Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The beautiful ride!

I wanted to get back into the mountains. The last couple of days of rain had kept me off the bike. I'll use the recent welcome rain as an excuse! I had planned a new route, one which would keep me off the bigger roads and take me on a magical mystery tour, high up into the Kyrenia Mountain range. Cyclops struck early, he hit me below the belt with the old 'so you forgot to turn your bloody Garmin on didn't you', trick. As such the first section of this ride, from Iskele was not recorded. I rode along the Plain out of Iskele heading West, and took a right turn at Getcitkale. Here I woke up realising God Garmin was elsewhere.

Hence I ended up missing the turning and riding through the little village, finally taking the right turn north towards the mountains. Huh, what do I need Garmin for' I arrogantly thought to myself. The answer came immediatley - to stop me riding up an unsurfaced muddy goat track risking Rubics fragile disposition on a track not even tractors venture out on. I had no choice but to ride out of the saddle over rocks , sticks, potholes, loose sand and dead cyclists who never made it off this track.


   Eventually I reached the highway and said a few words of thanks to Cyclops for keeping the puncture fairy away. Taking the left turn towards Mallidag I found myself cruising along a perfect rolling road hugging the lower countours of the foothills here.

  Here I turned on the Garmin. The surface here is medium rough asphalt, a little shakey on the bike but perfecty rideable on my 700x 23 tyres. Reaching the village of Tirmen the climb proper started. Here the road intially passes through some very run down, tatty villages with thier less than pedigree dog populations, but thankfully I was through there in 5 minutes and climbing up the switchbacks behind the village. Immmediatly the views improved. Here they are very good,but nothing compared to what was to come.


  I took a breather at the top near the Antifonidis Monastry, an old Church dating back to when men were monks and goats were very afraid. Taking the Esentepe roller coaster ride down again the road surface was  causing Rubic to vibrate badly and limiting my speed. Here the name of the game is to reach the bottom of the Mountain with all your teeth firmly still in place. Just outside Esentepe I checked my teeth and took the first left near the school towards Alevkayasi. Having crossed the mountains once, I was once again climbing to get back up them.



The road here is a single lane asphalt road, of better quality, but not totally smoothe yet. Gradually the road surface improoved as I climbed, and the views just got better and better. Everything up here is green, the trees, bushes, and  even some grass in places! Now that may sound like no big deal if you are from England, but trust me, if you spend enough time down on the Messaroria plain here, seeing natural green grass is a BIG deal!



 I was in my stride, finding the climbs so far relativley pain free, I suspect because my mind was constanty distracted from the gradiants by the stunning scenery. It was the perfect temperature to ride this route, sunny, warm but not over hot and cool in the shadows of the big green trees.

 I was passed by a white van driven by three young lads. The back of the van was full of painting equipment and ladders etc. One of them gave me a thumbs up as it passed me. I was standing out of the saddle so just nodded a reply. Ten minutes later I caught them up. One of them shouted at me 'drink Mr drink Mr'. I was invited to Tea, freshly made on the back of the van, and had my water bottles filled up for me with ice cold water! They were interested in my bike, where I lived, where I had ridden, how fast I could ride. I was interested in what they were painting on the nearby rocks. Three names, thiers. I was asked my name, and was duely immortalized on the rock face at the top of this section of the climb! Let it be known that from now on this is where I finally 'went round the bend!'

This is typical of the kindess and genorousity of local people here in Northern Cyprus. They are interested in road cyclists, and unlike in England, the drivers here see us as friends, not enemies. I chatted for twently minutes or so, we exchanged e mail addresses and took photographs of our epic meeting on the Mountain today! Cheers for the Tea guys!


 The views were getting better and better, I was finding it hard to keep riding because all I wanted to do was soak it all up. Around every bend I was presented with some of the most beautiful riding I have seen anywhere in the world. This ride rates a definate A star plus on the view scale! If you ride this route, forget about your starva stats and take it easy, it is truely beautiful and without doubt one of the best rides you will find anywhere in the world. Ride slow and stop lots for pictures, strava can wait!

 I rolled up to the Alevkayasi cafe (follow the sign to the Kyrenai mountains tourist centre). The lady who runs it was very friendly, a Londoner who had been living on Cyprus for ten years, two of which had been spent running this cafe. It is the perfect 'lunch stop' if you are riding this route. I was told I looked 11 years younger than my true age and decided I could live with that ha ha! Lunch was a kofte kebab in pitta bread with lots of trimmings, homous, Tzatsiki, cous cous and two cokes. Much as I could have lived in this place for the rest of my life, it was time to start peddaling again.


The road surface on this down hill stretch is perfect, very smoothe with the advantage of being totally traffic free.  Cyclops was definatly in a good mood today!


The road here runs all the way along to the Buffavento Cafe. Here I decided to forgo the descent to Kyrenia, as I have ridden that way many times. Instead it was time to ride up to Buffavento castle itself, some additional 6km along a rough asphalt, but very rideable single lane road.  

This part of the climb is fun, it's got great views across Nicossia and to the Troodos Mountains behind it. In the car park at the foot of the Castle cliff face I guy in a camper van took a few pictures of me and my bike. Must be this lycra stuff, has a funny effect on the locals I reckoned! The sun was getting low in the sky, and it was time to head back. Unlike on all of my other rides today I had the luxury of a lift back in a car courtesy of my Dad!

It felt good not to have to ride back against the clock trying to out run the setting sun.

This was a wonderful ride. Perfect in every aspect. The views are beyond stunning, the road is perfect, the entire route was tailor made for a road cyclist. This is what cycling is about, I felt amazing all the time I was riding it and I can't wait to do it again.. I may not be the fastest rider to have ridden this route, but I am certain no rider ever felt as exhilerated as I did out there today on my Bike!


