First Trans-Anatolia Long Distance Ride July 2003 (PV)

Edited again for Long Distance Riders wanting to do new rides in old land: a report written 14 years ago of a west-to-east crossing of Turkey. The good friend Selim (who died in February this year) is with me under the Ararat Mountain approaching the end of the ride.

“It is the right Hotel … for the last three hundred kilometers I have been thinking about shower, air conditioning, cold water. To get to the starting point of OMM Trans-Anatolia LDR I woke up at four o’clock in the morning to be in Cesme (Izmir) in time for a further six hours of rest. 16:00… two hours to departure. Riders eating around a small pool, good spirit but the tension is quite visible. In front of us miles and miles of the worst of Turkish traffic. The owners of the Hotel Arinnanda are all around us supporting with a newly discovered friendship the determination of the riders.

Again the question: why?

Long Distance Riding is a passion without reason and in the eyes of the non riders (and of some riders) a folly with no justification. Water, water again, the last cigarette… pictures… check the bikes once more… have the departure document signed… and we are on the Road.

  1. 18:00 Forgot anything? Too late for regrets. Selim is romantic: he wants to start from City Center so, down to the beach and the summer’s pleasures (fumes, traffic, noises with suntan cream perfumes). The popular resort of Cesme is in bathing suits and shorts; we cross the holiday people with Aerostich, Rukka and Dainese protective armors. A laugh and a sweat. The clock reads 9274 kilometers. Time to talk with your Angel pretending you are not so stupid.
  2. Pass Sardes the ancient capital of the Lydian Empire home of the sadly rich King Croesus, the long evening seems to last forever with the sun setting in a dramatically orange show in my mirrors: it would have been a good picture but no time to stop, no time to take the camera out. Selim, leading, pushes at the limit trying to make good progress in the fading light: Kula is just a petrol stop on route 300 from Izmir to Ankara, it’s eight o’clock and no time for chatting: clean the visor, gulp some liquid, Ankara we come. So far… so good I feel relaxed in front scouting for the last of speed traps before dark. It is night in Afyon and no light or time to spot the high castle of the market of opium: just petrol station with busses downloading passenger in restaurants and toilets.
  1. Next will be a boring section and in Gomu (second petrol refill) is time for Alp to take the lead: Sivrihisar, Polatli the route 200 to Ankara is full of trucks serving the need of the capital… vegetable, fruits and more busses. Ankara is a yellow glow on the east horizon: Selim is just back home where he started this early morning. Ankara citizen he takes the lead to skirt the city in the fastest way. Good-by ancient citadel with the Caracalla baths, the Ulu Mosque and the Temple of Augustus: Romans, Byzantines and Ottomans stranded in the high plateau of Anatolia. No time to appreciate the short portion of circular motorway: the roller-coaster of Elmadag road is now in front of Selim strong (and special) xenon light.
  1. Petrol again (the odometer reads 10.020). If my Aprilia instrument is accurate we are almost at mid-point with more than 750 K done. The station is deserted and the temperature drops unexpectedly, time for an extra layer under the suit. Time to wake up the brain while fatigue settle in. it is one o’ clock in the morning and we have another tank to burn before the sun rise. Companions are silent, Selim walks, Alp dreams and I eat ice cream. After Elmadag, the road turns twisty and bad, corners come out from nowhere in an endless black strip.
  1. Time to think: is Long Distance riding fun? Why passing broken castles without investigating? While riding when good people rest? What is that dark shadow? A trick of the mind or… a truck without light? Steering knowledge pays well when heavy vehicles save on electricity. The sense of solitude is enhanced by the (almost) constant absence of lines on Turkish road. At night only your instinct and the lights of other users tell you where your lane begins and where it ends. Sign? Few or too many…but always at the wrong place, at the wrong time. You are the only one to comment the road: no aids, no suggestions. Look at that light turning left with a sharp sweep, prepare for the corner, feel the gravel under your tires, you moved to far in your lane… radio is back and it beats television.
  1. Worth the risk? Of course my answer is biased. I have been riding against time and space since my old and now dead friend Mike was organizing 1000/24 rides in UK. A Magni Moto Guzzi let me down one night near Oxford and I had to ride and additional 200 miles to get a new bike. I did the first Iron Butt in Turkey with blessings from Michel Kneebone himself year ago and the friend that volunteered to ride with me went home after 150 kilometers. Of course I am biased; I love it. A form of meditation, disciplinary exercise, sacrifice rolled in adrenalin and skills. No lies, no bar-talks: you and the road in a very long embrace. Self-evaluation, self-education, self-motivation: the brain is focused, the spirit is free and the road sings.
  1. Signs of the sun turning to our direction. It cannot be too long for the night to pass. They have to write the name of the place in my note book: Akdagmadeni midway between Yozgat and Sivas, a good petrol station: no tea, no coffee and no unleaded. Turn back few kilometers: still no coffee, no tea but a very unfriendly unleaded. Selim has a thermos with coffee filled nine hours ago. Great taste with a sniff of warmth left in. It is cold, summer and less than ten degrees’ temperature, summer gloves and cold hands. The body refuses to move not to disturb the bubble of air inside the suit: I slam hands on legs to restore circulation and I envy Selim with heated grips and feet comforted by two hot cylinders. Aprilia reacts with jealousy: a never ending engine with power to annihilate any long distance: 1000 Kilometers gone.
