Jun 24

Stranger than Fiction

by in Turkey

How wrong can one old bloke be? On my last post I mentioned that the roads were leveling out and steep hills were all behind me. Well, obviously I was wrong on that score! Turkey has been hills, hills and more hills, each one steeper than the last, even 10% gradient. At first these were too much for Effie and I ended up often pushing her. But in the last week the bike seemed to get her second wind and she tackled the steepest climbs, even once passing a truck. People often ask how many horsepower she has, and I say, four, but three are asleep. Now another horse has got in the harness and we’re practically flying. Of course we have Europe ahead of us and from what I remember from geography lessons there’s some pretty mountainous ranges ahead so that will test her capability.

On entering Turkey, compulsory insurance required the manufacturing year of the bike be listed on the paperwork. The computer unfortunately didn’t go back to 1910 and given the oldest date listed was 1970, that’s what the paperwork says she is. The factory ceased production of motorcycles in 1965 but according to the document I’m now riding a 1970 FN!

Since my last post I did get to go for a balloon ride in Cappadocia and I did get my cold beer – both very enjoyable. The weather was pretty hot in that part of the country so not much sightseeing done during the day. The evenings were pleasant for walking around town or eating at one of the many roadside cafes and renting a scooter proved helpful to get to some of the further away sites.

The new heavier duty Ensign brand of back tyre, sent by Thomas is performing well and despite a few more broken spokes, these weren’t the result this time of a blown tyre/tube. I have to chuckle that on the front is still a 35 year old tyre that I’ve had on since I first began restoring the bike all those years ago.

I had a new front axle made last week as another set of wheel bearings collapsed and it turned out that the old axle was bent.  Amazing how you can tell someone what what you want made when you don’t speak the language. Even though I changed the design of the axle, just a diagram and some gestures and I got a perfect result from a helpful engineer.

On the way to Istanbul I was flagged down one day by a SUV and the people inside indicated they wanted to take some photos – not an unusual request. They phoned a friend who spoke “English” and he told me that his friends wanted to “eat me”. A bit puzzling for sure, but I was sure they had good intentions from all their smiles.

They offered to take my backpack in their vehicle, which without thinking I handed over. As they took off, I suddenly thought, “Yikes, there goes my carnet!” Seems I’m a slow learner, but this time all was well and these guys were really nice. Erkan races super bikes and he & his friends took me to their workshop then ordered in a meal. That was a relief – I wasn’t dinner after all! Not only did they feed me, but supplied some new spare parts and got Effie sparkling clean. What was funny was the guy’s face when he turned the back wheel while cleaning the bike and the motor started!

My last night before reaching the great metropolis was spent near Izmit camped on the grassed roundabout entering the freeway. A bit noisy but plenty of light from passing headlights! I thought I might have got moved on by police but no-one seemed to mind in the least.

It seemed like the freeway into Istanbul went on forever and we still weren’t getting any closer to the city centre. The congestion at one stage where there were bridge repairs meant walking alongside the bike on the hard shoulder was faster than doing stop, start traffic. I finally made it to Taksim Square, god knows how (anyone who is familiar with this city will know what I mean), and while I was looking at my map and checking street locations I heard a voice yelling, “MR RON, MR RON”. How could anyone know me here? Lynne was still coming from Antalya and I’d only just arrived so hadn’t yet met anybody?

Next thing a young guy comes running over and introduces himself as Mali from the Istanbul Riders Club and says he’s been waiting for me for two weeks! What are the chances of actually meeting someone in a strange city who knows you’re coming but doesn’t know to where, and just happens to be out of the office delivering something and spots you reading a map? Given the size of Istanbul and the fifteen million people who live here, I’d think the chances are pretty slim.

I had already arranged a place to stay and Mali offered to show me the way. A round of introductions, a cup of coffee and we were soon in Beyoglu sharing a lovely apartment with our Turkish hosts. With Effie safely stored, it was time for a nice hot shower and a rest, before beginning to plan the next stage into Bulgaria.

If all works well I’ll make it to Romania for the Dracula Rally in Turda, halfway through the country. I’m planning on meeting up with Adrian, who’ll join me in Bulgaria and we’ll ride north together to the rally. It sounds like a scenic & fun ride so I’m looking forward to having the company of a fellow rider for a change. I’m also hoping to meet up with Hayashi while I’m here in Istanbul. We haven’t seen each other since we crossed from Pakistan into Iran, so it will be good to catch up and share a few stories with one another.

So before the end of the month I’ll be on my way again, another country, another experience. Turkey is such a mix of old and new, a melting pot of cultures, with a variety of interesting things to see and do. One thing’s for sure, it’s not a boring place to be. It feels so alive, especially in Istanbul and I guess that’s one of the reasons why it’s such a popular holiday destination with people from all over the world. Despite the obvious differences, comparing countries is perhaps a little unfair. Each has it’s own feel, its own special attraction that makes it what it is. If they were homogenous then there’d be no point in leaving home I reckon.

