If You’re Breaking a Sweat, You’re Going Too Fast

Steve and I were in London the other day, sitting down and having a chat at a roadside cafe, when a line of fluorescent jacket wearing, lycra-clad cyclists with expensive bikes and toe clips went fizzing past along the road, faces contorted in concentration and foreheads beaded with sweat.

Looking at each other, Steve and I began to marvel at the seriousness and intensity that the simple, wholesome joy of cycling can become drowned out in. You might notice, here at Cycle Cities, that we never talk about lycra, types of bicycles for racing, or serious riding. Or Lance Armstrong.

Yeah, we love bicycles – but in the way a kid loves a bicycle in summer, for kicking around, exploring, and hanging out with friends. We don’t take ourselves very seriously, and it underpins our attitude towards cycling, meaning we don’t really go in for the excessively competitive or ‘sporty’ branch of the pastime.

We want to get the message out there that cycling is fun and can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone and be engaged in wherever you find yourself in the world. Cycling is not reserved for MAMILs (‘Middle Aged Men In Lycra’), nor just the kids. Families, young kids, adults, grandparents – anyone can cycle. If you’re breaking a sweat, you’re going too fast.

All our bicycle tours give you the fun of the ride and allow you to look around, take a deep breath, and truly absorb the feel and character of the city that you’re in, without any kind of competitive feel.

We are the chilled side of cycling – no need for performance enhancers, protein supplements, or tight-fitting clothing. We ride like we walk; around in circles, just looking at stuff.

If you’re not much of a cyclist you’re exactly who we want to join us because you’ll enjoy it even more than people who are used to the experience – as a fun way to effectively and interestingly explore the most fascinating and enthralling elements of a new city.

And to prove that we aren’t too serious, you’re going to feel more like you’re in a tour group than on a bike ride. You might even forget that you are on two wheels when you’re distracted by the great stories your tour guide is telling you!

So keep it real, don’t let the MAMIL’s deter you, and head to cyclecities.tours and find your next incredible destination on the seat of a bicycle.

Kiwi (Rob Binns)

Partnership Manager/blogger/traveller

cyclecities.tours

The Seven Cleanest Cities in the Cycle Cities Network

Cleaning – for some a pain or chore, for others a relaxing therapeutic exercise. Regardless of whether we like to do it or not, cleanliness can make a huge difference to our enjoyment of a city when travelling, working, or just visiting for a holiday. Litter-free streets, a lack of graffiti, and clear, unpolluted air and water all contribute to the overall look and feel of the below cities. They are places that are leading the world in terms of their efforts to promote sustainable living, recycling, and supporting the environment, and they are all host to a Cycle Cities partner. The following list was compiled by myself after some light research – it is not intended to be exhaustive, only a rough guide for a bit of fun!

Here it is, then – the Seven Cleanest Cities in the Cycle Cities Network!

7) HONOLULU, UNITED STATES

With firm goals and promising governmental plans to reduce fossil carbon emissions, as well as conserving water and improving public transport, beach haven Honolulu is continuing to improve its cleanliness and environmental friendliness away from the American mainland. If you find yourself out there (jealous!) our partners Pedal Honolulu offer bicycle tours of this incredible city.

6) AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch capital and one of the world’s leading cycle hubs is, interestingly enough, one of the main reasons that has enabled it to become such a clean and green city to live and work in. Local government and organisations are helping to maintain and develop this status through a range of initiatives targeting at raising public awareness of litter and focussing on the importance of clean streets and water. To take a tour there, visit Webike Amsterdam for more information.

5) BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

‘Brizzy’, Australia’s third most populated city and largest by area, also seems to consistently be ranked among its cleanest, having been voted Australia’s Most Sustainable City in 2014 and 2016 at the Keep Australia Beautiful Australian Sustainable Cities Awards. With a range of green spaces, parks, nature reserves, and gorgeous beaches, Brisbane’s perfect for surfing, relaxing, and – a bicycle tour! Get in touch with Brisbane By Bicycle for the details.

4) PORTLAND, UNITED STATES

This Oregon gem is one of two US cities that make the list, and is recognised across the States and overseas as an environmentally conscious and friendly city, owing to its “high walkability, large community of bicyclists, farm-to-table dining, expansive network of public transportation options, and over 10,000 acres of public parks” (list25.com). Its government also publishes information regarding Portland’s impressive cleaning statistics in downtown areas. To check out the city on two wheels, contact our Cycle Cities partner there.

3) VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Vienna is regularly ranked as one of the cleanest and most liveable cities in the world. Its government and people are invested in the maintenance of environmentally friendly and sustainable measures, and the city has received great praise regarding its investment in waste disposal measures in recent years. A city of clean lines and even cleaner streets, take a bike tour there with Pedal Power.

2) REYKJAVIK, ICELAND

With some of the most incredible natural landscapes and sights in the world (such as the Northern Lights), Iceland is also almost effortlessly one of the cleanest and coolest countries in the world. It’s capital, Reykjavik (home to our partners Reykjavik Bike Tours) did not see any urban development until the 19th, and thus sits third on our list here with basically no pollution.

1) HAMBURG, GERMANY

Drum roll please…. Germany’s second biggest city and verifiable cycling valhalla Hamburg takes number one spot on our list of the cleanest cities in the Cycle Cities network! With plans to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050 and great cycling infrastructure that decreases a reliance on private vehicles, Hamburg leads the way in the sustainability stakes. Hamburg has also set in motion plans of an impressive scheme known as the ‘Green Network’, with the intention of being car-free in 20 years. All in all, it’s undoubtedly a great climate for cyclists – visit our partners Hamburg City Cycles for the lowdown and to book a bike tour there!

Congratulations Lars and Bakky – your city is the cleanest in Cycle Cities!

Thanks for reading, and never stop riding – see you next week!

By Kiwi (Rob Binns)

The Friendliest Bicycle Cities in the Cycle Cities Network

Hello everyone! Kiwi here, Partner Communications guy at Cycle Cities. Having been living in London for the last couple of years working for a bicycle tour operator, I’ve always been interested in bikes and how cycling interacts with and is part of the flow and make-up of a city.

Living in London, a city which has recently seen millions of pounds of investment go into previously unprecedented amounts of cycle tracks, paths, and superhighways, I always took London for granted as a relatively easy city to cycle in – but what about our European neighbours?

So, one late night here at Cycle Cities HQ, I began doing some research into what the most cycling-friendly cities in the Cycle Cities network are. I based my methodology and ultimate rankings on the The Copenhagenize Bicycle-friendly Cities Index 2017 and also incorporated their findings from previous years to get the best overview.

The results were to astound me – despite our best efforts in recent years, London isn’t there! After wiping away the tears and picking up my pen again, I made this list – the ten most bicycle-friendly cities in Cycle Cities!

10) BUDAPEST

With gorgeous scenic routes hugging the Danube and a quirky and cool inner city threaded with bike paths, Budapest is continuing to assert itself as a truly bike-friendly city. Plus, for the more adventurous cyclists, Budapest’s hilly terrain makes it great for mountain biking with some incredible views at the top! For a bike tour or rental, contact Yellow Zebra – they also do segway tours!

9) PORTLAND

Portland, Oregon has seen huge rises in the numbers of its population that are commuting by bike, and recently gained acclaim through its focus on helping the environment via encouraging alternatives to cars. This was evidenced most recently with the opening of the Tilikum Crossing, a bridge for trains, pedestrians, and cyclists – but not cars. To experience this cycle-friendly city, get in touch with our local partners at Pedal Portland.

8) BUENOS AIRES

With an excess of 140km of bike track, Buenos Aires, Argentina’s bustling capital (and a city close to my own heart) is forging a positive, cycling-friendly path forward for its Latin American neighbours. Buenos Aires’ flat surface and warm, breezy climate make cycling the perfect way to get around. Get in touch with our pals at Biking Buenos Aires for information about taking a tour.

7) HAMBURG

With it’s proliferation of canals, cycle paths, bridges, and hip inner-city neighbourhoods all tailor-made for a comfortable cycling experience, Hamburg joins its fellow German cities in helping to revolutionise how urban biking is seen and approached. For more information, Hamburg City Cycles are our Cycle Cities partner there and can offer bike rental and tours.

6) MUNICH

Cycling remains the most comfortable and easiest way to traverse Munich and the five kilometre radius around it, with around 1,200km of cycle path to traverse and an array of cycle maps to guide your way. The government has also facilitated the ease of travelling with a bike, and there are many options for taking bicycles on public transport and plenty of public cycle parking spaces. Get in touch with Radius Tours to explore the city and find out for yourself!

