In March 2024 I was lucky enough to have three weeks to attempt this tough bikepacking route. All went well and we had a fabulous journey through incredible scenery. Part of the success was down to good planning and equipment choice. Below are some hints and tips to hopefully help others.

Getting to the start 

Have some euros for the transfer to your hotel in Marakesh. The hotel should arrange this for you. Plus if you are stopping in a old town centre (kasbah) a few more for the cart for your luggage 

You can find gas cartridges down towards the bus station, look for drogueries. 

The bus to Tiznit takes 6 hours. Stops a couple of times and you may have to twist your bars to get it in the luggage space. The bike can only be booked on the day of travel so arrive an hour early at least and do this at the ticket office. 

Bike setup

We decided to go with larger volume tyres and we both agreed it was a good choice. Rough rocky and sandy soft terrain were not a problem in terms of being forced to push. The only section we had to push was short sections of deep sand approaching M'Hamid Gislain. Our tyre choices were Maxxis Chronicles 27.5 x 3 inch and Maxxis Rekon 29 x 2.8 inch. These tyres have light tread patterns and tyres with even less tread would be fine. We ran tubeless and just had one deflation that was quickly plugged with a dynaplug. 

The larger volume tyres allowed us to carry large amounts of water on rough ground without fear of pinch flats So had more options for wild camping away from villages and could carry enough water to have a camp shower from the water bag.

Tyre sealant may cook in the heat so try to avoid leaving your bike out in the sun. You may be able to fashion a reflective cover to help? Running out of sealant would be a bad thing! 

Luggage 

We went for panniers and a mix of bar roll and fork bags to keep weight balanced. We both used super strong Thorn rear racks which allowed us to strap up to 14 litres of water on the back with no worries. We used our well used Carradice Super C panniers which can handle rough treatment with no fear of damage. Having panniers is useful when staying in Auberges as its easy to carry your kit off the bike. 

Water bottles 

Besides the ortlieb water bags we used SJS cycles Alloy XL Bottle Cages which allow you to carry a standard 1.5 litre bottle of water (you will get these with your first meal in Morocco!). We covered a couple in insulating foil that we took with us, that did seem to help the water getting hot during the day. I had space for two on my bike and was very happy with them. I could easily carry 5 litres without the need to use the bladder.

Suspension 

We both used red shift suspension seat posts and were glad we did especially on the rocky pistes and corrugated track sections. I also had a suspension stem and set it up to take into account the weight of the bar luggage. It worked brilliantly and I never got sore wrists or hands. 

Gears 

Both of us used Rohloff speed hubs. They gave us reliable problem free shifting in the incredibly dusty conditions. The build up of dust and sand on the chain was huge and standard derailleurs would take a bit of punishment and you would need to keep an eye on them. Some of the larger towns had car washes were you could wash of the grime. We met a Swiss cyclist who had a free hub failure on the high pass south of Imilchil , maybe caused by the dusty conditions, so be sure everything is serviced properly! 

Clothing 

Be prepared for extremes, we had severe heat, dusty atmosphere then just a few days later snow, rain and severe wind chill.

Important items 

Sun hat with shoulder cover 

Mitts to protect your hands from the sun 

Arm cover (to protect from the sun) 

Full waterproofs (lightweight is fine) 

Buff or similar 

Good high UV sunglasses, if we went again we would take some goggles as although we didn't have any significant sand storms we would have struggled if we had. Even with the dusty conditions we both got irritated eyes on a couple of occasions. Some form of face mask might be an idea. We took buffs but never really felt conditions required them although our noses got bunged up with dust quite a bit. Light 400 gram duvet and some primaloft pants were vital bits of kit. Temperatures can drop with the clear night skies 

Stove 

You could manage without a stove, but we like our cups of tea, coffee and camp meals. We found the Mercator Supplies Butane adaptor to be the perfect solution. The blue canisters are fairly easy to find from Droguerie stores and even general shops. Take a stove with a hose for ease of use 

Food

Get it right and you will eat really well. For camp meals we bought a small bottle of olive oil and cooked up onions, courgettes, peppers, potatoes, eggs and usually added in a tin or two of sardines (tagine ones are nice and spicy) or tuna. 

Fresh fruit is delicious, oranges, pears, bananas, apples. Also dates are a real energy booster, as are dried figs. We avoided almost entirely the biscuits and sweets that seem to be the only things that many small shops sell. But don't be afraid to ask. On several occasions we were given vegetables , dates, bread etc from people's own kitchens. Ground coffee is fairly easy to get, although the terrible Nescafe is often offered to you first! 

Meals in cafes are good value, Berber Omelette Tagine is a good vege option. Expect to pay under 10 Dirham. 