  1. It is back: when a kid I never felt very sure that the sun would have come back after the last rays of a sunset. But is back, announced by a cold, whitish dawn and then exploding low on the horizon on the top of the visor. You need a hand in front to protect your eyes and to gain marginal vision. Reduced vision coincide with unpaved roads: predictable. A long stretch of “road in construction” is a good alternative to breakfast. Dust and Eggs… sorry no eggs. Where are the dogs of Sivas, the brave Kangals of Karabas (black head) lineage? Just waking up and gathering the flocks. Where are the Cift Minarets of the Mehmet Pasa Mosque and the Islamic school built by the Mongols? Just on your left, pal… but do not look… keep going.
  1. Refahiye: a dot on route 100. Even now few days after the event I cannot remember: a petrol station, another tank. The faces of my partners in this adventure are tired but satisfied: the night is gone, the sun is shining and the temperature rises. Anatolia smells of grain, cut or to be cut. The smell is of good bread and the air is yellow with dust. Busses with Iranian registration crawl under the weight of excessive luggage. Arsin Transport has offices in Istanbul, Frankfurt and Teheran.
  1. They cut threes, to enlarge roads and these great giants lie dead at the side of a hot line: in the good times they were creating shadow for the travelers: modern brains can resist heat. I am making mental calculation to the next point on my log book: how many kilometers to Dogubayazit? Can we maintain the average speed (quite good) kept so far? Traffic is light and we should be able to… Selim and his GS are just a flash passing, speeding, overtaking a Castrol Oil car, swerving and signaling, stopping the car. What happens? As an old (good) man I do not rely on GPS, prefer to stop and ask questions, loving the sense of progressively getting lost. But Selim and Alp are GPS masters and the infernally precise (thanks to USA power) machine just clocks 1610 kilometers. One thousand miles is one objective within the objective of the OMM TransAnatolia LDR: you see, Master Kneebone of Iron Butt does not care where you ride and how difficult is the road: Saddle Sore registered long ride is 1.000 miles to be covered in 24 hours. If you do this on Canadian motorway, on German autobahn or on Turkish mountain roads 1000 miles has to be and 24 better be. We made it: champagne at the end. Now we only have time to thank Mr. Sadettin of Castrol, have him signing time and mileage …time to go.
  1. We know it: Pasinler is the last of the tanks: it is hot and a little confuse. The castle, built by Armenian and restored by Ottoman is high on the horizon; on the lower slope. a stupid replica of little Turkey with mini Cappadocia in offer. We drink in silence staring into the yellow plains ahead. The great Canyon introducing Horasan arrives by surprise: rocks in shape of human faces and bodies, outlined on the sky way above the small bikes; funny corners too. At Horasan the road turns south. I have been here several times before coming down from Kars and the Armenia city of Ani. Now we ride toward Krakose: the landscape turns almost desert with stones and stones and stones. On the left elevations and mountains: and then in front the pyramidal shape of Mount Ararat. I have been waiting for this vision for many hours: snow on the top balanced forms of a perfect Mountain… the sacred Mountain where the tradition lands the Noah, the Ark and all his pets.
  1. Cobandere Kopru: it is an appointment for the return route. Now is just a glimpse of elegant bridge with Selcuk bas-reliefs, red in the red plateau. Dogubayazit: (from the local brochure) is a gate opening from the past to today with its single-“storeyed”, mud brick houses that reflect the traditional Eastern architecture. Dogubeyazit: (in reality) straight out from MadMax setting, the forgotten spot of the entire world with miserable dwelling, dirty street, chaotic traffic, dubious traders. Misery made city and an insult as welcome to Turkey for the traveler crossing border from Iran. Dust, garbage, unfinished cement buildings, animal and people, all served hot and smelly. We will have time to enjoy the cocktail later. Now we have to rush to the border.
  1. When misery meets misery. A small barrack a line of trucks cooking under the sun, no shelter, no protection: just a gate, some flags, away on the hill “Once Vatan…The Nation First” written in white stones and fading back to nature. People around, kids touching hot bikes: “do you want to go to Iran?” “No, thanks, we arrived” Arrived where? Is this transit point a destination? Not for anybody but serious long distance riders. Picture: do not take picture… we are in military zone… but we left Cesme yesterday! The sound of the Mediterranean seems to refresh the place and the spirits. Really from Cesme? How many hours? We look at the clock and we close it in …. Let say within the 24 hours. You know, we always respect the very reasonable speed limit of 70 Km per hours.
  1. The story is well received: an officer not only certifies time and mileage but also allows us to take pictures. Shake hands, how much you Aprilia cost? How fast it goes? I do not have answers, time or will. Protected by my ignorance of Turkish and Farsi I leave the PR to my friends: I look from far at the three bikes: they took us for 1873 K (1.163 miles) without problems. Hot, dusty and covered with a thick layer of insects, bikes are the real protagonists of this ride. As usual, at the end of a hard ride I have a sentimental “élan” toward the machine as they were humans. Must be the sun”

