After two years of pandemic disruption we finally managed to get back on track with some of our popular adventure tours. Leah Tokelove led an eventful women-only tour to Morocco, and the following week I, Gary, took the open tour. These tours have always been open to all, but this was was all an all-fella trip. One of the attendees was friend of the mag, and ace illustrator, Ryan 'Roadkill' Quickfall (below).
We asked him a few questions about his trip, because we're already planning next year's and wanted his feedback nearly as soon as he landed and hadn't even had chance to get the sand out of his boots.
SIDEBURN: What made you want to go on this trip? RYAN QUICKFALL: It was something completely different, i've been doing a lot of off-road riding the past two years as well so it seemed like a great opportunity to push that further.
Did the trip pan out like you expected/as advertised? Honestly, I didn’t really know what to expect. The first day was a real eye opener. We did 260km (160 miles) on that first day and it was really throwing us in at the deep end. Which now I look back on it was probably a good way to do it. I'd say the trip was on the harder side, but there was nothing I couldn’t do. Everything is within your limits, and it was clear quickly where you fit in the pack in terms of pace. You quickly fall into your happy zone. And John [co-owner of MotoAventures, Sideburn's tour partners] is always running up and down the group making sure everyone is coping. I only say it was on the harder side because the first day was an eye opener, as we fell into the routine the mileage became easier and expected.
How would you describe the riding? Varied. We did some really fast flowing trails. Some equally fast, beautifully smooth lake beds. Then you’d be climbing up a mountain pass with amazing scenery and big drops off to the side. There were days where you would be hitting hard gravel tracks that open into soft sandy patches. There were lots of dry riverbeds which were really good fun on the loose pebbles. The highlight I think for most on the trip in terms of terrain were the dunes . They were a standout feature and really took all of your attention to make sure you weren’t going too fast over a crest, or too slow and being speed sapped from the deep sand.
What was your highlight of the trip? On the bike it would have to be riding up Erg Chebbi and the other dunes around it. It was a 4th gear, flat-out climb to the top! Really making the bike work and wondering exactly where the top was, it was pretty steep. I remember getting to the top and looking back at the other riders yet to set off and they were just tiny specks. Then of course we had to descend down the other side. Lean back, first gear and commit to it! Off the Bike my highlight was the night we stayed in the tents at Hotel Ouzina Rimal. Camping out in the middle of nowhere down below the dunes, under the clear skies was pretty awesome. But to top it off two of the guys who worked there pulled out an electric guitar and drums and played for us around the fire. They played what I’d describe as Saharan Blues, Tuareg music in the same vein of Tinariwen or Bombino. It felt pretty authentic and they clearly enjoyed playing. It was a really great moment.
I had lots of plans to talk to you every evening, pick your brain, I had loads of things to ask, but everyone is just zonked out. How did you find the routine of the days - breakfast, kit, ride, regroup, hotel, eat, sleep, repeat… I think the routine was good. I have a habit of over-checking things, where’s my wallet, shit where did I put my keys etc. There is a lot of gear you need to make sure you have with you, so the routine made you fall in line pretty quick. Gear on, bag packed with the same gear each day, fill up your hydration pack, passport in the bag and get out to your bike ready to leave for 9am. The routine made it more manageable, I think. You’re right everyone was pretty exhausted on an evening after dinner, but the dinners were a great opportunity for everyone to swap stories and riding experiences. Everyone got on so well. Was it good value for money? Yeah I’d say so. Whatever you think about the money, that all goes out of your mind anyway when you’re riding. You feel like you’re getting so much time on the bike I don’t think you could think about money. And you’re going to places I certainly would have never gone to outside of this trip.
What would you tell anyone who is considering going on the next Sideburn Sahara? Do it! It's a brilliant experience. It is demanding and requires you to have a certain level of off-road riding ability. But I guarantee you’ll come away feeling far more confident. I have no idea how long it would take me to cover 1000km in the UK and over the terrain we did. You get a lot back from five days riding, I learned more in those five days than the last year in the UK.
SIDEBURN SAHARA 2024
The next Sideburn Sahara trip takes place on 2-8 March 2024. It is open to all, men or women.
Find out all the details here.
All photos: Johnny Maroc/MotoAventures (except Sahara Blues players: Gary Inman/Sideburn)