5) VIENNA

Like the other cities on this list, Austria’s capital, home to our partners Pedal Power, is steadily improving its cycling infrastructure. With 1,200km of cycling paths and segregated lanes for bikes, the city is beginning to assert itself among the well-established heavy-hitters of the cycling-friendly world. In addition, the Vienna Woods just outside the city provide great tracks for mountain biking.

4) BARCELONA

While lacking the same distinct cycling culture as some of the Nordic countries, Barcelona is a cycling-friendly city coming into its own, with the city’s mayor Ada Colau pledging 32 million euros up until 2018 to add more cycle lanes and increase bike parking. Bike paths run through gorgeous inner city areas yet also extend through Barcelona’s green areas and parks – tours and rental are available from our partners Bike Tours Barcelona.

3) BERLIN

Wide streets, cycle lanes built into all but the narrowest of pavements, ubiquitous cycle parking… all of these factors contribute to a city that has been very hospitable to cyclists for a long time now. Berlin’s municipality has aided this by allowing bikes to be taken on tubes and trains, and the police have helped – you only get fined for rule infringement on your bike if you cause an accident. Heading to Berlin? Get in touch with Martin and the team at Berlin on Bike for your bike tour or rental.

2) LJUBLJANA

At the business end of our list sits Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital and the domain of our partners Watermelon. The city was named the Green Capital of Europe last year and their commitment to building and maintaining an environmentally-friendly city is reflected by their positive attitude towards cycling and towards improving and expanding cycling infrastructure.

1) ANTWERP

Number One on our list is Antwerp, Belgium, home to our friends Antwerp by Bike and, having risen two places since the last Index in 2015, tops our charts of the most cycle-friendly cities in the Cycle Cities network. Cycling is widely accepted and encouraged by local authorities, and few wanderers in the Old Town bat an eyelid as cyclists roll through the cobbled streets or down narrow alleys. With modern design bike racks being implemented across the city and miles of brilliantly maintained cycle paths infusing the city, Antwerp is an embodiment and reflection of Belgian’s strong cycling spirit.

Cities in the Cycle Cities network with the most hours of sunshine per year

Having found myself on a beach recently in Binibeca, Menorca during a holiday with family, I lay back in the sand with paper in hand, tasked with the challenge of writing my next blog.

Chewing on my pen, staring up at the sky with the sun in my eyes, I was struck with an idea – what do people love more than the sun? Weather conditions and the amount of sunlight in a day can certainly make or break a bicycle tour and frustrate and stymie even the most resolute of cyclists. So, after some research and careful compilation of a list, here it is: the Top Ten cities in the Cycle Cities network, rated by the amount of sunshine hours their city gets in a year! The list features a pleasant mix of our partner cities from all over the world, with both the US and Australia being well-represented, in addition to some of the classic European holiday destinations that you’d expect. It was put together through various sources online, and is not intended to be entirely exhaustive/accurate – just a good rough guide for a bit of fun!
Before we get into the list though, here are a few Honourable Mentions – cities that just missed out on the list, but that can more than legitimately consider themselves ‘hot stuff!’

Barcelona, Spain – 2,591 hours, Rome, Italy – 2,473 hours, Melbourne, Australia – 2,362 hours, Istanbul, Turkey – 2,218 hours.aaab

10) SAN ANTONIO, UNITED STATES – 2,629 HOURS

Home to the legendary basketball side the San Antonio Spurs, San Antonio kicks of our list with over two and a half thousand hours of golden sunshine a year. The team at Bike World offer the best bicycle tours in the city.

9) AUSTIN, UNITED STATES – 2,643 HOURS

Capital of Texas, this Southern gem asserts its presence at number nine on the list in with an amount of yearly sunshine hours that mirrors its big personality (and even bigger hamburgers). Link up with Austin Bike Tours and Rentals if you’re in the area, and make the most of this booming city (and it’s incredible weather) with a bike tour!

8) CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA – 2,738 HOURS

Not to be confused with the setting of the famous French film festival, Aussie diamond Cairns is a gorgeous coastal city with a unique spirit and character. In addition to its 2,738 hours of sunlight per year, Cairns also boasts some of the most fascinating and iconic nature in the world, and is home to the famous Great Barrier Reef. After checking it out, dry off with a bike ride around the city with Cruising Cairns!

