Riding

Talking Turkey with a Vespa.

It’s 30 degrees in the shade here in Turkey, and they don’t ride in leathers.

They don’t ride much in the way of big bikes either. The largest I’ve seen has been a lone R1200GS. The rest? Much, much smaller. 125 is the norm, with everything from obscure Chinese reverse-engineered CG125s to the occasional Jawa.

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But almost everyone rides. I’ve seen 9 year olds gunning faded and scraped 50cc Motobecanes that must have been shipped here in 1959. There are leathery-tanned old guys with half the family plus shopping and a gas cylinder on a Honda Melody. And there are teenage girls looking cool-as on their no-licence-no-tax electric bikes, mobile phones clamped to their ears.

No leathers, no gloves, no helmets. Heat stroke is a certainty, a crash a mere likelihood. Theft isn’t much of a concern. Keys left left in so long they seize in place. There are bikes propped up everywhere and they’re the staple way of getting around and transporting anything you like.

All you do is ride the wrong way down the one way street (ideally with your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband perched casually on the back), bounce up the pavement, flick the stand down and walk away.

Alternatively, stop in the centre of one of Dalyan’s main streets, park up and chat to your pal as the last-legs Renault 9s and shiny white Tata Fiat clones weave slowly around you.

A We-know-bestminster parking stormtrooper would be filing a personal injury claim for ticket-elbow in about three minutes – just before the local population quietly explained that we don’t do it that way here and isn’t it time for an apple tea or two?

But some things are absolutely no different.

I watched a lad on one of the comparatively rare Vespas this morning. Standard-issue kit of flip-flops, sun-faded t-shirt, shorts and a grin. He was on one of the stretches of Tarmac, and, as it opened out he did likewise with the throttle. Pulling back on his battered moped’s bars, he executed a series of perfect, ski-style carve-turns, the tyres digging into the soft bitumen as he swung the bike from side to side. As he rode, swooping, towards me, I could see his smile of pure joy on his face. He passed, with a yelled “merhaba!” and a gravelrash-risking, casual wave. I waved back with a grin just as big and watched him snake his way up the mountain road out of sight, still flicking his machine from side to side.

It really doesn’t matter what you ride.

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