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Travel

When madness saves the world: meet the Monkey Run riders

05.12.2018 | By ELENA LONGARI

Fuck progress,” said Tom Morgan, founder of The Adventurists, “we want the world to be covered in dark, unknown forests stretching away in an endless medley of sweat, botheration and deadly insects.” 

Today, thanks to an innate sense of ‘let’s not take ourselves too seriously’  combined with the right formula to engage people in some of the most unpredictable missions, The Adventurists have raised over £7 million to save our planet from man handed destruction.

That’s the motto that led to the creation of a series of bonkers adventures: these include the Rickshaw Run, the Mongol Derby, the Ice Run and since 2016, the mighty Monkey Run. Don’t be fooled by it, there’s no actual monkeys involved, but rather, ‘ordinary’ 9 to 5 citizens who turn to ‘I don’t give a monkeys’ type of person, hop on the most ridiculous and unfit for purpose type of vehicle and ride it where, out of all places, it shouldn’t be ridden.  

But The Monkey Run isn’t a disorganised British bravado, one of those ‘lads’ type of  bonding events that often involves fancy dressing, getting pissed out of your head, fall asleep in a ditch and some disastrous situations to follow. This stuff takes some madness, but it’s all down to meticulous organization, planning and preparing in order to be turned into a project that can change things. It changes people, from what I have heard.

But before I disclose some of the Monkey Runners’ most treasured secrets, I’ll give some important info on what The Run entails in practical terms:

Where: various and improbable destinations around the world, including Morocco, Romania and Peru.

When: several dates per destination over the year

Who: up to 50 participants per Run

What: the Monkey Bike is described as ‘a toy’, ‘not designed for humans’, it has ‘no power’.

 

I have asked some of the Monkey Runners participants to give us a flavour of how insanely idiotic this all things might look from the outside and why at the same time it makes a whole lot of sense.

What convinced you to take part in the Monkey Run?

Andrew George McMullan  Gary Morrison asked me when I was drunk. It’s not something I would have considered as I’d never ridden a bike before. 4am and desperately needing a nap I signed up. 

Mike Evans It looked ridiculous. I’d wanted to do one since the first run came out. I originally signed up for the Peru Pioneer but had to pull out, so when the Romania edition was announced I signed up immediately (while sat in the pub).

What do you do for a living and how did this adventure fit with your life?

Vanessa J Fontanilla It seemed like a ridiculous idea, I’m a doctor and this adventure didn’t fit into my life at all, but you make time for the things that make you feel alive. I had to take a few emergency issues while I was in the middle of the run when there was spotty reception!

Guillaume Thiaux Bit of everything from cook, to barista, acting in advertisements, or whatever looks dumb enough for me to do and get some money to keep travelling around. Does fit perfectly in my life, the only one to disagree would be my banker, but I don’t ever listen to him so all good.

Mike Evans , who has recently has this brainchild and tattooed the essence of the Monkey Run on his arm says:   I’m a software developer and one of those “digital nomads” – I travel around the world and work on my laptop from wherever I find myself. Sickening, I know…

Did you previously participate in similar adventures?

Paul Vlaming Did some solo trips on bikes and went to some places in the world but seldom sought after adventure as much as on this trip. I guess it’s a slippery slope and surviving means that you could have made a bit more adventuristic..

What’s the best/worst thing about the Monkey Bike?

Mike Evans They really are fantastically shit. That inevitably leads to some hilarious but trying situations.

Andrew George McMullan Perhaps it was because the bikes were new and we were breaking them in but they developed personalities during the trip. Mine was a little bit of a cow the first few days of the run. By the time we reached the finish line she had a name (Elena #16 on the Morocco run by the way. Look after her next person to have the pleasure) The last few days I was speaking to her and everything. 

Brett Blake For someone who has never ridden a motorcycle (or a manual transmission vehicle) in his life, the best thing about these bikes is they are fantastic to learn on mainly due to how crap they are. Worst part is the feeling that the bike will crumble beneath you after riding on some of the worst roads imaginable 

Paul Vlaming The best/worst thing is probably the lack of loctite, it’s a bit like each screw is playing Russian roulette and you never know when the next round starts, footpegs are a particularly annoying bit to lose.

Is there a ‘danger’ sort of adrenaline rush playing a part in the whole experience?

Mike Evans  For sure. There’s nothing like being chased by a pack of pissed-off sheep dogs to get the heart rate going. Or falling off at what counts for “high-speed” on these beauties.

Guillaume Thiaux Sure is, but I suppose my lack of skills probably increased the danger level by a few. Who would have thought you could get in a front crash with another bike while riding on the wrong lane. Which one is the right one again ?

Andrew George McMullan Danger and adrenaline rush are difficult things to quantify.
For some people the whole adventure will be an adrenaline rush. I didn’t feel like I was in any real danger at any point although I was fully aware that Elena had the potential to throw me off a cliff or into the side of the road at any given time.
Although saying that when you’re on a monkey bike feeling like your doing 100kph but in reality doing 38.5kph and two trucks overtake you at the same time I guarantee that your sphincter will start quivering like a shitting dog. 

What is the funniest thing that happened to you during your adventure?

Andrew George McMullan Morocco, October 2018. According to other participants it was the bus to the start line. I don’t remember it though. My personal favourite must be Two gear Tony. A gentleman that our team met and grouped up with at the start location. He made it 848k of the 850k route we rode and then after riding the previous 120ish k in freezing rain on the final push to the finish line attempted a u turn. Due to the cold his hands were freezing and he let go of the clutch resulting in him launching his monkey into a ditch and snapping the handlebars. The rest of us were soaked, miserable and just looking forward to finishing. All we could do was laugh

Guillaume Thiaux  Sleeping in a covent, almost jumping off a cliff by an inch, looking at the crazy beautiful scenery, riding a longboard at 4400m, on dodgy peruvian roads, all the usual stuff 😉

Paul Vlaming Towing a monkey through 80Kms of rainforest way after the recommended curfew; there was pizza in the end.

Brett Blake Romania Pioneer Edition – On Day 1, we met a group of Romanians picnicking who helped us tighten our footpeg screws. They gave us a fifth of their Palinka (Romanian moonshine) as a souvenir. It somehow survived 2 crashes and made it to the finish line to be shared with everyone 

They all seemed to have had a blast during their adventures and when I  asked them if they would consider taking part to other Monkey Runs, they had no doubt in answering yes, and most of them have already set their eyes on the next appointments.

Would you be cheeky enough to nomad yourself for a little and become a Monkey Runner? I don’t know if it is the right type of adventure for me, as I am much more into bicycles than engined bikes, but for sure The Monkey Run is the type of vacation I would prefer to a resort in Mallorca filled with British kids on their Ipads or hordes of international drunks ‘rat racing’ after the sun goes down for the best deals on Jagerbombs.

Or not?