7) ATLANTA, UNITED STATES – 2,739 HOURS

This is where things start to really heat up. Home to my favourite show The Walking Dead and capital of Georgia, Atlanta narrowly pips Cairns to claim seventh spot on the list. If you’re a fan of aquatic life, head to the Georgia Aquarium, while the Atlanta Botanical Garden will appeal to those of a green fingered constitution. Cycle Cities partner Bike Tours Atlanta offer guided bike tours to cap off the perfect American excursion!

6) MADRID, SPAIN – 2,769 HOURS

Nestled at the very heart of Spain’s enormous landmass, Madrid is a city rich in culture and history. With its stunning architecture and vast array of enchanting inner city parks and royal palaces, Madrid is a city best explored on bike. Thankfully, our partners at Trixi have you covered, offering both bike rental and guided tours on two wheels.

5) LISBON, PORTUGAL – 2,806 HOURS

With a sandy coastline, numerous ancient castles, and a number of hills and winding roads, Lisbon is the ideal place for a cycling holiday under the sun. Our partners on the ground there – Lisbon Bike Tour – offer guided bicycle tours and will also be able to recommend great routes and tracks via which to explore this incredible capital city on Portugal’s southern shores.

4) MARSEILLES, FRANCE – 2,836 HOURS

Feeling hot yet? Marseilles, a southern coastal French city, in addition to its 2,836 hours of sunlight, offers culture and history in spades, boasting awe-inspiring cathedrals and a mesmerising Old Port. For a relaxing excursion in or around Marseilles, get in touch with our partners at Marseilles City Electric Bike Tour for bike tours, rental, and inspiration!

3) ATHENS, GREECE – 2,848 HOURS

While boasting almost 3,000 hours of sunshine a year and being an incredibly popular tourist destination, Athens isn’t just for the heliophiles – it’s the heart of one of the oldest and most influential civilizations ever to have graced the planet. The city is still full of remnants and tributes to a way of life that has captured hearts and ignited imaginations for centuries, with the Acropolis and the Parthenon still standing in reverence for the benefit of the excited traveller. Sound interesting? Take a tour with our partners Athens By Bike and soak up the history!

2) BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – 2,968 HOURS

As we get to the pointy end of our list, Steve’s very own Australia chimes back in with Brisbane, a fun and urbane city that doesn’t do too badly at all in the sunshine stakes, and that is also home to our Cycle Cities partner, the aptly-named Brisbane By Bicycle. Check out the surfing on the Gold Coast if you find yourself there, or go absorb yourself in the local culture by watching a rugby league match at the enormous Suncorp Stadium. Up the Broncos!17242_1321168425734_724912_n

Fair warning though: as its placing at Number Two on the list suggests, it is hot, so remember to apply the sunscreen liberally – as a demonstration, here’s a pic of me from about ten years ago looked perturbed, walking on the beach in Brissy and holding my new, neat pair of Australian jandals.

  1. SAN DIEGO, UNITED STATES – 3,054 HOURS

Sunny San Diego! With over a whopping 3,000 hours of golden rays per year, San Diego tops our list of the sunniest cities in the Cycle Cities network. With golden beaches, crystal clear waters, and an array of zoos, theme parks, and wildlife sanctuaries to keep all ages entertained, San Diego is one of the most popular US cities with tourists from around the world. To book a bike tour, reach out to Bike Ride San Diego to explore this hot, hot city via the seat of a bicycle,  with exclusive, high end bike tours that cover a variety of routes through and around San Diego.

That’s all from me for now – thanks for reading, and never stop riding!

By Rob Binns (Kiwi).

Who Runs the World?

Hello again, friends and followers of Cycle Cities! Kiwi here, with a new blog for the fitness fanatics out there. It’s been well documented through my blogs that I’m a passionate cyclist, but recently I’ve also discovered another love – running!

Growing up in Wellington, New Zealand, it wasn’t always the easiest landscape for getting into running – the house I grew up in was located on a ridge just over the crest of one of the steepest hills in the city – and it’s also officially the windiest city in the world! Hence, while I did enjoy the occasional run, it was never really something I’d gotten into until recently, a few weeks ago when my girlfriend roped me into going for a run with her.aaaaa

“Let’s go for five” she said, at which I snickered – “Five minutes? Easy.” We got our shorts and trainers on and set off for a run through the streets of North London, through surprisingly inviting and quiet roads lit by streetlamps, and darkening parks and grassy play areas (see pic of said run to the left)

Five kilometres and one hour later, and breathing heavily with legs like jelly, we returned. She’d captured the whole route, including our completion time and average speed, through an app called Strava, and I was pleased and proud of myself having pushed through a comfort zone on the run, despite feeling a lot like collapsing at the time! We started to make it a regular thing, running two to three times a week, gradually lengthening the distance and upping the tempo. And it feels great!