Now I’m off to get a kebob, the real deal. There’s nothing like eating the food of the country you’re in. As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do….

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24 Responses to “Stranger than Fiction”

  1. From Lukasz Czuryllo:

    Hi Ron,

    Here’s Lucas from Przedborz. We read about your problems with a piston. We hope you hit the target! Our local newspaper “Po Prostu Informacje” has published my article about you and some photos. We would like to send it to Australia on your home address.

    Posted on August 25, 2012 at 8:18 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Lucas

      Nice to hear from you! Problem turned out to be a worn bearing. It’s been machined and new bearing made. New spark plugs have also helped. I’m heading back to Prague to check out the sights for a few days then on to Germany. I’ll send you my contact details in Australia by email. Thanks alot Lucas for the article you did.



      Posted on August 27, 2012 at 5:01 am #
  2. From Paladin:


    I’m a bicker from Romania, I’ve seen that you plan to cross the Fagarasi Mountains by way of Transfagarasan. If you had trouble on the hills in Turkey, you’ll have big problems there. It’s a really beautiful place, but the road is bad in some parts, and very steep in others. If you see you can’t make it, just turn around and head for Valea Oltului. That’s a great road, and also beautiful; you’ll only have big trucks as a problem.

    Also, i wanted to give you a heads up: lots of roads in Romania, especially in the mountains, have sand on them where you least want it (IE in blindspots after tight turns). Have a safe trip otherwise.

    Posted on July 17, 2012 at 1:38 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Paladin

      I made it over the Fagarasi Mountains with the help of my friend Adrian & a few other bikers to push start when the engine got too warm and I lost power. You’re right, there was quite a bit of sand on the corners and there were a few rough patches but not near as bad as other roads I’ve been on. Thanks for your good wishes. Have a good summer riding too.


      Posted on July 20, 2012 at 4:49 am #
  3. From Andras Martoni:

    Dear Ron,

    This is Andras, we met in Sofia in the Red B&B Hotel (the sculpture hotel) on Saturday (30th June). You have my email address now, let me know when you are in Hungary to grab a beer, or if you need any prior arrangements here that I can help you with.

    Another thing, I mentioned a veteran car & motorbike magazine (www.veteran.hu) of your trip and they would love to make an interview with you. They would first write a short note mentioning your trip and after your arrival make a full interview. Does that sound OK with you? If yes, for the first short note, can you pls send the photo in original (good resolution) of your “just one bad apple” post (where you repair the bike on the side of the road)?

    Hope to hear from you soon, enjoy the ride,

    Posted on July 3, 2012 at 8:31 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Andras

      Have emailed you. Will meet up soon, but no firm dates as yet but expect to cross over into Hungary around 1st August to begin my 90 Schengen days. Leaving Veliko Tarnovo in a couple of days and looking forward to the scenery which I’ve heard is pretty spectacular through the Fagaras Mountains.

      Caio, Ron

      Posted on July 9, 2012 at 4:52 am #
  4. From John Gearing:

    Hi Ron,
    Since Effie doesn’t like hills much, let alone mountains, just wondering if you are considering snaking up the western end of the Black Sea until you can get onto the Eastern European Plain and the riding that north by NW until you can swing W on the Northern Europe plain. There will be some hills but shouldn’t involve mountains as you’d find trying to bash through the Caucasus, Alps, etc. The Northern European Plain is the route NATO planners always feared the Soviet tanks would take, if they came! No mountain passes to serve as bottlenecks, no mountains to serve as barriers.

    Posted on June 30, 2012 at 6:01 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi John

      Lately Effie seems to be managing the hills alot better. I don’t know that I’ve done anything to make that happen but she definitely has more power than she used to. Thanks for the suggestions which I’ll keep in mind if it becomes too challenging. Interesting to learn a little of the history & geography of the region from you.

      I know it sounds daft but the only map I carry is a basic print out off Google when I can get one of the next country. I tend to follow my nose or ask locals – no GPS for this old bloke! Still having fun.


      Posted on July 2, 2012 at 5:18 am #
  5. From Helmut:

    Hello, Ron

    How are you, i am a German Biker and meet you on the Road to Turkey, maybe you Remember on me, i drive a Yellow BMW , i am back in Germany, the Trip is Finish.I hope your Ok, no Problems.
    Sorry for my very Bad English.
    The best for your Trip.

    See you on the Road


    Posted on June 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Helmut

      Yes, I remember you stopped and we had a chat. Good to hear from you and hope your trip went well. I’m making my way to Germany and will be there by early September, all going well. Thanks for your good wishes.

