After many cancellations due to Covid, on the 1st of October 2022 the second Atlas Mountain Race finally got underway. A fixed-route, unsupported, single-stage bike race that started in Marrakesh, crossed the Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains, before finishing in Agadir. The race was just under 1200km in length and 24,000m of climbing, over some challenging terrain. We endured the expected high temperatures which reached 42 degrees celsius, but we weren’t expecting massive storms, with torrential rain that caused flash flooding! Despite the rain being unexpected, I had thankfully packed for all eventualities.
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Race Report from the Atlas Mountain Race and gallery of images.
Overall Kit Weight
The bike loaded, including food but excluding water, weighed in at 19.5kg’s. I started with 2kg’s of food and 2 litres of water on the bike, but there were times when I carried as much as 6 litres of water, and still nearly ran out. (But the temperatures we experienced in early October were higher than you would typically expect for this race run in February.)
Below is the generic kit list of everything I took on the race. However, if you want to know the specific make and model of items I took, why I chose them, and what each weighed, then please check out the Atlas Mountain Race spreadsheet by clicking on the link below.
Bike & Bags
MTB 29er Hardtail – I rode a 2018 Grand Canyon AL SLX, with no modifications, just standard spec except new tyres. It was a relatively cheap bike (1400 euros) that I bought to do Silk Road Mountain Race on, and as it is the only bike I own, I didn’t have any bike decisions to make. It did the job great.
Tubeless Tyres – I stuck with what I know and used the MSC tubeless tyres I always use, with a width of 2.2. Perfect for Morocco’s rocky terrain in my opinion.
Front Bag – I chose a 16L roll-style handlebar bag, to be filled with lightweight items, such as my sleeping bag. So that it doesn’t alter the handling/steering too much and has good clearing above the tyre.
Half Frame Bag – This is where I kept all my electronics so that they were easily accessible, as well as anything I might need regularly such as snacks, sun cream etc.
Rear Bag – My 16L saddle pack was home to pretty much everything else, such as clothing, meals, first aid kit etc.
Backpack – I have really started to enjoy riding with a backpack, particularly the vest style that is designed for ultra-running. I hardly know I’m wearing it. I personally find that I drink more regularly from a water bladder in this bag than I do from water bottles, so this works well for me. I also like having pockets on the front for additional snacks and easy-reach storage.
Packable Backpack – One of my favourite pieces of kit is a tiny and lightweight backpack that I can unpack and wear on top of my ride backpack if I need extra space after a food resupply.
Head Torch – Although I have a front light on my handlebars, I prefer to use a headtorch to light my path for off-road riding, as I like the fact it points where I am looking. It is more powerful than my bike lights and it has a reactive beam.
Power Bank / Battery Pack – I carried a 26,800 mAh power bank. My electronic setup worked perfectly and meant I had no need for a dynamo hub. I would not change anything if I were to do it again. The power bank was charged just once during the race, and this provided plenty of power for my lights and phone.
GPS Unit – I opted for a GPS unit that was powered on Lithium AA’s rather than a rechargeable unit so that I could save power. I used 6 batteries in all over the 7 days.
Mobile Phone as a back-up navigation for emergencies, Bike Front Light, Bike Back Light (very little on road so didn’t turn it on very often), Mini Bike Lock, Speed charge wall plug, Spare Lithium AA’s and AAA’s.
Spares & Repairs
Bike Pump, Duck Tape and Electrical Tape wrapped on the pump, Bike Multitool, Tyre Levers, Tubeless Repair Kit, Inner tubes, Tube Repair Patches, Cable Ties, Spare Brake Pads, Magic Chain Links, Chain Wax, Cloth for bike cleaning, Spare Tubeless Valve, Valve Core Remover Tool, Gloves for bike repair/cleaning, Emergency Spoke Fixer, Spare Hanger, Needle & Dental Floss, Tyre Boot, Micro Multitool, Spare Cleat Bolts, Tent Pole Repair Tube, Sleeping Mat Repair Kit, Superglue, Mix of Bolts, Straps.
Pretty much everything on this list went for a bike ride and wasn’t needed, which was the perfect scenario! I didn’t get any punctures or any mechanicals and I lubed the chain every day.
Paracetamol, Cold & Flu Capsules, Anti-diarrhea, Anti Inflammatory Gel, Anti Inflammatory Tablets, Antibiotics – Co-amoxidav, Steroid Cream – Prednisone, Antihistamine, Myofatic Clotting Dressing, Steristrips, Sterile Dressing, Antiseptic Wipes, Strapping Tape, Vet Wrap, Rehydration Sachets, Safety Pin, Tick Tweezer, Foil Blanket.
Thankfully nearly all of this list was not needed. However, pretty much every item in my medical kit I have needed during a race or expedition in the past, and therefore I would find it very difficult to leave any of it out. I also make sure my Wilderness & Expedition First Aid is up to date.
Ride Top – Because Morocco is a Muslim country, I felt it was appropriate to wear a loose-fitting T-Shirt to cycle in rather than a lycra top. Not only did I think this was culturally respectful, but I also think it helped against unwanted male attention.
MTB Shorts – Again I felt it was appropriate to wear loose-fitting and long shorts to cycle in rather than lycra shorts. Out of respect for the Muslim culture, and to reduce any unwanted male attention.
Helmet, Sunglasses, Long Figured Cycle Gloves, Cycle Shoes, Socks x 1, Sports Bra x 1
T-Shirt for sleeping in, 3/4 Length Base Layer Trousers for sleeping in or layering up if it got cold, Lightweight Down Jacket, Sleep Socks x 1, Waterproof Over Mitts, Cycle Arms / Sun Sleeves, Waterproof Jacket, Waterproof Trousers, Buff to protect neck from sun or cold.
Every item was used, so I was pleased with my clothing choices.
Quilt – I went for a race-weight quilt at 560g, which had a comfort rating of 2C and we used the quilt opened out as a duvet over the both of us to save weight. It worked perfectly, we were never cold.
Tent – We took a very small two-man race tent instead of a bivvy, as there are too many scorpions and bugs around on this race for my liking. We actually only took the inner of the tent and left the waterproof outer shell at home to save weight.
Sleeping Mat – I use a very lightweight and short sleep mat as it fits better in the tent and saves space in my bike bags.
2L Water Bladder, Cycling Water Bottles x 2, Water Tight Bowl, Spork, Water Purification Tabs, 2L Emergency Water Carrier.
SPF 30 Lip Balm – Perhaps seems a bit of a luxury item, but it is one of my most critical items on the bike. With extreme sun lips can become very damaged and blistered, putting on lip balm every hour meant my lips didn’t crack or blister-like other riders.
SPF 30 Suncream, Tooth Brush, Toothpaste, Spare Hairband.
Having tried pretty much every freeze-dried and dehydrated expedition meal manufacturers over the years, I can vouch that Firepots are the best! They taste awesome, proper food, not slop in a bag! I started the race with 4 of their high-calorie evening meals and 3 of their standard-calorie breakfast meals. All of which I rehydrated with cold water and ate cold. They were still delicious. Re-supply options are tough on this race, so these meals were worth their weight in gold. They saved me from yet more omelettes, but also meant I could avoid eating all the sweet biscuit stuff, preventing a mouthful of ulcers. I also took some nut butter sachets to spread onto bread, as bread was available almost everywhere.
Feel free to ask me any questions, happy to help where I can.
You will mostly find me over on instagram @katiejaneendurance