Greetings from Marrakech
Today I’m excited to share a Coffee with COVID (analog) interview with my good friend Pierre-Alain Renfer. He’s a mountain bike guide and pioneer, and the guy you want to seek out when planning adventures in Morocco. Pierre-Alain knows the riding in the Western Atlas Mountains like the back of his hand. On two extended trips, I have barely scratched the surface of what is possible. Although future trips are on hold, it was fun to chat with Pierre-Alain and hear what’s going on in his part of Northern Africa.
Who is Pierre-Alain Renfer?
Pierre-Alain Renfer is a pioneer of mountain biking. He lives in Marrakech, Morocco, and owns/operates Marrakech Bike Action, a mountain bike tour company. If you want to go on a guided trip, do a photo shoot, make a film, or just have a good old fashioned mountain bike adventure in Morocco, Pierre-Alain is your guy. I first worked with him in 2014 through Big Mountain Bike Adventures. It was a very fun and eye-opening trip - I fell in love with the landscape, trails, and culture. It’s one of the places in the world that I consider to be the quintessential place for a mountain bike trip.
What is Pierre-Alain’s coffee routine and what is his coffee story?
Pierre-Alain blends his European roots with his adopted home country of Morocco. Coffee happens throughout the day, made in a few different ways. He starts with morning coffee from a French Press. The midday meal is polished off with cafe noir (espresso). And then at some point, nous-nous happens - half frothed milk, half espresso, with a side of sugar cubes. Pierre-Alain started drinking coffee at a young age - he is Swiss and a cyclist after all. “I started drinking coffee as a kid in Switzerland. And of course, espresso is part of the spirit of cycling.” he shares.
Pierre-Alain lives in Marrakech, the fourth largest city in Morocco. He paints a real-life picture of the current status in his part of Northern Africa during the COVID Pandemic.
Morocco is a monarchy and the king took the virus seriously, sending the army was out patrolling the streets. Their “lockdown" began on March 15th, with measures put in place to protect the citizens. Among other things, the country started producing masks internally for distribution throughout the country. It has been a strict time - Pierre-Alain hasn’t been able to ride much at all.
Everyone across the globe has shared their challenges. What are Pierre-Alain’s?
Although his company doesn’t have any bookings or tours, Pierre-Alain has been able to work locally as a consultant. As long as I’ve known him, he is constantly innovating his business. In recent times, he has focused on developing e-bike centers in partnership with local resorts and villages.
What is Pierre-Alain looking forward to when we get to the “new normal”?
"I dream about a perfect day…ride one of my favorite trails in the mountains (maybe The String). Afterward, going out for dinner in one of our nice restaurants in Marrakech, and then finishing the night with a live band while having a drink (maybe Corona beer!!!)"
Challenges usually bring silver linings - what are Pierre-Alain’s?
"My clients that have already booked are still good to go when it’s ok to travel again.” Looking towards the future, he has bookings for the fall and beyond. "Morocco is a popular and safe place to travel with a good image. That hasn’t changed during this time of Coronavirus,” says Pierre Alain.
As he celebrates his 59th birthday this week, Pierre-Alain is embracing the downtime. The last few years have been busy for him and he’s been able to slow down and think about what’s important in life while soaking up the sun on his roof-top terrace. As Morocco comes out of its stay-at-home orders, he’ll have time to ride with business partners to envision what the future of mountain bike tourism might look like.
"Life is open now, we have to be agile and flexible. It’s the only way to survive."