Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Beyond reason

I’d honed my urban riding skills commuting into central London, had ridden into five capital cities on this expedition, often in the dark. Strike a balance between caution and confidence and you’re normally fine. But then there’s the final thirty or forty miles into Istanbul. Different. Almost beyond reason. Three or four lanes, motorway intersections, torrential rain, barely a hard shoulder. With hindsight, perhaps Sunday hadn’t been the best day. Traffic was heavy but not congested, passing perilously close at forty or fifty miles an hour, sometimes more. I wondered if rush hour would have been safer.

I stopped at the top of one of the many long descents, peering over my rain soaked glasses. A few hundred metres down a slip road off onto the motorway. To avoid that and continue on into Istanbul I’d need to cross two lanes of fast moving traffic. Nothing for it but to hope rear lights, a bright jacket, and some clear hand signals would get me across safely. This was verging on the insane, but no real alternative. I’d already decided to exit Istanbul by ferry.

Then Asia in sight. Perhaps no more than seven kilometres away. But not tonight. Something hidden amongst the surface water tore a small gash in my supposedly almost indestructible tyres, ripping the inner tube, collapsing it in an instant. Managed to get off the carriage way and assess the damage. Panniers off and bike up ended. Inner tube replaced, my hands going numb with the cold. But not to ride on. Too great a risk of a further blow out, the inner tube just visible through the gash in the tyre.

Nothing for it but to stop at the first place I found. I’d a few things in the field kit, buried deep in the panniers, that could keep the tyre running for a little while. But I’d need to replace it as soon as possible, couldn’t risk another blow out on these roads. Fortunately, I’d been told of a good cycle shop in Istanbul, and hoped I’d be able to purchase a new tyre. But that was a job for tomorrow. Reflecting a little later on the day’s fairly epic events, the blow out had at least made me think how I’d cope with one in far more remote regions. Had a few ideas to refine the field kit. So not all bad. And at least I’d not got run over.

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2 responses to “Beyond reason”

  1. Myles says:

    Sounds like a bit of a nightmare Ken, difficult enough without the rain. I think I know the spot you are referring to shooting across the motorway. I swung round to the right if its the same spot and miraculously ended up on the coast road to follow the only cycle path in a city of 8 million people. (someone had hand painted it). I am guessing you made stage 1 today so Congratulations!

  2. admin says:

    Yep, Stage One complete, got myself a reasonable budget hostel – quite a bargain as it’s now the quiet season, so I’ve one bed and Emma has the other! No jokes about old married couples…. Wrestling with how to convey to the reader the essence of Istanbul, having dug myself out of wandering around in the dark without a map!

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