Friday, 24 October 2014

The Esentepe Ouch!

Three days ago Cyclops arranged for the marble flooring outside the bike lock up to get wet, creating a skating  rink Torvill and Dean would have been happy with. Hiding behind a bush he waited until until I arrived and promptly fell arse over tit slightly tearing a ligament in my right leg as I gracefully hit the deck. I have been off th ebike for three days as a result. The good thing to come of this childish prank was food, way to much food. A proper cyclist pig out fest in fact. And so it caame to pass that as the dawn broke, I went back to sleep and woke again a few hours later, several tons heavier and ready to roll. Todays ride was chosen to test my leg out on the climbs here. In other words stick two fingers right up at Cyclops. Heading out along the plain I could smell rain. Funny, I thought, I'm not in Spain.

Yikes..I gotta climb over those!

Dismissing this irrelevance I hit the gas and took the right turn at Gonendere and headed up to Tirmen. Here the mountains in front of me started to grow to silly size as the climb started gradually at first.

The villages here are quiet, dogs sleep in the middle of the road and the village tractor drives around them so as not to disturb them. UK drivers take note, this is how it should be. Climbing, the road surface changed to a rougher asphalt. On a climb like this such a surface is fine, I wasn't breaking any world speed records anyway so it was time to park my dainty derriere firmly in the saddle and enjoy the views.

Th rough asphalt road on this climb



The views got better as the the climb progressed. As I rode across the summit the full force of the wind I had been protected from hit me, the clouds appeared and the temperature dropped. As sure sign I had made it despite Cyclops' best efforts to bugger up the indexing on my rear de railer.

Ok on the way up but a little bumpy coming down
A typical switchback here

I turned left and followed the switchbacks down to Esentepe, a small village a quarter of the way down the other side of the Mountain. As I rode through at a 'sensible speed' in excess of 30 mph I the guy I narrowly missed exclaimed in a heavy Turkish accent, " My word, My Word Sir.... is a very BEEEEG Biksiklet!"

Now you insult my bike and you insut me. My first thought was that all other bikes are midget size, my second thought was who the fcuk was this tiny goatherder anyway, and my final thought was to accept the compliment, laugh and continue with my death defying descent from the village of Esentepe to the coast. I chose the right option.

This could kill a cyclist drainage inspector

Arsen Venges next career move

Narrowly escaping serious injury and worse, wheel damage, I just managed to avoid one of Cyclops strategicly placed cyclist traps. A drain cover designed by a peasant of ill repute with an in bred hatred of road cyclists no doubt. This is the only such death trap I have seen in Northern Cyprus, although I have seen several similar one in the south of the  island.

Smelling the Rain

Gradually the smell of rain changed to the sound of rain. Heavy drops hit my helmet with increasing intensity. At least it was warm I told myself and put the pedal to the metal and tried to out run the approaching storm. I was soaked through within moments, my road shoes filled to thr brim with water, as the spray from my front wheel had me wondering where I could get a set of race blade mudguards from in Iskele. Sacriledge!

Waiting for the Rain to stop

The harder it rained the cooler it became. I took a pitstop at the first 'market' store I saw and sat under cover drinking apricot juice and water. Here the entertainment  consisted of four overweight Brits attempting to get the balls out of the pool table. "Oh luv, go ask the geezer why this fing dont take me quid eh". 'Luv' duely obeyed , returning with wise words of wisdom from the 'geezer'. " Shuv a TL in it, it's Turkish innit".
Quietly I placed my helmet back on my head and rode off before anybody figured out I was also English.

Although the rain was easing the wind wasn't. Riding on a perfect surface over rolling hills hugging the northern shore, I passed familier coves, which I have been meaning to go snorkelling in for nearly a month now. I made a mental note to pull my flippers up and get wet. Oh wait a minute, I'm already soaked to the skin. Such are the thoughts of a road cyclist in such moments.

Abandon hope all yee who ride up here !
25% up through a Steamed
 up lens after the Storm

The village of Kaplica had arrived. Cold wet and tired I turned Rubic into the wind and faced the climb of doom head on. I attacked reaching speeds well in excess of 3 mph as I ground my way up this familier climb.

The rain had made the road slippy with mud and my rear wheels span as I stood out of the saddle. Sitting was the only option, and boy did my bum ever wish it wasn't. The climb is beautiful, I call it the 'Snake' because of its endless switchbacks as it craws its way up the steepest side of the mountain here. As I climbed I noticed the yellow flowers were out, and the tress seemed greener in after the summer storm.
A tourist in a rental car waved at me as she came down the 'snake'. At such moment sit's important for a road cyclist to hold his belly in and look, well, 'Unknackered' really. I collapsed in a heap as soon as she was around the first bend!

At the top I gathered my breath, and headed straight out along the ridge. This section of the ride is probably my favourite of all the rides here in Northern Cyprus, well worth the pain on the climb.

Looking back at the Storm and the Mountains

Soon the descent was upon me, flying around the bends and concentrating more on the road than the views for a change due to the slippery surface I flew down to the awaiting plain below, narrowly missing a young boy walking up the hill from school. He cheered me as I nearly killed him. It's nice to feel appreciated.

In Iskele Cyclops had saved his worst until last as usual.  A full on gale force head wind blowing in off the sea all the way back to base camp, a freshly cooked omlette full of all kinds of goodies, a Hot Jacuzzi and cooling swim in the indoor pool. Perfect.

Resort flags in the Wind Cyclops thought was oh so bloody funny! And tonights sunset over the flooded dustbowl fields on the plain.