Of course, being involved with Cycle Cities, a dedicated team providing the best bicycle tours across the globe and a keen traveller myself, I started wondering about the options to see the world not only by bike, but on foot! While bike tours provide a unique and relaxing way of seeing the world, a running tour would be perfect for less-experienced runners like myself wanting to improve on their fitness, or more seasoned campaigners looking to meet people with similar interests and fitness goals, all while touring a city’s most iconic and historically significant sights!

Fortunately, my thoughts coincided with Steve and myself coming into contact with Raoul, founder of RunningTours.Net. Raoul’s goal, similar to what we do here at Cycle Cities, is to bring together the finest running tours the world has to offer, uniting them under the one ‘roof’ of his website, where running enthusiasts can view over 190 running tour organisations around the world and be taken directly to the website of each one through a single click, and view them all displayed on a world map.

With a layout that is easy to look at and a format which makes it easy to search for the city and country you’re headed to next, RunningTours.Net is a great place to start for the international traveller and runner. One of the website’s goals is also to provide more information on the concept of the running tour for the media and tourist organisations, and to support and foster communication and cooperation of various running tour companies around the world.

Steve and I met Raoul on the Southbank in London, and it was great to hear his ambitious plans for expanding the website, and hopefully for collaborating with us here at Cycle Cities also!

So if you’d like to get into running the way I did and see some of the world while you’re at it, head to Raoul’s website and check out the options for your first (or next!) running tour, whether it’s in Augsburg or Zagreb, Queretaro, Nairobi or London – no Wellington yet unfortunately though! Also, watch this space….!

Thanks for reading, I’ve run out of time for today but see you in a couple of weeks for my next blog on cyclecities.tours!

Cheers,

Kiwi
Cycle Cities

Milan: a Place to Be

Milano Bike Renting is a bike rental company, born from a Doctor and his Son’s passion for cycling.

We think Milan and Lombardy have so many possibilities to offer to cyclists.

First of all, Milan is home to some of the world’s most famous bike factories. Brands like Legnano, Cinelli, Colnago, Masi and Bianchi (the oldest known bike factory in the world) were all Milan based.

Moreover Milan is located in the center of the Lombardy region with it’s range of cycling routes and itineraries. From flat roads in the South to the highest European passes like Passo Stelvio, Passo Gavia and Passo del Mortirolo where the epic pages of cyclism were once wrote.

Explore the “Italian “Lake District”. Lago Maggiore, Lago di Como, Lago d’Iseo and Lago di Garda are all located in this region with endless itineraries and possibilities to discover on two wheels.

Close to Piemonte, some of the world’s most famous wines are produced (Barolo, Barbera,

Dolcetto) on smooth hills ideal for cycling, even in late Autumn.

If you prefer the sea, in only two hours it is possible to reach Liguria, on Mediterranean coast, where winter is usually temperate, and cycling is a pleasure even deep in winter!

With this incredible background, it seemed impossible to us that Milan didn’t yet have a bike company, so we decided to create one, and to offer everyone the possibility to “taste” Italy by bike.

From the Alps to Sicily, Italy is a treasure-trove of biodiversity, boasting an immense assortment of

climates, ecosystems and landscapes. Its geography makes it a bridge between north and south, east and west, and the peninsula is a busy natural thoroughfare crossed with scattered pockets of isolation.

Italy’s cuisine and Mediterranean diet are the culmination of this biological and cultural diversity.

On this basis we can offer you different options, from single day tours, weekend tours, or holiday weeks in some of our favourite places; Varenna (Como lake), Bormio (Valtellina at the feet of Stelvio and Gavia pass), Celle Ligure (Liguria, Mediterranean sea) and obviously Milan!

Our aim is to provide our customers with the best Italian bike experience, based mainly on a deep knowledge of our territory developed in almost thirty years of road cycling both in the Gran Fondo race and cycle tourism.

Cycling, avoiding congested roads, and discovering the food and wine heritage that makes Italy one of the most popular destinations for tourists all over the world, is our passion.

