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Cycling Into and Out of Istanbul by Bicycle

The problem of entering Istanbul is infamous with many cycle tourists and if you do a quick search on the net, there is quite a lot written about it. Many will insist that the 100 road from Erdine is good, although equally as many will insist on coming from the north or catching a ferry in. A French couple we met in Monaco told us to catch a ferry from Sariyer about 30km north or the city. We decided to follow the advice of Freddie and Guy who used the 020 road from the north in 2010, (great blog by the way guys!). We are not going to cover the route in the same detail they have, (you can read their post by following the link above) but we will provide some updates regarding how things have changed.

After coming through the Malko Tarnovo, the most easterly border crossing from Bulgaria, we rode to Kirklareli. The road to Kirklareli is new and best of all has little to no traffic on it. There is one lane each way with an overtaking lane in the middle and a 2m shoulder on each side. Spot on… you can read more about it in our Istanbul post.

At Kirklareli we turned east along the 020; the new road continues for 5-10km outside of the town before changing back to the original single lane. It was good and fairly quiet for the first two days with the road in much the same condition as when Freddie and Guy rode it. We stayed in hotels at Pinarhisar and Subasi (we don’t recommend the one at Subasi, it was overpriced and rubbish) but we could easily have wild camped somewhere, plenty of opportunities, (our excuse is that it was pretty hot and sweaty and showers were needed :))

View from the 020

View from the road 020 north of Istanbul

The entire 020 route is slowly being transformed into a dual carriageway all the way to Istanbul with a 1.5-2m shoulder which is great for cycle tourists. The only problem we foresee is that after it is complete, a lot more traffic will use this route, but at the moment it’s not too bad at all.

Now this is where things change from Freddie and Guy’s version.  Work on the road continued again for some 20km after Kestanelik, with hundreds of trucks transporting materials for the road along this route. At times you feel like you’re part of a construction zone, but the trucks are pretty good at giving you room and there is very little other traffic. The road is completed from approximately 25km out of Istanbul and we kept up a high average speed for the morning due to the new surface and low gradients. But it became way too busy for us from around Gokturk so we turned off at Kemerburgaz as advised by Freddie and Guy, and took the road through the Belgrad Ormanlari National Park, (would be pretty if the locals didn’t use it as a rubbish dump) to the Bosphorus Strait.

The new 020 dual carriageway

A newly constructed section of the route 020 dual carriageway

We then followed the Bosphorus for 25km all the way into Taksim Square at about 3pm on a Friday afternoon. It’s not a really busy road, it’s more of a scenic route that people use to access the restaurants, huge houses and shops along there; just watch out for the parking chaos on the side of the road. The road only becomes busy (really busy!!) around central Istanbul, but we were never beeped at or forced off the road and managed to get to Taksim Square safely.

Road along Bosphorus Strait

Road that follows the Bosphorus Strait to central Istanbul

The French guys we met, Bertrand and Loic, cycled all the way into Istanbul along the 020. They told us it was very busy and wasn’t pleasant cycling. So it looks like the Kemerburgaz exit is a winner!

To get out of Istanbul, it’s much easier, just jump on a ferry to somewhere, beware that security will probably put your bike through the metal detector (?!?!) before you wheel them on. We chose Yalova, a 1hr journey south. All in all, getting in and out of Istanbul doesn’t have to be the nightmare hell journey most people envisage.

Bikes on ferry

Bikes safely parked on the ferry to Yalova

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