Details: From the Hotel Arinnanda in the center of Cesme (Latitude 38°19 58’North Longitude 26°18.24’ East) three riders Alp Berker on Aprilia Caponord, Selim Demirel Ankara on BMW R1150 GSA and Paolo Volpara on Aprilia Caponord, all members of One More Mile Group started the “Trans-Anatolia Ride” crossing Turkey in west/east line. The riders reached Gurbulak (Latitude 39°23 91’ North Longitude 44°23 67’ East) in the afternoon of Saturday 12th of July. This continuous ride covered 18 degrees of Longitude for a total of 1.891 K (GPS registration).

Inequality and privileges: Bikers are not immune (PV)

With the price of petrol passing the 5 Turkish liras (1.5 USD) per liter the small tank of my 600 cc single cylinder is now well above 18 US dollars or 16 Euros and it does not take me for more than 200 Km.

To cover the distance from home to Istanbul it will cost me around 80 Euros for petrol only plus maintenance, oil, insurance and personal expenses.

Let say 110 Euros if one can survive 800 K on solo sandwiches and water.

For half of this price I can fly from home (15 K from regional airport) to Istanbul SAW. I agree not as funny as riding but it makes one think.

And thinking I was in one of the first “spring” outing this March when I stopped at a road side quite capacious restaurant and I contemplated the 20 or more bikes parked outside: the total amount of capital represented by these vehicles would have bought the whole establishment and, in the words of one biker, maybe the petrol station attached to it.

Surely, the waiter serving us should have saved the entire salary for a period of three years to buy the cheapest of the bikes present.

