation as we were proudly handed a lamb tagine. After picking out the lamb and explaining to Mohammad we were vegetarian, we hoped that it was all vegetables from then on!

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We then went to pick out our bikes which were a rather eclectic mix of fairly dated 26″ wheeled full suss’s. It was tricky to choose between the bike with working brakes, gears that changed smoothly or the tyres that had any tread left.  After a test riding a few, I settled for a Focus Super Bud and Rik, a Specialised Stump Jumper. We stocked up on water and loaded our wagon for the weekend, a wonderful bright orange Mercedes van, being driven by Abdul. With our chef (another Mohammad) on board, we were off, but to where we had no idea!

After about a half hour drive we were dropped off at the top of a gravel road where our guide Mohammad informed us we would ride down then go through a village and hit some single track. Not once had we been asked about our riding or fitness ability – I think in their mind, a mountain biker is a pro mountain biker! Well, the gravel road was lovely, passing through a little stream, taking in the views and getting used to the bikes. Then suddenly we took a left down some steps and through a village. It was only then that we hit the single track. I’d like to think of myself as a fairly competent rider but nothing could prepare me for what was to come!

credit to: Lisa Mansell

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