As the Expo 2015 logo says, Italy is “ ..a place to be!”

Budapest, Bikes, and Boats

by Steve Kopandy, Cycle Cities Director

Ben at Discover Budapest is a great guy.

 

I met him on a recent trip to Budapest, to discuss Cycling and Eastern Europe Tourism. It was great to share a cup of tea on the sofas in his shop, which would have passed as a great tourist information centre, with couches, friendly staff, a library of travel books and tour information.

It’s not just bike tours that you can go on. There are also segway tours, Communist tours, the list goes on. It was unseasonally hot, so Ben recommended for my girlfriend and I the evening walking tour and boat trip on the Danube.

We arrived back at the shop in the early evening and met our tour guide, Ana, and the other guests. It was a small group tour, and Ana was great at setting the atmosphere, getting us interacting and enthralling us with her knowledge of Budapest. We went to the Cathedral and learnt about St Stephen, Revolution Square, the main shopping district. All of this was in the frame of some excellent geographical and demographical info about Hungary, which helped put more of the city into context (did you know Budapest is five times larger than the next largest Hungarian city?).

The tour ended with a boat trip up the Danube, from where we could see the best of Budapest lit up, including the extravagant parliament building. It was a great chance to practice the night photography.

There are many tours in Budapest, but the moral of the story is go for a recommendation. See Ben and the friendly staff at Discover Budapest / Yellow Zebra Bikes, and no matter what your interests and preferences, I’m sure they’ll put you on the right tour.

Have a lovely time in this beautiful city.

Washington DC: The White City

I have this memory of Washington DC being the whitest city I’d ever seen.

There’s the iconic President’s residence/offices ‘The White House’ which I suppose typifies what I’m saying, but also the US Capitol building, and many other political buildings and monuments clustered throughout the centre.

The city was also covered in snow so this might be why it left such an impression.

January not the best time to be in DC. Bike tours close down, snow becomes a bit of a cycling hazard. I can recommend instead late March. The Cherry Blossom Festival is the start of this marvellous city coming to life for it’s long, warm spring and summer. I’d imagine it’s what many DC’ers wait for from Christmas onwards each year.

DC is also a very flat city.. so great for biking (when the snow’s not so deep!)

Steve Kopandy spent his 20’s travelling the world, and has taken guided bike tours and cycle trips in, and to, many European cities. He works as the Business Manager for London Bicycle Tour Company and started Cycle Cities to give more profile to bike tours worldwide. 

New York, New York: Make friends, will travel

I went to New York about 5-10 years ago.

It’s such a huge place. I’ve spent a total 15 days in New York. The only time I left Manhattan was to do the obligatory trek across the Brooklyn Bridge, and the obligatory free Staten Island Ferry – so I’ve been to 3 boroughs!

But I haven’t set foot in Central Park. Just not enough time! Manhattan is not a small place. There’s not really a ‘Central Manhattan’ as you would see it. It’s a jungle of different regions, styles, neighbourhoods, average skyscraper heights, and friendly natives.

My friend Darryll, who recently visited me in London and took a bike tour here, owns Bike and Roll in New York City. He’s got locations for bike rental right in Central Park. If only I’d have known this guy 10 years earlier! Mates rates I’m sure! It’s not a cheap place to go.

I took an open top bus tour. $50 ten years ago. And was stuck in traffic for hours. Again, Darryll would have come to my rescue had my contacts in the bike tourism business been a little more global at the time.

If you have a Darryll, or any friend with a spare bike, in NYC or anywhere in the world, make sure you don’t get stuck in traffic as I did!!

Steve Kopandy spent his 20’s travelling the world, and has taken guided bike tours and cycle trips in, and to, many cities. He works as the Business Manager for London Bicycle Tour Company and started Cycle Cities to give more profile to bike tours worldwide. 

Early Morning Istanbul

By Steve Kopandy  – Bike Tourist and Cycle Cities Director

The city of Istanbul is in a privileged position globally, being a gateway to the Middle East and Asia for those travelling East, and Europe for those travelling West. For shipping, to get from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea, you will sail South to North right through the centre of Istanbul. It’s one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. It’s not hard to argue that Istanbul is both the ancient and modern crossroads of the world.