We cycled entirely in Ramadan. So we avoided eating in public, although in quite a few places where tourists were more common we had meals during the day. In these places it does not seem to be seen as disrespectful. 

Water 

Anti Atlas section there are taps in all the villages. You don't have to carry much 

After Tafraout things get a little more sparse and certainly after Tissint you will need to start carrying more. We drank water from taps and never suffered any ill effects, you will be told the you have to drink bottled water but we avoided it as much as possible (plastic waste is a terrible issue as you will witness) 

In the desert area we filtered water as it was often stored in tanks. A filter that fits on your water bag is the best solution. Our ortlieb bags doubled up as showers. In future we would take a piece of closed cell foam to stand on when showering and to sit on during the day as terrain was usually rocky! If it was big enough to lie back on even better 

Tent + Bag + matt 

A small rectangular tent is much easier to pitch, sometimes the only options are gravel beds which are quite narrow. A protective footprint is vital. It can get very windy so guy lines are important. We used ultra light bags as in the colder areas we stayed in Auberges. Your mat will get plenty of abuse with sand and grit around, so don't go ultra light. We had chair conversion kits as one of our luxurious. Sitting out under the desert skies was something to enjoy in comfort! 

Maybe a pop up or airbeam type tent would be good idea. Also maybe a closed cell foam footprint especially if you are using lighter mats 

Communication 

Phone apps work well, showing someone the Arabic translation was the most successful strategy if your French fails to work. Our poor French was not always understood and French is not always spoken. If we went again I would print out and laminate some photos, pictograms of items we commonly wanted to buy. 

First Aid 

We didn't need anything first aid wise apart from a couple of paracetamol. General first aid is fine, tweezers could be important as there is severely prickly vegetation around. Avoid sunburn and take Glacier standard lip cream. 

Phones and electrics 

A rapid charge power bank is a good idea. All cafes were happy to plug it in whilst we ate or drank tea/coffee. You can get an Esim very easily if your phone accepts then. Getnomad offer a Maroc Telecom for 60 USD (30 days 10gb). Maroc have the best coverage and we were virtually never without a good 4G signal. 

Weather 

I used the meteoblue app which allows you to select points on the map not just towns. It was generally accurate. We mostly had good tailwinds and I would consider changing the direction of your route if many days of headwind were predicted. Much of the riding is very exposed to the winds and in the valleys it funnels and can be very severe. If it does rain the riding is grim unless you are on a tarmac section. The soil a clay will stick to your tyres and you will soon get stuck. If sandstorms occur you will need to sit them out. They are Increasingly common. 

Mileage, timings and riding strategy 

We completed the Tiznit to Imilchil in 15 days. We didn't have a rest day as we tend to get bored. We also avoided any weather that might have meant stopping for a day was the best option. Generally this was 40 to 50 miles per day. In the hotter sections (which for us was from Tissint to Zagora) we tried to start riding for around 7.30 am and would then find a cafe or shady tree to hide from the sun between 12 and 3pm. Then ride again for a few hours as the temperature moderated. If the temperature gets much above 30C this is the best way to enjoy your journey! One day we rode right through the heat and regretted it. For the major climbs a good idea is to stop as close to them as possible. Eg the backpackers hostel at the bottom of the climb between the Dades and Imilchil. 

Mapping Roads and Tracks 

Many roads and tracks are not marked on opensouce mapping . New roads are being built all the time. Sometimes there are single track cycle 'pistes' worn alongside the rocky rough vehicle tracks. So keep your eyes peeled! We used backcountry navigator (android and multi map options) and Komoot (which seemed to be pretty up to date). We also made up a small laminated route notes table with places, resupplies, mileages, etc. That worked really well. See below to download and print our version. For nav I used a Garmin Fenix with mapping, although I didn't have Morocco maps showing the route display worked fine, occasionally having to consult the phone maps to check at junctions. 

Camping locations and accommodation 

We loved the wild camping, there never seemed to be a problem with it. Nomads would pass and wave. We kept well away from villages and anywhere there might be shepherds. Camping in the desert is a great experience. Sandy gravel beds are fine. Sometimes you might need extra guys a rocks to pitch your tent. The palm plantations in the Draa valley provide great locations. Look for tracks leading into the palm trees, then get of those tracks to a locations with no signs of cycles or footprints. We had some great nights, watching the stars through the mesh inner tent (no need for a fly) and waking up with birdsong. The reports on the campsites sounded pretty dire, badly maintained and scruffy. You also absolutely need to avoid camping close to villages, if the children see you you will be pestered for certain. 

