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The Monkey Run – Monkey bikes across the Sahara

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    • Town/City: Tauranga
    • Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV, BMW R100GS
    • Rank: Round the World Adventure Globetrotter

    This popped into my inbox this morning.

    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 fourteen brave/stupid guinea pigs being led blindfolded into the Sahara desert, twelve hours from Marrakech, and told they had to get to a destination on the Atlantic Coast, 1000km away, six days later.

    The only slight glitch, they had to travel the 1000 unknown kilometres on a Monkey Bike. For those who aren’t familiar with the 49cc Monkey Bike, the organizers sum it up as follows…
    “If a gigantic all-terrain dual-sport bike is a way of announcing to the world that you’ve got a tiny willy, a Monkey Bike serves to remind folk that you’re hung like a donkey.”

    That’s to say that a Monkey Bike is very small, standing not much taller than knee height. It’s totally inappropriate for riding across a dessert and almost guaranteed to break down every few miles.
    For all their short comings 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 and there wasn’t far to fall when they came off, but 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.

    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 pot holed un mapped 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 team mate and me 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 1370 km.

    The bikes were pretty good fun while riding flat out downhill some of road pistes. You could actually make them jump and they were much more competent in the dirt than I thought. I can assure that I abused my bike as much as I could.

    Including taking her 1-meter- 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). BUT not everybody had that luck.

    We had been in Morocco before, and people have always been very kind with 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.” – Alvaro Baleato Varela, Pioneer on the first Monkey Run.

    After the huge success of the Pioneer Edition of The Monkey Run, the organizers, The Adventurists, plan to run the event bi-annually in Morocco (already having sold out for the next Run) and are also exploring the possibility of running a third event ‘somewhere else in the world’!

    For more details or to sign up for a future Monkey Run visit http://www.theadventurists.com

    • Bike: CT110, Husky TE 250, DRZ250, CB500X
    • Rank: 1200cc Rider

    Now that is my kind of fun!

    • Town/City: Tauranga
    • Bike: Suzuki DR650 ADV, BMW R100GS
    • Rank: Round the World Adventure Globetrotter

    I got another email from the Adventurist team, The Monkey Run is now going to be running in Peru as well!

    Monkeying around in Peru

    What could be more challenging than taking a bunch of brave/slightly unhinged men and women, blindfolding them, leading them into the Sahara desert in Morocco and telling them they have to get to a destination on the Atlantic Coast, 1000km away, six days later on tiny motorbikes more suitable for children than adults? How about taking them and their bikes to Peru?

    Having discovered that Monkey Bikes are ‘the new dawn of adventure’, through running The Monkey Run in Morocco, The Adventurists have decided to set motorbike and adventure enthusiasts a new challenge and see how the bikes and riders perform in the Andes and Amazon rainforest.

    It’s fair to say that The Adventurists, as their name suggests, know a thing or two about adventure. They are organisers of, amongst others, The Mongol Rally, quite possibly the world’s largest motorised event, The Icarus Trophy, the first long distance paramotor race, and the Rickshaw Run, a tuk-tuk journey across India. They feel that, whilst they may look comical, Monkey Bikes offer the ideal mode of transport for modern day adventure, especially in Peru.

    The bikes small stature – they’re not much taller than knee height – means their wheels can fit onto the Andean mountain passes and squeeze between Amazonian tree roots, much better than anything from a BMW forecourt. There isn’t far to fall when you come off and they’re light enough to carry when they inevitably break down.

    Being low to the ground means the bikes feel fast, but in reality give you enough time to appreciate stunning Andean mountainscapes and marvel at incredible jungle plants and animals, whilst having just enough horsepower to get the ‘hell out of there’ when you realise that the photogenic tree roots you’re looking at are actually home to a family of pit vipers.

    Most importantly though the bikes are a whole lot of fun, something which The Adventurists hope will be at the heart of the Peruvian Monkey Run.

    For more information, please contact David Ferguson at [email protected].

    “There’s a lot of machoism in the world of adventure, with people feeling if they’re enjoying something it can’t be real adventure. Of course this is nonsense. It’s true that adventure should push boundaries and this generally means some discomfort, but who said you can’t have fun at the same time?

    And Monkey Bikes certainly offer that. What’s more, the bikes are always a talking point and put a smile on people’s faces wherever they go, helping break down language barriers and facilitating engagement with different cultures; and the culture and people of Peru are what any trip there should really be about.” – Mr Joolz, The Adventurists.

    Get involved: head over to http://www.theadventurists.com to find out more and sign up. The first Peruvian Monkey Run takes place from the 7th – 15th September, starting ‘somewhere near Ayacucho’ and finishing ‘more or less in Atalyaya’, the route you take in between is up to you. You don’t need a licence to take part, but it probably helps if you’ve sat on a bike of some sort before; not least because there’s a big party either end of the event and it’s probably not the best idea to find out you can’t ride a motorbike whilst setting off into the Amazon jungle with a stinking hangover.

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