I, like millions of people per year, arrived at Istanbul Airport. I had a 6 hour stopover. I was treating the city like a hub in the sense that I was changing planes there, but not in the sense of my experience. I had a 6 hour stopover between Beijing and London, and didn’t fancy spending it at the airport. The obvious choice was to go and see the city, a city I’d never seen before, but always wanted to visit. Cem, the owner of Istanbul on Bike, picked me up from arrivals and we made our way Eastwards down the quiet motorway at around 5.30am.

Being in Istanbul at sunrise is a special experience. The traffic is silent, the 6am calls to prayer start to emanate from the mosques and fill the city, with little other sound to distract, probably the way these calls were intended to be appreciated.

We picked up Cem’s tour guide colleague, Çağrı, and proceeded to drive through the old city part of Istanbul. Seeing the old city walls against the dusky morning was a nice touch. I like my Middle Eastern and European history. I know about Constantine, Constantinople and the rich history of a city which changed at the hands of the crusaders centuries ago. Without the background of local guides, talking about their experiences being Turkish and seeing the city develop in recent years into a cosmopolitan wonderland, it’s easy to miss the detail. As with many destinations, it’s the people, and the stories which make it special in my opinion.

Turkish people love their bread, so after a suitably doughy breakfast, we picked up 3 bicycles in the Sirkeci station area where the Golden Horn inlet meets the famous Bosphorus, and took a trail North West, mainly along the shores of the river. The Cycling is reasonable, and Cem assures me facilities are improving all the time. Whilst there is a lack of cycling specific facilities in many areas, avoiding the main roads and sticking to the quieter neighbourhoods doesn’t seem to pose many problems. When waterside, there are wide, traffic free paths. Istanbul is built around the water, so these places are ample.

Cem took me to the neighbourhood of his childhood, central, rustic, and starting to be taken over by cafes and younger professionals in the burgeoning metropolis, looking for quiet characterful corners to be at home in. It reminded me of some parts of East London 15 years ago- places that are now full of young professionals and hipsters, strange street sellers, quirky hats and bands with too many keyboard players.

Further up the river we came across the 4th most holy site in Islam, the Eyüp Sultan Mosque, which is said to be the burial place of Eyüp (Job) al-Ansari, a close follower and friend of Muhammad. By the Mosque we entered a small Turkish tea house to sip the traditional beverage. It was a crisp morning so the warm Tea was a nice touch. I am a big lover of English breakfast style of tea with milk, but the Turkish style worked well for me. When in Rome.

More history and culture, just to my order, came with Cem’s commentary. It’s great to book a private tour as you can make sure the guide focuses on your specific interests, and you have more time to ask questions and get a real personal experience.

The Tour route was mainly flat, as it followed the river. The return to the start point was via ferry. It’s great to look back on the tour from the other perspective and see it all from a different direction, and the comfort of an uncrowded ferry where you can grab a drink and watch the water and city go by.

Istanbul is a strategic city built around the natural, important waterway of the Bosphourus. It’s a city split in half. It’s hard to say where the centre might be. I suppose that’s a matter of perspective. We didn’t travel to the East side on this tour, but other tours from Istanbul on Bike go there. There are a range to choose from.

Heading back to the airport, Cem took me via the coastal route along the Sea of Marmara, with scores of ships stacked waiting to dock, as a perfect reminder to the way the trade routes have shaped this city over it’s several thousand years of existence.

I’ve been to a lot of airports and I have to say Istanbul Ataturk is one of the worst I’ve ever been in. It’s completely overcrowded. In 2018 they will open the new Istanbul Airport, which will be the world’s largest, and the gateway this city deserves. They are also building a massive new shipping canal West of Istanbul to relieve the pressure on the Bosphorous, and a futuristic city along it’s banks. Istanbul has everything, including a very bright future.

If the hub brings you to Istanbul, organise a Private Tour with Cem and get out of the airport like I did. Or better still, stop over a few days and give this city the time it deserves! See pictures of the ride here. Steve Kopandy spent his 20’s taking short trips to Europe from his base in London, and has taken guided bike tours and cycle trips in, and to, many European cities. He works as the Business Manager for London Bicycle Tour Company and started Cycle Cities to give more profile to bike tours worldwide.

See pictures of the ride here.

Steve Kopandy spent his 20’s taking short trips to Europe from his base in London, and has taken guided bike tours and cycle trips in, and to, many European cities. He works as the Business Manager for London Bicycle Tour Company and started Cycle Cities to give more profile to bike tours worldwide.