Jay and I both loved Istanbul. We loved the people, the laid back attitudes, the crowds of the European side and the relative solitude found on the Asia side. We loved the ever busy Bosphorus with the boat traffic chaos and the simplicity of transportation. We spent our week in Istanbul exploring neighborhoods, finding our own special places – places the tour books missed. For example- we identified, after much sampling, our favorite kabap house and experienced a fantastic Turkish cooking school.
We usually identify a few bike shops when we get into big cities. Bike shops are a great place to meet with like-minded folks, get some directions, or find out the local bike events. Some bike shops are merely bike stores- you get your bike needs met, but that is all.
While touring in Bulgaria, we began to plan our route to Istanbul and knew once we arrived that we were going to need some bike parts. Both of our chains were worn and possibly Jay needed a new wheel – Jay had a hard time keeping his rear wheel true. It was a brand new rim, one of four identical, but it could not handle all the rough roads. Jay spent hours truing his wheel several times, just ask Lia and her family in Cuvin, Romania. He spent an afternoon with his bike in pieces – truing it and immediately having to do it again as the spokes pinged as soon as he put it back together.
Once we secured our lodging through Warm Showers in Uskudar (Istanbul), we searched the Intertubes for nearby bike stores that look like they might have what we need. A quick google search of bike touring stores in Istanbul returns a link to the Bisiklet Gezgini – the first touring-focused bicycle shop in Turkey. And they were on the Asia side of the Bosphorus – just 12 km from our apartment! Perfect.
Our first sign that this bike shop was going to be what we needed came just after crossing into Turkey from Bulgaria, on the road to Kirklareli – where we saw one of the stores stickers on a light pole! A nice welcome into the country. Our ride into Kirklareli was an eventful introduction to Turkey, a country we both will visit again. We enjoyed our ride from Kirklareli to Istanbul- meeting some great folks along the way.
Once settled into our apartment for the week, we headed for the bike shop – albeit we did not follow their simple directions…stay on the water front until the marina. We picked our way through the very busy and traffic laden streets, going down one ways and hopping sidewalks. Jay’s tire began to leak and became unrideable about ¾ of the way there – slowing us to walk until we found a small bike store that allowed us to pump up his tire (we forgot to bring a bike pump). A few minutes more of riding (so much quicker to ride!) and we found ourselves at the Bisiklet Gezgini.
As we entered the very well maintained store, we passed by a cycle tourist boxing up his bike and gear in preparation for a flight to Iran to embark on a tour of a lifetime. The folks at Bisiklet Gezgini were helping him package his gear in the courtyard of the store. We brought our Surlys into the back and asked them if they could do a quick tune-up, change out the chains and take a look at Jay’s rear wheel. Başak, Seçil and Alexios were all very helpful and gladly took the bikes off our hands. We were to pick them up again two days later (they would have them done sooner but we weren’t going to be available to pick them up for a few days).
Two days later our bikes were ready to go. We ended up walking back to the store from Uskudar- it took a couple of hours to get there, as we still didn’t have the best route down. When we are not on the bike we like to walk as much as possible. That way we can still sample the food and keep the weight from piling on!
We had new chains and a replacement rim on Jay’s rear wheel. The old one seems to have been defective, and the mechanic at Bisiklet Gezgini could not keep it in true, either. When we picked up the bikes, the owners and staff were getting ready to put on a bike touring show and play some traditional Turkish music that evening. What a cool event – making this bike shop even more unique.
We had the pleasure of returning to the Bisiklet Gezgini bike shop one more time as we forgot the extra chain they had set aside for us. This time we rode over fully loaded as we were heading to our two night home near the airport prior to our flight to Bangkok. This time we followed their directions – ride along the water until the marina and then head north a few blocks. It was dead easy, mostly along a designated bike path and all along the waterfront. It is mostly bike path all the way from the ferry terminal in Uskudar! We had a fantastic morning ride out and back.
The folks at the Bisiklet Gezgini are genuine, they know about bike touring and are always willing and ready to help out. They are experienced bike tourists themselves and are willing to swap bike touring stories over a glass or two of tea.
If you find yourself in Istanbul and need some bike touring advice, mechanical help or supplies, Bisiklet Gezgini is a fantastic place to stop. Even if you just want to stop in and say hi, they will offer you tea and give you free stickers!
Here is their contact info:
Bisiklet Gezgini İstanbul
Bozkır Sokak No:23A 34726 Çiftehavuzlar Kadıköy İstanbul-Türkiye
Tel.: 00-90-216 386 82 85