The freedom that comes with riding metal horses is risky yet liberating. Though it is an activity that can be undertaken solo, often motorcyclists belong to a group of passionate riders
ISTANBUL — Trafficin Istanbul continues to worsen and with it, commuters are starting to look for alternative means of transport. One answer to such a dilemma is to ride a motorcycle. While the number of motorcycles on the road in Turkey is still largely behind its European neighbors, the community is growing steadily. Motorcycles are not chosen solely for their practical aspects. The sense of being part of something, weekend escapades, long tours and joint rides also are part of regularly riding a motorcycle. The risks of riding a bike may seem too high for most, especially for those who have grown accustomed to the comforts of their cars but bikers try to lower the risks by using protective gear, through professional training and solidarity with one another. If you became stranded on the road with your bike, don't worry.
Usually the first bike that comes by will rush to your aid. That knowledge is also what helps bikers start up their bikes every morning. Usually bikers tend to join or form groups according to their riding style. Enduro riders look to horizons for new destinations, cross bikers battle whatever nature throws their way, superbike enthusiasts enjoy the rush of adrenaline that comes with sharp turns in the road, while some don leather vests on their big cruisers and choppers roaming the asphalt with pride. While all these groups have different expectations and goals regarding motorcycles, their two-wheel solidarity stands firm. No matter which rider classification you fall under, weekend escapades are a must if you are rider in Istanbul. While there are many different routes for people who plan to camp through the night, if you plan a daily tour, two routes are most popular around the city. These are the Riva and Şile routes. Both are located in the northern side of Istanbul's Asia. Şile, with its lush forests covering both sides of the village roads presents a terrific experience especially in the warmer seasons.
But some four-season bikers use it regardless of rain or shine. Villagers and café owners are quite accustomed to bikers and welcome them with open arms. Ela Café is in particular is famous among riders for its hospitality and delicious gözleme (Turkish pancake). It is rumored that when Ela Café first opened, a biker passing by had an accident.
The owners of the café went out to the road and helped the injured rider. Once the biker recovered and was well enough to ride again, he brought his motorcycle group to dine there. This set off an unspoken tradition and today almost every group goes there to leave their sticker or patch on a stand which the owner displays proudly. Riva is the trickier route if you ask me. Its razor sharp turns and crowded road requires more experience.
At the end of the road awaits great scenery to reward your hard work. Even though the recklessness of bikers or automobile drivers usually ends bitterly, the Riva route has nevertheless remained popular. You probably figured out by now but let me say I too am a biker. I commute with my motorcycle every day and I can't tell you enough how much time and money that saves. But what I want to share with you is the feeling of being on the bike. Whenever you hop on, you feel as though you can go anywhere without any of the superficial ties that hold you down.
They become unimportant as soon as you turn the ignition. I myself planned to go to work but found myself on the intercity road several times. It gives one time for personal therapy as I am constantly talking to myself inside my helmet. This may illustrate a picture of roses and sweets, but I am afraid reality has some thorns and they are deadly. When bikers have collisions with automobiles, almost always, the vast share of the damage falls on the biker. "The bigger your vehicle, the more privileged you are," is a twisted mentality that prevails in Istanbul.
The constant harassment by cars, taxis, trucks and minibuses is an everyday struggle for bikers. Bad road conditions and faulty asphalt don't help either. Of course, similar to every group of people, bikers too have those who are problematic among them. People riding without helmets or well above speed limits endanger others. Those who choose to ride on sidewalks are also a constant pain for the majority of bikers. But they do not represent the whole. To cut a long story short, I guarantee that you will come for the practical reasons but stay for those I mentioned above. Just remember to get professional training, full protective equipment and start small. No need to get those huge bikes where even a simple mistake may cost your life. You can always upgrade with experience.
So I ask you to give yourselves and motorcycles a chance.