Solo cycle touring tent Istanbul

Bristanbul - a journey by bike

By Joey Gompels

Long-distance cyclist Joey Gompels recounts his 3500km journey from Bristol to Istanbul, aided by the lightweight and stormproof Soloist tent.

Long distance cyclist Joey Gompels shares his story of riding 3500km from Bristol to Instanbul. Joey choose the single person Soloist tent for shelter during his adventure. Small, lightweight and stormproof he couldn't have chosen a better tent for cycle touring. Over to Joey...

One day before my first ever bike tour from Bristol to Istanbul, or ‘Bristanbul’, I decided my current tent wasn’t up to scratch. I popped into Alpkit Bristol, asked for advice on the best tent to take, and went for the Soloist. After 12 countries and several storms, I am pleased I jumped ship.

Alex and I started with a train from Bristol to Dover, where we took the ferry to Calais. Alex decided to join two weeks before I was due to leave, testament to his ingenuity and spontaneity. We met fellow cyclists embarking on similar journeys. We compared bikes and learned many valuable lessons from seasoned tourers. The destinations of our fellow tourers felt so far-flung, and yet I felt a reassurance from their confidence and experience in achievable unfathomable feats. Some were only going to Greece this time, nothing compared to their last trip to Japan.

Cave bivvy cycling to Instanbul

We weren’t in France long before we crossed the border onto the flat plains of Belgium, where we were able to make good ground despite our loaded bikes. Our brief stint in Holland was accompanied by a marching band early in the morning, which felt like a warm welcome and send-off rolled into one. The campsite manager had forewarned us that there might be some drums in the morning. This was something of an understatement.

Our long stretch through Germany was so varied, from the banks of the Rhine to the distant mountains in Munich, we were surprised by the variegated landscapes. As we approached Salzburg in Austria, we were mentally preparing ourselves for an intense week and for our highest point of the trip – crossing the Julian Alps. Our efforts up some 22% inclines were rewarded with panoramic views and winding descents into picturesque mountain villages. We amended our route through Slovenia to do both Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj, travelling through densely forested national parks until Ljubljana. Our love for wild camping certainly peaked in Slovenia, where the cost and availability forced us to be creative…

After Ljubljana, we headed towards Croatia, where we were greeted by flatter terrain and endless kilometres on the monotonous roads. The saving grace being our peloton and portable speaker. We longed for the pain and reward of the climbs in Austria and Slovenia. Shortly after the Croatian border with Serbia, we rested in Belgrade before pushing onto Sofia. Our lack of language skills were tested as we headed further east, relying more and more on hand gestures and Google Translate to ensure the burec was meatless, and the campsites were cheap.

Sofia was a milestone in the trip as it’s where Alex left me and I went solo, finally living up to the Soloist name. We’d done 2800 km together, from the fireman’s festival in Bavaria to the crystal clear lakes of Slovenia, our rhythms and revolutions had been synchronous and harmonious. We’d shared observations, food and laughter every day. From changes after crossing a border, language shifts on signs and changes in agricultural methods, to a comical level of codependency, I was sad to see him go.

After Sofia, I relied more on the hospitality of strangers and got a chance to use Warmshowers. Warmshowers is essentially couchsurfing for cycle tourists. You use it on the road to meet local cyclists, who host you at no cost, and then you return the favour when you are home again. In Edirne, I asked my host if I could bring anything, and he only wanted a carton of cigarettes. His generosity was worth far more. I turned 24 in Edirne, resting and visiting 14th century mosques in the morning and biting my nails at the Lionesses’ narrow loss in the World Cup Final in the afternoon.

Istanbul by bike

After 44 days of cycling and 3500 km, I arrived in Istanbul. I wasn’t alone and had found a newfound cycling companion and friend, Victor. As I rolled under the bridges connecting Europe to Asia, the scale of the journey started to sink in. The final days had proved mentally challenging. To think too much about the ending risked ignoring the hard work still to be done. The final two kilometres vindicated this worry as we crawled up gratuitous 15% inner city inclines. As Taksim Camii came into view, I wanted to cry with relief. I could finally enjoy the moment that I’d been replaying continuously in my head. I had found my finish line and, admittedly, a good photo opportunity.

You can follow Joey on Instagram @bristol_by_bike

Tents

Ultralight backpacking tent: 1-person, 2-3 season, sub 900g (2lb)
£249.99 £299.99
Lightweight, waterproof hooped bivvy bag weighing less than 1kg
£84.99 £99.99
Trekking pole tent for long distance backpacking: 1-person, 3-season, 980g
£99.99 £129.99
Innovative air pole tent great for bikepacking and hiking trips: 1-person, 3-season, 1.2kg
£135.99 £159.99
Innovative air pole tent great for bikepacking and hiking trips: 2-person, 3-season, 1.5kg
£169.99 £199.99
Ultralight backpacking tent: 1-person, 3-season, 1.2kg
£129.99 £149.99
Ultralight backpacking tent: 1-person XL, 3-season, 1.31kg
£139.99 £169.99
An ultralight, 1-person pyramid tarp tent that pitches using trekking poles.
£159.99
Ultralight pyramid tarp tent for backpacking: 2-person, 3-season, as light as 500g
£149.99 £179.99
Ultralight pyramid tarp tent for backpacking: 4-person, 3-season, as light as 771g
£169.99 £199.99
Spacious, backpacking tunnel tent: 2-person, 3-season, 3.2kg
£139.99 £159.99
Spacious, backpacking tunnel tent: 3-person, 3-season, 3.9kg
£149.99 £179.99

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