25.000 Euros (at March 2017 equal to almost 100.000 Turkish lira with Gross Minimum Wage at 1.800 TL) will buy you in BMW Istanbul a new BMW GS Adventure. In theory and in practice a family of three with father as only worker must live four and half year on the same amount. It makes you think as it makes you think the contrast between the news from countries at war and the misery for families and children coming in the same TV program five minutes before the showing of costly and futile event as the Milano Moda fashion show. It makes one think and it hurts.

Still, buying the bike is not all: one can always put two and half years of the same father’s salary and buy (51.000 Tl) a more “modest” Suzuki V Strom 650XT.

Unfortunately, it looks like very few bikers today have a minimalist or parsimonious attitude when coming to accessory or “farkling”.

Without going to the excess of Iron Butt rider, who put (Summer 2014) in excess of 9.000 US dollars on top a brand new Honda ST1300A (just to “meet needs”) costly modifications are very popular: exhaust system, luggage system, communication system, GPS and entertainment system, saddle, lights, screen, protectors and carbon fiber (or titanium) parts are as frequent as Dolce Gabbana shirt in Portofino cafes.

The society of consumption, the “I have and I want more” showing attitude push the rider to buy the “perfect and ultimate” bike and then to change all changeable just for marketing pressure reasons.

A new exhaust can offer on improvement of 5/7 HP and the same result can be obtained with a dieting program cutting approx.10 kilos from the rider fat surplus.

Finally, “ride is coming and I have nothing to wear…” Riding gear is another great source of inequality where the song of the sirens takes the wear to new sublime levels of technology. The siren sings “more protection requires more money” and “higher price better protection”; it sounds familiar to people that must show a credit card, with funds in it, before being admitted to the emergency room of any hospital (survival of the richest as new natural selection).

With this attractive (and fallacious) song riders turn into medieval knights needing a lift to mount the saddle for the weight of the protections gear. After the air-bag I am waiting for safety belt on two wheels (and why not… the old idea of leg protector’s mandatory on frame). Inexpensive gear is now relegated to “entry level” and the competence is associated with great amount of money spent for dressing.

Inequality is the main source of conflicts, violence and instability. Frugality and sharing are out of fashion and flaunting wealth is now a major sport: biking was a simple and open-to-all sport where the brand of the helmet was not important and definitely not discriminating. Today we, the bikers, are protagonist of a subtle but not less evident discrimination, creating a social class of privileged people wasting for vanity.

“Charity rides” are not a solution but they are very rare in Turkey: maybe it is time for all groups to start thinking of giving back some of the joys we take from riding. Ideas?

Gear: Fashion and Style vs. Equipment (PV&AG)

Good friend Andy Goldfine, creator and owner of Aerostich gear, sent recently a piece of PR news that reflects my thinking in minimalist riding. You can say that this is Andy pro domo sua simply advertising Darien jackets and you will be partially correct.

Nevertheless, if you take out the justified pride for the product Andy created decades ago (when very few bikers were choosing textile gear) you will see that the need to sell more and more frequently creates ideas and opinion that do not have justifications in actual riding protection or comfort.

“There’s a lot of ‘noise’ in the rider-gear market space the Darien jacket section occupies, about how ‘new and improved’ newer jackets are. Companies making these kinds of jackets restyle them and revise them every year or two, telling riders that if three zippers are good, six or seven zippers is better. And that these periodic re-designs offer technical advances.

What all the ‘noise’ amounts to is fashion and style being presented in the guise of technology which is supposedly is rapidly ever-advancing in this area. Except armored waterproof textile jackets are not the same kind of technology as computers, or even motorcycles. Seven zippers are not better than three, if only three are functionally needed. What counts is ease of use, durability, fit and function.

The pioneering of this type of gear was done by Aerostich twenty and thirty years ago.

Since then, just like added decorative stitching on branded ‘designer’ jeans turns a pair of useful, comfortable and durable work pants like Levi’s 501’s into a fashion, all the noise about new tech in jackets is mostly fashion BS masquerading as technological improvements. It’s not real.

