What do you get if you cross a Mad Max style race with a mini motorbike and the Sahara Desert?
Imagine being led blindfolded into the Sahara Desert, given a Monkey Bike, and told that you have six days to race thirteen other madmen 1000km to the Atlantic Coast… Over the Atlas Mountains without a map or any fixed route.
Don’t know what a Monkey Bike is? Picture the most ridiculous and impractical motorbike you can, then shrink it. At just over knee high and powered by a whopping 49cc engine, they are about as unsuitable for long distance desert travel as it’s possible for a motorbike to be… Which makes them pretty perfect for The Monkey Run!
“Damn, he’s been at the drawing board again” was muttered in the office a while back. However Mr Tom and Buddy Munro returned a week or so ago from testing out our intensely sensible 10th adventure. We didn’t get very much in the way of useful information but we did get this report back.
Forget about whether you come in first or last place, this is one race where taking part is truly all that matters. The genius brainchild of twisted outfit The Adventurists, there are no maps, no route and no checkpoints. The only certainly is that participants WILL break down, WILL get lost, and WILL get stuck. If the small wheels in loose sand don’t get you, the top heavy nature of the bikes, scorpions, fickle engines and potholes certainly will.
In a strange twist, it’s at this point that the Monkey Bikes start to come into their own: they’re small enough to squeeze through the narrowest traffic gaps, light enough to be manhandled past obstacles, and simple enough to fix with a roll of duct tape. More importantly, they’re so low to the ground that 20mph feels like 200, and you don’t have far to fall during the inevitable crashes!
The inaugural Monkey Run took place in April this year, with fourteen brave volunteers thrown right in at the deep end. Alvaro Baleato Varela was one of the ‘lucky’ pioneers:
“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 off road [trails]. 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 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). BUT not everybody had that luck.”
The race was so successful that The Adventurists plan to run it as a bi-annual event in Morocco in future, possibly with a third event ‘somewhere else.’ If sweeping through the Sahara desert on a child’s toy and sleeping under whatever makeshift shelter you can fit in your pockets sounds like your idea of fun, you can get more info or sign up at www.theadventurists.com.