With terrain ranging from coastal plains to mountain passes, Morocco's diverse landscape has been consistently attracting mountain bikers for more than 20 years. The country's well-maintained roads, vast network of dirt tracks (pistes), and mountainside footpaths offer very rewarding biking. However, at times this can be tempered, especially on the main roads, with the kamikaze-like nature of most Moroccan drivers. Most bikers, therefore, prefer riding in the biker-friendly Atlas mountain ranges and central Morocco. Popular routes include the roads and pistes that pass through the pink granite boulders around the Anti-Atlas village of Tafraoute; the Central High Atlas pistes and footpaths along the Aït Bou Guemez Valley; Marrakech to Taroudannt via the spectacular Tizi n'Test pass; and the "desert run" down the Dra or Ziz valleys.
Mountain biking in Morocco can be enjoyed year-round, although the summer heat -- from June to September -- can be overwhelming and severely dehydrating for most riders. Riding at this time of the year may be best kept to the cooler but busier Atlantic coastline. Conversely, the warm days and cool nights experienced throughout most of inland Morocco during the Northern Hemisphere winter can be simply delightful. Besides the aforementioned danger from Morocco's erratic drivers, mountain bikers may also experience some problems with local children, who have at times been known to harass and even throw stones at riders for no apparent reason other than to get a reaction. The best reaction, therefore, is to grin and bear it, and try to quickly ride your way out of the situation. On the other side of the coin, mountain bikers are also likely to experience friendliness and hospitality from local villagers, ranging from advice and lifts to food and water.
Pedal-power transportation is very common among Moroccans, and in most cities, towns, and villages you'll find a local repair shop where patch-up jobs can be performed and where spare tires and tubes can usually be sourced. It's still worth bringing along specific spares, such as brake blocks, cable, and spokes, as well as a puncture repair kit. Remember that not all pistes appear on the map, and navigation without a guide generally requires planning and caution.
When you're tired of sitting in the saddle, Morocco's expansive public transport network makes traveling with your bike relatively easy. Most bus companies will gladly carry your bike for around 20dh, as will grands taxis (if they have space).
Tip: Villages and roadside stops can be few and far between when you're traveling on your own steam, so be sure to stock up on plenty of water and snacks at the beginning of each day. Bringing along a portable water filter is a good idea, as any public water that you find during the day may not be drinkable.
Renting good-quality mountain bikes once in Morocco isn't really an option, and if you want to travel independently, you'll need to bring your own. An exception is Tafraout Aventure (tel. 0528/801368; www.tafraout-aventure.com), which hires out reasonable bikes -- some with shock absorbers -- from their office in Tafraoute in the Anti-Atlas.
General information on biking can be found on the site of the U.K.'s national cycling association, the Cycle Touring Club, or CTC (tel. 0870/873-0060; www.ctc.org.uk), and members can access Morocco trip reports from fellow members. The Trento Bike Pages (www.trentobike.org) collects worldwide biking tour reports, and always has a good selection of fairly recent reports from rider experiences in Morocco.
- BikeHike Adventures (tel. 888/805-0061 toll-free; www.bikehike.com) is a U.S.-based tour operator specializing in multisport adventures around the world. Their 10-day Morocco tour is a round-trip from Marrakech to the Erg Chigaga desert dunes, passing over the Western High Atlas and along the Dra Valley. This tour typically combines biking with a few days of traveling by 4WD and an overnight camel trek.
- Cycling Holidays (tel. 0870/235-1356; www.cyclingholidays.org) is affiliated with the British CTC . They usually offer a tour to Morocco each year, which is a round-trip from Marrakech taking in the Tizi n'Test pass and parts of southern Morocco.
- Unique Trails (www.uniquetrails.com) is a Web-based outfit specializing in guided biking tours worldwide. They offer two 10-day Moroccan itineraries, one traversing the High Atlas and riding through the Dadès Gorge and the other over the High Atlas and down through the Dra Valley.
- U.K.-based Wildcat Adventures (tel. 1786/816-160; www.wildcat-bike-tours.co.uk) is considered the leading mountain-bike and road-cycling specialist operating tours to Morocco. They offer numerous all-inclusive guided tours, both mountain and road biking, throughout the year, which usually include bike hire, qualified guides, and backup transport. Their popular 14-day "Morocco Adventure" visits the coastline and mountains of southern Morocco, while an 11-day "Morocco Multi Sport Tour" combines biking with hiking and an overnight camel trek.