Classic black leather ‘zipper’ biker jackets have been popular world-wide for many decades. There are versions at many price points and in some circles this jacket has become a fashion cliché having little to do with actually riding a motorcycle. But for many riders it remains a great equipment choice that has changed only very slightly over the years — because it works so well. You’ll find the original versions of these jackets at Langlitz, Shott and several other pioneering leather companies. Similarly, you’ll find the original British waxed cotton Belstaff and Barbour rider’s jackets and pants still being produced in their original patterns because they also remain excellent functional rider’s gear.

The ‘latest-greatest’ is usually more style and fashion based, and the original equipment is nearly always more utility-tool based. It does not change from year to year any more than Levi’s 501’s. Many riders are unlikely to admit they are buying ever-changing fashion and style when they believe they are getting some kind of improved technology, but that is a truth.

Change of Mind

(Note: Paolo Volpara wrote this article in August 2010 as an internal OMM memo. I wanted to share it with you as I don’t think it is that internal. It is an interesting piece of reading about the philosophy behind OMM’s existence. It is also interesting to see how it is still valid today.. – Attila Algan)

When, in the now distant Turkey of 1998, we decided to start a group of riders we considered the idea of defining OMM as “Bikers with Brain”. We also designed a primitive logo that thanks to God and to a sense of aesthetic never saw the light. Similarly, we never used the tag-line considering it too presumptuous if not insulting. The message in any case was, for all of the founders, clear: brain is and remains the best accessory for the bike. An accessory for responsible and competent riding but also a tool for applying intelligence to our role of Bikers.

Motorcyclists, we know, are a strange breed: on one side we represent the extreme of individualism in a mass oriented society. We ride alone, we ride when other humans stay put at home, we travel isolated in our helmets.

On the other hand we are community animals: although my father told me not to speak with people I have not been properly introduced to, I do not mind to start chatting with a perfectly unknown person if he/she is on a bike.

Brain plays a big role in our individual responsibility toward fellow riders belonging to the community. As “good riders” we have an obligation to share our discoveries, to help the new comers into our sport, to support all riders in any possible form. For this reason, I have been always active in clubs or associations… for this reason years ago we founded One More Mile Riders Istanbul.

At the end, my dear friends, it is not enough to ride. We all should dedicate time, resources and efforts in sustaining the Biker Community, a group with no frontiers, no rules, no limits but with an active, creative and generous Brain. And with style. Nothing more depressing than few of the 2010 OMM favorite activities:

  • Envy among fellow riders and competition for power within the group
  • Repetition of concepts, forms and events in a liturgical fashion without new contributions (Theory lessons that repeat the 2004 script for the thousand times to an audience that already know the concepts by memory)
  • Presumption of being safe… professional… correct… expert… exemplary…
  • Teaching attitude without knowledge
  • Riding pretensions without curiosity and culture

All these mortal sins not only depress the content of what the club can bring to the community (no new ideas from OMM since 2005) but also bring the LEVEL of STYLE to the vulgarity of diamond encrusted underwear.

In this stupid way the class act of “riding OMM” became the plastic copy of a Biedermeier cupboard. No more style, no more brain, no more fun … but still one more mile.

What we need is a change of people or, if possible, a change within people.

By taking the initiative of considering the group the personal space for the creativity, the blank canvass for exciting painting, the block of marble with the statue waiting to come out.

OMM as the joy of new and exciting experiences born out from rider’s mind.

To do so all that is needed is a brain… and a bike (in order of importance)

175 mph (280 kph) on a pushrod 650 twin with 40-year-old parts built by Turkish engineer

I got an invitation to take a look at the achievement of a young engineer of Turkish origin who “obliterated the SCTA record (South California Timing Association) by 25 mph at the Mojave Mile, on an airport runway.

The article was signed by Mark Gardiner and it gave me the opportunity to revisit his blog where provides insight into motorcycle racing, history, and industry news. Isle of Man TT racer, Mark Gardiner is as well author of “Riding Man”

You can read the full of it at Revzilla while enjoy some selection”

“My friend Dan’s pickup truck rattled to a stop near a dusty bungalow in Shadow Hills, a neighborhood on the north side of Los Angeles, tucked up under the 210 freeway, with an inexplicably rural/small-town vibe. The door of the two-car garage was open. Maybe that was part of why it didn’t feel like L.A. to me. Whoever lived here wasn’t afraid of prying eyes seeing a garage full of tools and bikes.

