‘Anyone got a pedal spanner handy?.. Ow, thanks’.
It was 7.45 in the morning and the sun hadn’t yet
Being a shallow creature, I was disappointed to see that my designated Epic was a girly powder-blue and eyed the bright yellow Stumpjumpers with a twinge of envy. That’s gratitude for you.
So there we were, nine BIKEmagic members in Morocco –
After a three-hour transit and the chance to get to
know at least half of the group a little better, we
learnt our first lesson: The blurb in the route description
doesn’t always correspond to the reality on the
ground. Luckily in this case it meant that instead of
a road section down to our first Moroccan village, we were treated to a loose rocky descent twisting down into a valley. We later came to realise that our capable guide, Sophie, was also occasionally less than reliable when it came to describing the route; gradients combined with distance being a particularly sketchy area.
Pausing to take in the scenery spreading out below the
After the first batch of what would prove to be a record-breaking haul of punctures had been fixed, we rode on through rocky moonscapes and weaved through the narrow streets of an ochre Berber village while exchanging greetings with the locals in dubious French. We rode out through muscle-warming sand to pootle about on the blue painted rocks, got our first taste of gentle singletrack and established the pecking order on a steep boulder section that saw the week’s first of many entertaining spills – and the first indication of just how good Andy and Sheila’s climbing legs were. And all under the hot, and we mean hot, Moroccan March sun.
After a day riding together we’d discovered that we were probably going to get on together pretty well, helped of course by the fact that we were all, as Sophie put it, “really up for it”. The riding that is. Roles and reputations were already beginning to take shape and the banter kicked in over a lively dinner during (and after) which we discovered just how much food Sandy could put away when really determined: Whatever you’re thinking, double it.
And that was pretty much how the week went on, we’d look at what was coming up and grill Sophie about the day or the section ahead, and each time our expectations were in some way beaten. From that first descent to the final dash for the coast we enjoyed great, varied riding, fantastic scenery, glimpses of everyday Moroccan life, good food, and very fine company. In fact, we all got on so well that within weeks of getting back we were organising a Peak District reunion for June.
Apart from one near-death experience, when Sandy tried to wrestle with a fast-moving car round a very steep, drop-sided curve, it all went swimmingly. A few highlights of the week included: Getting to the top of yet another climb – and then going down the other side…, Justin narrowly avoiding a marriage over lunch with the locals, the women getting naked together (it was a hamman, ok?), the men getting semi-naked together (a massage parlour…), Sandy’s special drunken Dick van Dyke dance, snakes, ‘Medic!’, the night none of us could go to bed because we couldn’t stand up for laughing, and riding our bikes right into the ocean at the end (thanks Specialized – and sorry).
And the bikes? Well we had a superb ride on them, and despite some high jinx managed to break nothing other than tyre walls. A couple of people decided to take advantage of Specialized’s generous special terms for trip attendees and walked away with their own new bikes. As for me: rather a nice colour I find, powder-blue.
A huge thanks has to go to Spesh’s Carole Armstrong for her role in organising, delivering our packaged bikes to us at the airport and meeting us at the end of the trip to collect them again.
Ready for the off – pic. Scott Brooks
And then we…