Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Istanbul - First Outing on the Bike

So, as you might have already imagined, riding a bike in Istanbul is crazy. When I was here last time in 2008 and since, I have visualized many times what it would be like to get around on my bike, and what the ideal bike would be.
In 2008 I'm pretty sure i just had a track bike, so I was probably like "oh I just need to get some hella fat tires, brakes, and a nice low gear ratio! problem solved." 
I'm glad I've had plenty of time to think and change in the interim. While there is a small fixed gear population in Istanbul (I've heard talk), the guys I met and hung out with a bit all rode mountain bikes and did urban freestyle trick riding in city parks.
Still life with Maramara Sea and Pellet Gun Range

Luckily, now I have big tires, serious brakes, and 8 speeds geared very low; turns out to be just right for getting up winding cobblestone hilly streets. As for the 5 minutes of slow descending around blind corners I have to do to get out of Cihangir, my neighborhood, onto a main thoroughfare, I have to say that I really glad I brought extra brake pads with me.

The one thing I didn't accurately previsualize about riding in Istanbul, was the drivers.
 I mean, even if you are just walking, the drivers already have the mentality of "either this pedestrian is going to get out of my way at the last minute, or I am going to hit them. And really, I'm okay with either outcome."
 So thus far I'm riding really defensively, but i can't yet stick to small streets because those are often  steep and indirect enough to get me lost. I am however glad i have been trained on the adrenaline level of racing through New York because this definitely takes it to the next level. 
 On top of all that, many streets are hardly wide enough to allow a car to pass with able space, but they're okay with that. They just pass anyway.
 If you worry about close-talkers in other cultures, I now worry about close-drivers.

Well stocked pellet gun range. I swear the sights on that gun on the right
are way off. The guy running it was impressed when I told him I'm from
Texas, less impressed when I failed at shooting a cigarette in half, more
impressed when I wielded the BB Pistol for a while. A good day.


  1. Hello. Regarding cycling in Istanbul, I work for an organization ( that works to promote, support, and design sustainable mobility (public transport, walking and biking) in cities. We have an office in Turkey and just recently have made headway getting city buy-in for a lot of cycling infrastructure. Of course it won't help you during this trip, but maybe the next?

    Be safe and have fun.