“This is Alp,” Dan said. Alp shook my hand with less than total enthusiasm. I wasn’t sure whether he was shy or already worried that another journalist was probably going to get the technical details wrong. But he seemed to grudgingly accept that when your Triumph 650 goes 175 miles an hour, unfaired, strangers will show up, wanting to talk.

Alp Sungurtekin is 42 but doesn’t look it. He grew up in Turkey and Germany and studied industrial design in Istanbul, where he operated a tattoo studio. He moved to the United States in 2002 and got a job working for a naval architect. That might not seem like a good prelude to building motorcycles, but the R&D department where he worked had a full fabrication workshop, where he taught himself how to make the things he designed. With new skills in hand, he began building and racing Triumphs at Southern California Timing Association events…Over the years — and after making many, many land speed runs trying idea after idea — he formed his own notions of what a true land speed racing motorcycle should be. That tiny, tiny motorcycle was up on a work stand in the garage as I interviewed him. “This is an A-PF 650-class machine,” he said. “A means special construction, P means pushrod, and F means fuel. It’s a top fuel motor, running on 90 to 100 percent nitromethane.”

“Special construction” means it’s not a factory frame. Alp designed and fabricated the chassis himself, from chromoly tubing. It looks a bit like a vintage drag bike; too short, too light, and too lacking in rear suspension to fit in as a land speed racer… The motor’s built up on Thunder Engineering pattern cases…The head began life as a 1964 alloy Triumph item…

Land speed racers are generally pretty open about stuff you can see. They’re more evasive when discussing inner workings: porting, cams, mag timing… “It’s not a secret,” Alp told me when I asked questions about those things, “but I don’t talk about it.”

He had planned to run it at Bonneville, but the salt was lousy all last year. So he broke it in at the Mojave Mile, on an airport runway, where it obliterated the SCTA record by 25 mph. “People who are 50, 60 years old have been doing this for years, and they move the record up one or two miles an hour,” he told me. “You can imagine that I show up, with my funny accent…” His voice trailed off, but then he added, “There was this one guy, a BSA racer, with a streamliner. He made a post listing about 10 things that are wrong with my bike: the bore/stroke ratio, the angle of the inlet tracts… I told him, ‘Can you imagine if I did it right?’”

To put this in perspective, a couple of years ago, Shunji Yokokawa set an official record for the fastest production 600 cc motorcycle. That’s one of Honda’s top R&D engineers, on a Honda CBR600RR. He went 170.828. Alp went faster than that, on a motorcycle with a cylinder head, among other components, older than he is.

Alp pretty much always has a customer project or two in the garage, as well… For his next trick, Alp wants to break into the 200 Club on a partial streamliner powered by one of his 650 cc pushrod twins. That would make him the first guy ever to go that fast on a “sit-on” motorcycle (as opposed to a full streamliner). He’s already sketched out the bodywork, which will be all aluminum he plans to hand-form himself…

Bike is a drug that I choose…

Laura Buitron @chickamotorunner

I’m not ashamed to say that my soul was broken before I started this trip a year ago, I know a bike is “only” an object & there are much more important things in life that a material belonging. But my bike has being my cocoon, my safe home, what represents me, my solace, my challenge, the instrument that helped me to find myself & my path again … No matter where or what I’m riding, or even if I’m not riding; I know that riding is my therapy and helps me to be a better person … and I choose that drug & addiction over any other one!

ESSENTIAL LIBRARY: “one of the most widely respected books on safe street riding.”