      Safe riding.
      Cheers, Ron

      Posted on July 2, 2012 at 5:08 am #
  6. From Thomas Patt:

    Hi Ron,
    Photos are there now. Thks Lynne. Dont be scared abt the mountains in Austria. You can leave them south and ride along the river Danube. Will be for sure a perfect route for you and Effie. But as you said, still some time until you reach this area.
    Ride safe !


    Posted on June 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Thomas

      Seems like a good way to go following the Danube. Thanks for that advice. The opportunity of possibly getting to see some FNs in Vienna also sounds terrific – thanks to Jacques. I’d like to do the Bertha Benz Memorial Drive from Mannheim, (great museum there also) so it looks like some interesting things ahead. I’m sure everything will all fall into place as it gets closer.


      Posted on July 2, 2012 at 5:02 am #
  7. From Klaus:

    Hi Ron,
    please check your mailaccount. I send some pictures and a little film from our meeting at the lake van.
    Klaus and susi from Germany

    Posted on June 26, 2012 at 8:49 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Klaus

      I didn’t receive any emails from you. Can you check the address – my name@gmail.com Should I be looking somewhere else for them?

      Cheers, Ron

      Posted on June 29, 2012 at 11:38 am #
      • From Klaus:

        Dear Ron,
        maildress should be correct. If you even did not receive fil and fotos please write to me at my mailadress. Than i can answer.

        Have a nice trip along the danube


        Posted on July 2, 2012 at 8:52 am #
        • From The Old Bloke:

          Hi Klaus

          Thanks for the photos and film. Will email you re. these. Looking forward to my first sight of the Danube soon as it signals I’m nearing the end of my journey.



          Posted on July 9, 2012 at 4:45 am #
  8. From Di:

    Hi Ron, spoke to Lynne the other day,she is looking foward to your time together in Turkey. Sounds as if all is going to plan with lots of help along the way from other bike enthusiasts. May the hills be all on the downward slope!

    Posted on June 26, 2012 at 5:28 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Di,

      Had a good time in Turkey – a pretty easy place to travel through apart from the hills and I’ve loved the camping between the big cities. Must say the rice puddings in Istanbul were hard to beat – my favourite dessert.
      Here’s hoping there’s more down hills than up!



      Posted on June 29, 2012 at 11:36 am #
  9. From Jos:

    Hello Ron,we wil see you in Belgium
    Have a nice trip en hold on

    Regards Jos

    Posted on June 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Thanks Jos, I’m holding on, (sometimes for grim death when in heavy traffic – LOL). Now loving riding through the wild countryside even if the roads are a bit rough at times. Looking forward to meeting up with you all when I reach Germany & Belgium. It should be something to celebrate and a way to say thanks to all my supporters who’ve followed the journey.

      Cheers, Ron

      Posted on June 29, 2012 at 11:12 am #
  10. From FN oldtimers:

    Hi Ron and Thomas; For Vienna: i’ve got some good news for Ron,there is there a small museum from Herr Waldmann(Wien = Vienna).

    Owner of a great collection of FN bikes including several true original FN racers such a the FN m 14 with zoller compressor/the type VII/the m 86 and also some FN fours and singles and other FN bikes even a car from FN.

    I will contact him and send you more details by PM, so it will be a great honnor for him to meet you with Effie on your trip to Germany and Belgium.( any idea when you are across Austria??)

    FN Oldtimers.

    Posted on June 25, 2012 at 11:49 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Jacques

      That sounds great about the museum in Vienna. I’ll put it in my notes of things to see and do. Certainly would love to see Herr Waldermann’s collection of FNs. Don’t have any firm plans yet about my route but will sit down with a map soon and see if I can come up with some dates for you, though they can only be rough estimates at this stage. i hadn’t planned on riding through Austria (I have visions of all those mountains) but don’t want to miss anything worthwhile – there’s still a bit of pushing capability left in me if needed I think. LOL

      Keep me posted Jacques.

      Cheers, Ron

      Posted on June 29, 2012 at 11:07 am #
  11. From Thomas:

    Hi Ron,

    again a very nice writing. The tire will bring you safely to Germany and Belgium. 😉 Once you have crossed Bulgaria and Rumania, the easy part beginns. Just checking your route again. If time allows, you should take a short diversion to Vienna. It’s worth.
    Have a safe trip.
    PS: Not tt i miss something, but there are no new pics since Iran on Flickr, right ?

    Posted on June 25, 2012 at 8:13 am #
    • From The Old Bloke:

      Hi Thomas

      Yes, I’m getting closer every day and will aim to see Vienna if time allows. I’ve been surprised just how small some countries lie Bulgaria actually are, so may be able to achieve a bit more than what I first thought. I had to speak to my “secretary” about the photos on Flickr – you just can’t seem to get reliable staff these days it seems. LOL

      All’s going well at present.

      Caio, Ron

      Posted on June 29, 2012 at 11:01 am #

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