Cycling in Turkey
Two months and two thousand kilometres hardly constitutes becoming an authority on cycling in Turkey – but that won’t stop me trying! Cycling in this country is not for the ill-prepared, faint-hearted, unfit or poorly equipped. On the other hand, the drivers are more considerate, the roads in better condition, and the roadside food more bountiful than we had expected. As a general statement, the further off the main highways you go the tougher and hillier the cycling, the fewer the services, and the rougher the roads. The upside is less traffic, more offers of cups of Turkish tea, and the more amazing the sights.
Our Koga Miyata touring bikes with Ortlieb panniers coped with all conditions and terrains. Detailed road maps are impossible to obtain, and with few local cyclists, trying to elicit information is problematic. Similarly, bike shops are few and far between – know how to fix and maintain your gear, and have essential spares on board.
The weather was certainly in our favour; April and May presented 3 wet days and 3 days of head winds along our anti-clockwise ride from Ankara to Antalya.
There are roadworks everywhere, but they generally worked in our favour. Often we rode alone on new hot mix or rolled gravel awaiting surfacing for kilometres at a time, dodging two-way traffic and potential drama.
A review of our route…Ankara is mayhem…consider taking the Metro to Sincin on the edge of town towards Beypazari. A couple of decent climbs and some double-lane sections on the way there.
To Nallihan the surface and lack of shoulder require care in places, especially the downhill into town. Undulating all the way.
From there to Goynuk is the road less travelled…a sensational ride with two huge passes that may still have snow. A highlight day as the area becomes green and treed. Getting to Geyve is also brilliant riding; dead flat for 20kms, little traffic and a monumental downhill at the finish. Pity about the town though!
Getting to Iznik isn’t great fun. Busy freeway, big climb, and rough narrow two-way finish with commercial traffic.
We started early towards Yalova, so the single lane tight road to Orhangazi had little traffic. From there on it’s freeway – busy climb then descent to the ferry port, and an easy well-located arrival into Istanbul. Don’t be afraid to cycle about town, but be wary! Oh, and you can’t cycle over the Bosphorus Bridge. We bussed to Cannakale, so no info available. Bikes do fit under the big intercity buses – ‘problem yok’.
To Bozcaada is a nice ride, excluding the road and hill before the Troy turnoff. The flat rural lane afterwards could get busy in high summer? Time the ferry right and do some picturesque touring on the island to a couple of beaches.
The route to Assos has many highs and lows. Initially quiet, after joining the main road at Ezine it becomes a noisy, trafficked head-down grind to Ayvacik. The backtrack to Assos is demanding but rewarding. Great sights and scenery but be aware there are no services – have solid and liquid fuel on board. If you stay on the sea, you will have a ripper of a cobbled climb out the next day!
The road to Kucukuyu is in poor condition and narrow, but at our speed and time of year it was ok as we passed innumerable small beachfront ‘resorts’. We rode up to Adatepebasi to stay on a farm; if we weren’t, we wouldn’t have…the translation of the village name is ‘top of island hill’!
To Ayvalik is generally flat,and generally uninspiring.
Take the coast road as far as you can towards Bergama, it will break up the double-lane with shoulder freeway experience.
In an effort to avoid Izmir completely, we turned off the freeway at Zeytindag. What follows is an off-the-beaten track experience. Again, services are limited, the hills severe, the road best for donkeys. But I loved every metre. Who wants to cycle-tour in a city? Worst thing was ending up at Manisa. Look for ways to avoid it!
From there to Selçuk via Kemelpasa involves one decent climb after the latter location, and some attractive scenery.
Now, amongst Tour of Turkey country you may get a few cheers and may not feel such a freak if in lycra. Ride out to Ephesus, but Meryema and Sirince is only for masochists.
To and through Kusadasi is busy and undulating, a big hill and 90kph straightline descent to Soke is reward for the drudgery, and once out of town it is quiet, flat and spectacular to Priene.
Sadly, the equally pleasant ride to Didim…ends up at Didim! Over-priced and over-pommed…and that was agreed with by a couple of Englishmen. Consider turning off after Miletus and get to Heraklion – the antithesis of Didim.
The road had traffic and repairs to the turn-off, but the 10kms from there is a highlight of Turkey. Best thing you get to do it twice heading to Bodrum. This is an undulating trip, and the traffic builds after Milas, but it is a good surface with a shoulder.
The ferry to Datca seems a good idea, as is the dolmus bus around the Bodrum peninsula (unfortunately bikes won’t fit on a dolmus). Cycling to Turgetreis for example would be punishment.
After the flat 20km from Datca, the climbs are punishing to Marmaris too, but the scenery is well worth every runnel of sweat. This was a highlight day. As was the next to Dalyan. the massive climb up from the sea puts you over into a fertile valley, then plain as you go through orange groves and hopefully sample the produce. The last turnoff to Dalyan is a quiet, rough road; a nice change from the hectic highway.
Flat from there to Ortaca and Dalaman, but then at least 5 decent climbs before Fethiye on a highway with shoulder. Getting to Oludeniz from there is a significant achievement. A very steep climb on a narrow road where wobbling is dangerous. And it has to be done in the opposite direction to get out again. But the destination is worth it.
Can’t comment too much from there to Patara. We got lost at Eskikoy, but enjoyed the ride to Kemer, where we got found by a truck driver who insisted on taking us over the hilly (flat), head wind (still) road to Xanthos. We think he was lonely, but it gave us time in the day to deviate to the ruins (just worth it) and arrive into Patara in good time.
From Kas, is stand-out cycling again. Constant sea views and a good shoulder. We missed the 13km, massive climb out of there by getting bussed to Uçağiz for a tour of the sunken city.
It is demanding enough to go from there to Demre via Cerali, but a great ride. Little used, poorly maintained road but great sights.
To Cirali (different place) is stand-out stuff too, in 2 parts. First to Kumluca essentially flat and beachside then coastal cliffs. Second to Cirali inland, mountainous and forested. All beautiful, even the 15km ascent.
The ascent back up from Cirali is the last big effort before Antalya. There are lots of medium rolling climbs, and the traffic and tunnels towards the finish are annoying, but the old part of the city centre is a great finishing place. There it is…one version of an Ankara to Antalya bike ride. Any questions?
Cycling in Turkey