From the Dades through to Imilchil we stayed in Auberges. It was windy and on one day wet, and also the Dades section is densely populated. We also stayed in Auberges at Iriqui and close to the Chegaga dunes where water and food was not really available. It was also good to support the businesses working in these remote areas. You will get a good evening meal, lodgings and breakfast for about 200 to 300 Dirham per person. 

Social interactions 

We found Morocco to be an amazingly friendly place to cycle in. If you don't speak French it is worth learning a few phrases to tell people where you are from, where you have ridden from and where you are riding to. The only issue you will have is young boys running out and usually asking for pens, paper or sweets. Giving such items is a bad idea of course. We had one incident of stone throwing (children high up on a cliff above the road approaching Imilchil) so watch out for such locations. This behaviour can be testing particularly when you are tired at the end of the day. The only solution is to be polite and ignore it. 

Route changes, options and notes 

Leaving Tiznit 

Rubbish strewn and depressing it soon improves. Plastic and waste is a big problem as everywhere. We tried to avoid anything that was wrapped in plastic. 

As our bus arrived at 5pm we bought a few items of food and then camped after about 15 kms. Water available in an old Arab well by bucket at Amane Tamrhra. Camping in a gravel stream bed just beyond. The next day you will encounter a pink locked gate. You can ride around on the right side, adds on a couple of kms. 

Anti Atlas 

The section before the first big descent and ascent crossing the Oued Massa is now a tarmac road. The descent and initial ascent are still rocky and rough. That river if it was flowing after heavy rain would be impassible!

The section after Tata to Tissint is blocked at the gap in the ridge, but it is easy to rejoin the road and the riding down that wide valley is sublime and well worth doing.

From Foum Zgoud to D'Iriqui we took the track that starts about 1km further South. It seemed like a good option and was 100% rideable on our tyres.

On this section there are multiple parallel tracks, just be careful not to drift too far from your chosen route. Look for the super slick camel and bike pistes here!

Chegaga

After speaking to a 4x4 driver we changed our approach to the Chegaga dunes. Heading to the RP 1522 which was a rocky but sand free route. We arrived at Oasis Sacree before midday, rested through the heat and without luggage rode to see the dunes and back after 4pm. That was a good decision.

M'Hamid El Ghizlain 

The original route shows a journey to and then returning from M'Hamid El Ghizlane. As mentioned in other reports there is little appeal in the horrible sandy mess that you encounter in the last few miles. We actually only had to push for a few hundred metres in total but that was enough in the building heat. Much better to take the road out of M'Hamid El Ghizlane to Tagounite. Looking at the exit of the original route South of Tagounite that looked like a battle through the sand dunes as well! 

Approach to Zagora

Some parts of any cycle journey feel like transition sections. The route approaching Zagora takes a rough dirt track parallel to the tarmac road RN9. We had a headwind and the track passed scruffy rubbish strewn villages, it felt relentless and was perhaps the least enjoyable section of the route. The main road was pretty quiet and a would suggest that as an alternative.

Afra Agdz loop (50 kms) 

This loop does seem odd. The outward journey to Agdz is nothing special and all on tarmac. The town of Agdz might be worth exploring (old souk, etc) although we didn't have the energy arriving late in the day. The return journey on the North side of the loop is well worth the effort, a dramatic landscape with Argan trees and pretty much uninhabited.

Jbel Saghro north of Afra

A good dirt track. No water once the main climb starts. Best filling up in Afra to be certain. Unless you start early you won't get to Tagemout (water and auberge) before sunset. The climb is big and the high undulating plateau takes a long time. Be prepared to camp high!

Boumalne Dades to Imilchil

After reading other reports we rode straight through the very busy town of Boulmalne Dades. We rode 5km more to the Auberge Jardine du Dades. Plenty of cafes on the section to the gorge, above the first hairpins things are much quieter.

We stopped at Maison DHotes Vallee Des Nomades (https://maps.app.goo.gl/YJpqw8pfud42uMDD7) for a meal and the owner phoned ahead to the backpackers hostel (https://maps.app.goo.gl/xPmNxv4zVNE85n6j6) at the bottom of the big climb as they sometimes close if they think no one is coming! 

The 'stellar climb' is being rebuilt and may well be asphalted by the end of 2024. On the descent to Imilchil there are a few auberges and cafes. 

Imilchil to Beni Mellal 

The often suggested route is worth doing and despite being on tarmac is no easy ride. There are a couple of tiny shops and the area appeared to be one of the poorest of the journey. There is only one option for lodgings in Tagelft Gite d'etape DAR AMNAY. This is a remote town and the owner was very helpful to us providing meals and two nights accommodation. 

 


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