Our experience of the Black Sea coastal route can be conveniently divided into two halves: the first from the Georgian border to the pleasant coastal town of Sinop, and the second from Sinop to Istanbul. The first half was predominantly boring; we were rained on, slept in some very dubious locations between largely uninspiring cities, and other than providing the first puncture of our trip, did little to stir our senses. The second half however, was an absolute humdinger. The ride along the Turkish coast is in no way the easy or direct route to take across Turkey (as we had thought), however, the inconvenience is compensated for in spades, by an area of natural beauty that should drop even the stiffest of jaw.
A week into this leg, we crossed paths with a Swiss chap who was part-way through an attempt to walk around the world, and who seemed surprisingly chipper for a man intending to spend the next six years of his life inching around the globe at 40km per day. As we spoke about our proposed route he couldn’t help but chuckle through his broken English at the conditions that awaited us: ‘oh yeah, it’s steep’. And when a walker warns of severe inclines, the prospect for a cyclist is – to say the least – a little bleak.
Indeed, the roads winding along the coastal cliffs appeared to be about as steep as a road could feasibly be and demanded us to adopt the monotonous routine of gaining a few hundred meters altitude, before returning to sea level, then repeating this exercise for around 400km. The terrain combined with the lingering Turkish summer to provide arguably our toughest riding so far, and the subsequent memorable quote: ‘I’m even sweating through my eyeballs’; which was as ridiculous as it was (or at least seemed) plausible. This would all have been utter misery had it not been for the quite outrageous backdrop through which we were riding a bicycle. Without wanting to wax lyrical about this; it would be fair to assume that in the global contest for great coastal routes, Turkey’s Black Sea would certainly be a podium finisher.
A reasonable slice of effort has been required to make it across Turkey and although we’ve barely scratched the surface during our time here, we have so far been surprisingly impressed with this underrated country. Though admittedly, next time we’ll probably favour something with a motor for the crossing.
Finally, in bicycle news, the Chinese bike options have shown their true colours over the last fortnight, and have done so in quite spectacular fashion. It appeared in fact, that every component had been programmed by Shimano to spontaneously fail after successfully covering 5,000km, which certainly added to the climbing woes. However, with a little tinkering from the multi-tool and some stitch-up work from the duct tape, we were able to limp the injured steed the final few hundred kilometres to Istanbul for some fine tuning/complete overhaul.