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Cycling in Istanbul by Luca Tincalla

Global Writer, Luca Tincalla "Italian_in_Istanbul" gives us a flavour of what road cycling in the beautiful city of Istanbul is like.


One day, while I was cycling along the Bosphorus, I witnessed a peculiar event. On the roof of an elegant building a dog was barking madly because it had seen a cat jump on a tree. The dog in question was a German Shepherd, large in size, and not exactly stealthy. What was an animal like that doing on a building’s rooftop? Slightly worried, I looked around for help. There was a restaurant nearby, so I went inside and told the story to some waiters idling around. They listened, then followed me outside. After seeing the dog and observing me, the waiters said there was nothing to worry about. “For Fifì it’s normal to walk on the rooftop,” they told me.  And that’s how normal Istanbul becomes after you have been living there for a while.

Photo courtesy of Emre Şişman

Istanbul is a wonderful city, at the same time joyful and gloomy. A megacity with trendy neighbourhoods, skyscrapers and favelas. Istanbul is a city full of contradictions; one day you fill your lungs with its nostalgic happiness, the other you are smothered by its sad merriness. Istanbul is an oxymoron. A crossroads of people, thoughts and religions. The dream of kings and sultans; and even of those who have a nine-to-six job and dream of riding a bicycle as soon as they have half a chance.

Istanbul has an urban area of more than 1500 square kilometres; 1500km is almost the distance between Paris and Rome. It’s obvious that in a megalopolis not all roads can be accessible by bicycles. In fact, the most desired routes by Istanbul cyclists are those found in the suburbs; although suburbs is not the right word because Istanbul does not have a real city centre from where everything starts, but I think at least it gives you an idea. So, for this reportage I often went to the borders of the city.

I went to a dozen bicycle shops and contacted several bicycle clubs to see if they wanted to be involved in the tours I had arranged in order to write this article. I’ve always thought that cycling in company is better than cycling solo: ​​you struggle less and you have more fun —not necessarily in that order. “I have to ask the boss, you know,” was the most common reply in the stores. With bicycle clubs, on the other hand, I had much better luck.

I came to know two bicycle clubs: Kilitli Pedal and Peloton Istanbul. Kilitli Pedal (www.kilitlipedal.com email: kilitlipedal@gmail.com) was founded in 2016 by Emre Şişman and his comrades. They promote cycling and often they organize tours in the European side. Peloton Istanbul (www.pelotonist.wordpress.com email: info@peloton.ist) was founded in 2015 by Tufan Sağnak. They have two different groups: amateurs and pros. Every week they arrange two tours: often in the Asian side, sometimes even outside Istanbul. I have to say it was very nice to ride with these two clubs and if one day you plan to come to Istanbul, you can definitely contact them to have more information or even go for a ride.  Photo courtesy of Murat Ongun

The cycling season goes from January to December, although the winter season can be very freezing and in July to August very hot in the days when the gentle breeze coming from the Bosphorous stops blowing. Last but not least, pay attention to car and truck drivers and to the lazy street dogs. At the moment, in Istanbul, you can only rent city or mountain bikes because, as a bike shop owner told me, here, a road bike is like a tuxedo.

 

Click the links below to access the routes and maps, and have a great time exploring Instanbul on your bike!


The Tours

The Ring of the Bosphorus, 70km 


The Cycle Lane from Kadikoy to Pendik, 65km


The Black Sea and the Forest of Polonezköy, 60km


The Island of Büyükada. 12km