Life is turning complicated and the technology that is designed to make every task easy adds more elements to the difficult equation. Then, man adds further barrier to simple, easy living. Planning a traditional ride from Istanbul to Katmandu is today a nightmare of” consulate paperwork and libido” submitting the adventurous rider to the will of presumptuous officials. All this may discourage the most adventurous and it instill the idea that the requirements for a two-wheels adventure are high, expensive and out of reach of most. Fortunately, we still have minimalist and luddites riding “on just an average smallish bike, with some simple luggage and gear, unsupported and independently, capturing in this way the most time-honored essences of motorcycling. This month two books on the same subject: Lightweight Touring Book” is a 14 pages of essential and reference information to keep on the bike if you are travelling solo, light and camping. “Adventure Motorcycling Handbook

By Chris Scott inventor of term “adventure motorcycling”. Bike mods, what to bring, as well as paperwork and riding techniques are all covered in this well-written and authoritative 6th edition book.


When not listed differently all books are available in English on line at Aerostich

  1. Motorcycle Roadcraft: The Police Rider’s Handbook to Better Motorcycling (available in Turkish at OMM)
  2. “Full Control” (available in Turkish at OMM)
  3. “Total Control: High Performance Street <Riding Techniques by Lee Parks (available in Turkish at OMM)
  4. “The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles” by Melissa Holbrook Pierson
  5. “The Upper Half of the Motorcycle: On the Unity of Rider and Machine” by Bernt Spiegel
  6. “Bodies in motion” by Steven L. Thompson
  7. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig
  8. “Proficient Motorcycling: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well” by David Hough
  9. (and 9 bis): “Lightweight Touring Book” by Aerostich – “Adventure Motorcycling Handbook” by Chris Scott

Life is a race and we do not know our position

There was something wrong and it was me. The ride did not click as it normally does and I felt really uneasy with a glooming sense of incoming mistake. And the group was riding briskly, making goodprogress on the roads skirting the south side of the Kakcar mountains in North Anatolia. Not good to ride with an albatross round the neck and better to stop, examine, think.

I left the group go and while they were passing by my side I realized where the problem was (at least for me). Positions on the group were assigned by the leader of the ride and he placed the fastest rider at the head followed by riders ranked in decreasing skills. Obviously the ones in lesser position felt challenged and a competition ignited to keep up with the “best”.

And nothing spells worst than a competition in a group of “macho” riders: the spirit of the ride became challenging for all and unsettling for my taste.

While the God-of-the-Ignorant protected the ride, it was a good opportunity to consider the damage that the concept of “competition” creates in our life.

Competition in modern times starts early with kids denied of the right to freely play in order to satisfy the “ambitions” that parents have on them. It continues with an educational system that is based on competition with grades, classifications, numbers or letters used to define the humans. The working environment solidifies the competition culture with positions, titles, ranks, medals and bonuses. With goals to be reached at all costs.

The violent meaning of competition entered the sacred area of sport distorting the vision of Pierre de Coubertin founder of the modern Olympic games: “The most important thing in the Olympiad is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well”.

Now it is sufficient to spend little time in front a TV channel dedicated to sport to see how distorted is the concept of winning or loosing: every point scored or every “victory” is celebrated as a triumph over the opponents, enmity among “rival” is fostered by the media as element of entertainment, excess and extreme is the name of the game with many sports looking more as circus events than enjoyable achievements.

And the virus of competition poisons daily life: It is not enough to succeed: others must fail and social media ram the sentiment of “revenge” home. All friends, in all applications, are better than you or they are doing better than you… you have to race and to compete even when choosing where and who with to spend the next weekend.

Competition is fuelled by vain ambition: by the desire to look better, to be different, to be superior.

In old (not so old) times the word “ambitious” was considered a negative element of human character: now is the pearl in any CV. The Cambridge dictionary defines ambitious as “having a strong wish to be successful, powerful, or rich” and I believe it is a very correct definition. And so ambition and egocentric, individualistic competition push the biker to take risks in front of the group, push the riders on the back to try above their skills, push the group in a territory where limits are not considered, respect is not paid and kindness is considered weakness.

Closed the side stand, turned the key and started the bike: I will meet the group at the next stop while enjoying the journey not the race.

