a piece from Allison and Chad’s blog….cycling friends we met in Istanbul


Istanbul has a history of being a great crossroads. The ethnic blend of the Turkish people in general is reminiscent of our own country and in the urban center-of-it-all this becomes even more distilled and obvious. Of course, this idea of “east meets west” is heavily marketed and commercialised in a city overflowing with tourists and, following a sojourn through more authentic places, this quickly rubbed us the wrong way. We have learned from living in a tourist area that every such place has a more realistic side where day to day life rolls on and the beauty of banality lies in open display. One day, while eating baklava and watching the throngs of tourists march by, two folks came along and opened the door to such a culture in Istanbul . (Shaun and Maarten)
Because the city is formed on two peninsulas separated by the Bosphorus, it is only natural that so many travellers would make their way through on their way to somewhere. This includes bike tourists who, while relatively few in number, seem to congregate wherever beer and tires are sold. Hence, as we watched two fellow dirtbags looking over our bikes we were quickly able to deduce that  they were indeed members of our own far flung tribe. After a brief conversation we were off together for the other side of the straight to an unassuming neighborhood where we would share two days of storytelling, information exchange, and the good natured comeradery that comes from mutual understanding. There are a lot of ways to see the world, only a few of us are doing it this way. This makes our path feel unusual at times in that we get a unique view of the places we visit while presenting a unique sight for the folks we meet. There is also an air of freedom amongst cyclists that does not seem to pervade in the tourist crowd at large. Perhaps this is due to the self sufficiency or the feeling that we are somehow embodying the changes we wish to see in our world… Perhaps. But more so this feeling, this sense of adventure seems to be rooted in the very nature of our endeavor. When we commit to travelling this way, we are making a move that contraindicates obligations, embraces difficulties that conventional vacations are designed to steer around, and in doing so places us at the mercy of everyday people and everyday circumstances. Most of us assume that the banal, the mundane, and the industrial are filled with a timeless beauty that fully reveals itself at the pace of a bicycle. The few walkers we meet (and we do meet them, walking from, say, Paris to Jerusalem) would say that even this is much too fast.
Spending a few days with members of our own mental breed was revitalising. It is always nice to meet others who have cast aside traditionalisms for the sake of life on their terms. The time we shared was filled with laughs, discussions, and fresh ideas. The stuff that good diplomacy is made of; eating smoked muscles on the stairs, washing them down with cold beer, in the company of youth from a legion of nations. The stories of our elders tell us that these moments were so empowering. They still are. This life is timeless………

About the bikes

Shaun is riding a night blue Santos Travelmaster, with a custom built cromoly steel frame. It’s a derailleur bike (can’t afford a rohloff speedhub) with 26inch wheels – hand built  rim with 32 spokes, shimano XT hub, schwalbe marathon extreme tires, shimano LX shifters, 29 speed shimano XT drivetrain and XT derailleur, brooks B17 saddle, tubus rear rack, and bad ass mud gards. She is a lovely lady and her name is Dervla aka old blue.

Maarten is riding a black Santos Travelmaster 2.6 alu, custom built aluminium frame. Unfortunately i ain’t won the lottery yet so its also a derailleur for me and dreaming about the rohloff speedhub.  Features are all the same as Shaun’s lady.  Grace Jones is a bike one can count on..  She already showed her dedication by getting me to Barcelona last summer.

Where are we going?

We are 2 bike freaks with the ambition to cycle all the way from The Netherlands to the Far East. Starting from Amsterdam, cycling through the middle east, and ending up in… We don’t know yet! There is no fixed itinerary nor a tight time schedule we have to stick to. Boundless amounts of pure freedom!

While enjoying our high about having that freedom, there is one thing we have committed ourselves to; returning a favor to the people we meet along the road. Unfortunately we can’t return it to everyone so that’s why we decided on picking one project we wish to make an effort for.

Boys school in Pakistan

Now you may think: “Ok guys, sounds cool but what does a cycling trip have to do with a boys school in Pakistan?” Well, nothing really… We just like to cycle and thought it would be a good way to highlight some of the problems of one of the countries we are passing through, and help the people. We are not the first ones doing something like this, by no means do we dare to say that we are doing something totally original, but that’s not really the point is it?

In a tiny village, not too far away from the hectic city of Lahore, there’s a school that can’t really be called a school. It’s a group of kids sitting beneath a tree in tempatures up to 40-45 degrees with no facilities at all. Their old school collapsed a couple of years ago and nowadays they’re left with nothing at all.

In Pakistan, especially on the countryside, illiteracy is widespread and so is child labor. Many children don’t have the opportunity to go to school and receive some basic education. This can also lead to a life of crime and drug abuse as Pakistan has a high number of young people addicted to heroin.

There is a Dutch/Pakistani Foundation that really cares for the fate of these children. Already they took care of building a school for girls (boys and girls go to separate schools in this region) that now offers education to some 250 girls. The boys are still waiting for theirs!

Let go of your image about what a school looks like in our countries.. We are talking about a tiny building with a little toilet section next to it. Nothing too special from our point of view but a blessing for those kids and a huge improvement that will make a great difference.

We believe that education is the most important attribute to development and making people stand on their own. The cycle of poverty has many different causes and may not be easily done away with but basic education is definitely a big step forward towards a better future.We want to help and hope you will to!


We are looking for people willing to sponsor our bike trip. ANY amount is welcome, even the price of having one less cup of coffee from starbucks or one less pint of beer from the bar on the weekend, it won’t make any difference in the quality your life but it will improve the lives of these kids in many ways! Each penny will go directly to the project. No bizarre overhead costs such as a director with a 5 number salary or expensive office equipment. Also your bikers promise they won’t buy any cold beers down along the road with your money. All will go directly to the boys in Pakistan!

How much do we need?

The total sum of how much it would cost to build the school would come down to some 18.000 Euro. However, the amount we can come up with will be doubled by a few generous organizations and so that would leave us with some 9000 Euro to collect. It is a lot of money but we will fight.. ehhmm.. bike for it! Let’s see what will happen……..

Can't Wait To Go!

We can’t wait to get moving. Today we are headed to a bike-shop where we are having a hands-on workshop on bike-repair. The guys at the shop where we bought one of our bikes were friendly enough to offer us some time in their workshop to see first hand all the stuff that comes along when you have to fix your bike.

Could come handy when we are somewhere in the middle of nowhere stuck with a broken handlebar.