At the end to enjoy life and bike “is to leave the streets, convenient but misleading, the idols of this world: the success at all costs, the power at the expense of the weak, the thirst for wealth, pleasure at any price

New Year’s biking resolutions Face to face (or on your knees) with the bike

“PROGRESS” is the magazine of LAM (London Advanced Motorcyclists) one of the largest group associate with IAM in UK. You can learn more about the exemplary activity of these bikers on the LAM web site where you can also read about a ride in Turkey done this summer by one of the members. Among the interesting articles of the last issue I present an excerpt of “New Year Biking Resolution” that invites to become more acquainted with the vehicles we ride.

With the dawn of a new, fresh and exciting year riding your motorcycles here are some resolutions

For some of you, your New Year resolutions might be to give up smoking, lose weight, actually use your gym membership……And on the other hand below are several you might just keep.

  1. Regular Maintenance. Keeping to a regular maintenance schedule is easier said than done. Firstly, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ve got to learn. It’s far cheaper in the long run to invest the time and energy to learn what’s going on behind the fairings; a set of tools and a manual cost infinitely less than a professional mechanic and their time, so start the New Year by tackling the smaller tasks yourself.   A fortnightly inspection can go a long way; you can nip problems in the bud   before they become major issues, you can learn what makes your machine tick and you can have a lot of fun doing it. Get the tools, buy the manual, join a forum and be prepared to watch a lot of instructional videos online.
  1. The Regular Wash. A regular bike wash is an essential part of keeping your motorcycle healthy. Keeping your bike looking like a million dollars is pleasing to the eye but a wash provides more than just aesthetic value. A regular wash will certainly keep your paintwork in shape but your chain, rubber pipes and metal work will thank you the most. A chain needs to be cleaned thoroughly any clinging dirt particles on your metal work will breed corrosion. By giving you bike a decent wash at least once a month you can keep your motorcycle healthy AND get a close look at any potential trouble spots that might develop in future.
  1. Ride To Work. Of course, there are jobs that aren’t ideal for motorcyclists but fortunately, they are few and far between. Riding to work instead of driving adds a new dimension to the day: most people hate the drive to work, so make it better with an awesome ride and you’ll arrive at work refreshed, energized and wide awake. Riding home is great too; it’s the perfect way to leave any trouble and stress at the office rather than bringing it home with you. See the ride to and from work as a bit of meditation; it’s good for you. Ride in ALL weathers. If you’re a bit timid about riding when the rain starts to fall, it’s time to man up and challenge yourself. Riding in the rain and strong winds can be a pain but that’s no excuse for avoiding it altogether. You’re missing out on a whole load of important riding skills and experience. Don’t let the weather dictate your next ride… go out and learn some new tricks. (For more about Ride to work click here)

Obituary for Selim Demirel

Monday, February 20, 2017
An important part of the family of One More Mile died yesterday. All friends of OMM are invited to spend a minute of silence to remember Selim Demirel and his soul. Below my instant memory of Selim.

A cold January 2003 on top of Karamursel – Selim is last on the right in HWYellow

“What I felt as we completed the ride was a deep feeling of satisfaction which actually resulted from a state of peace of mind rather than a feeling of success” Selim Demirel wrote to me these simple worlds in 2001 and they stayed with me portraying the man he was: a modern stoic aiming to improve the only possession he had, the self now gone.

I met Selim at the end of the last century since we shared a common passion on motorcycling: it did not take me too long to discover that the complex humanity of Selim was crossing many interests, passions and competences on the other side of biking.

I have long lasting and vivid memories of him on the road but more memories belong to the time spent exchanging knowledge, experience and personal stories.

Selim was passionate about history and about travelling combining geography, history and motorcycling. While travelling to see and learn from the antiquity of Turkey, we talked for long hours about the meaning of life, the destiny in front of us, the lessons to be learned: we shared more than miles, more than knowledge, more than time.

Selim, as all great humanists, was a man of kindness and compassion: building and giving with love to Basak, his wife, to the family and to friends.

Yesterday night it was hard for me to sleep and the pain was unstoppable inside. I know why: Selim built a big space in my mind and in my spirit and now this space is empty and no word nor memory will ever fill it up. From now on all will be different.

Requiescat in pace