Experience: Driving in Turkey

Driving in Turkey is challenging. Although the roads are mostly very nice, the driving habits of the local drivers are outrageously bad. According to Lonely Planet: Turkey, Turkey is statistically the world’s number one when it comes to the annual number of motor vehicle accidents.

Now, by saying bad driving I do not by any means imply reckless driving. Or fast driving. Or outlaw driving. I mean just that — bad driving! There is driving outlaw, when you break the laws but still know exactly what you’re doing. And then there is just simple bad driving — when you have no idea, do not check your mirrors, drive in the middle of the lane without being aware of the surrounding vehicles, break unexpectedly, and, perhaps most annoying of all, honk your horn twenty milliseconds after the traffic light turns green. Give it a second!!!!

Yielding? Forget about it! Turn signals? I think the total amount of times I’ve seen anyone use their turn signals on an intersection for a week in Istanbul did not exceed 10. No, I am not missing a zero there!

I always thought that the Armenian drivers are really bad. We definitely break the rules when we feel like we realize what we are doing, and we like driving fast. But driving in Turkey is like a race of survival — there is absolutely no way anyone anywhere can convince me that a bus driver who pulls his wagon straight on a motorcycle at his right possibly knows what he is doing. He just does not appear to give a damn even to check his mirrors. And the worst part is, the police does not seem to be doing anything about it. They just accept it as a fact of life.

If I were to be the head of traffic police in Turkey, I would declare all driving licenses void and start a new process of harsh driving exams. You know you are doing something wrong, when in a neighboring country where the vast majority just buys their driving licenses without any exam at all, people drive better by degrees.

However, speeding on a freeway is punished harshly. When a policeman gives you a ticket for exceeding the speed limit by 3 km/h, you just wanna scream your lungs out — “Dude, have you been to Istanbul?!” But he writes the ticket anyway, and I have noticed that a lot of Turks get the speeding tickets. Also, it goes without saying, there does not even remotely appear to be any corruption when it comes to driver–officer interactions.

The pedestrians are a different story. You think in Yerevan people cross the street wherever and whenever they feel like? Meet Istanbul. It is like an arcade game called “Dodge the Kamikaze”, and it gets pretty old and stressful after several minutes. If I had to live in Istanbul (which I would absolutely love to) and commute on a vehicle to work every day, after about a month I would probably become some sort of a disturbed psychotic maniac.

Now the good news: the roads, on the other hand, are mostly extremely nice. Their quality may vary inside towns, but the freeways are very good, and the signage/markings is great. Closer to Istanbul area they are nearly perfect. After driving for about 3,500kms, I did not encounter a single pothole. It just impresses you when you see the process of laying down the roads in Turkey. I know some Turks complain about the quality of their roads, but they should know that their roads are not worse, if not better, than those in California..

One thing to watch out for on the roads is the reason of my accident. This is, in fact, a good tip, that I would appreciate to have before starting my journey.

In cities where it does not rain very often, the exhaust gases from the cars’ pipes come out and accumulate on the tarmac. I do not understand why we don’t have that problem in Armenia, but in cities like Erzurum or Malatya at some point you feel like riding on ice, not asphalt. For cars it is perhaps not a big issue, but for a two-wheel vehicle it is very easy to skid or lock the wheels. Always watch out for that and drive slowly on slippery surfaces!

Also I am assuming that if rain started with the road being in that condition, it would just be wise to pull over and wait for about 15 minutes till the nasty layer of chemicals is washed off the surface.

And the final tip is, when driving in Turkey, stretch your imagination and expect everything from every member of the traffic. I mean it.

Driving in Turkey has definitely made me sweat. But it was also a good exercise of defensive driving and good reaction. If you are into that kind of stuff, you may actually come to enjoy it!

Washing Your Motorcycle in Yerevan

Even if you buy a brand new motorcycle and drive it off the stand from the official dealer store, sooner or later it will require a good wash. Even if you are that one lucky rider who has never been caught riding under the rain during the last 25 seasons, even if your garage is more sterile than the 8th Hospital in Zeytun (hey it’s totally feasible!), and even if you take a shower every time before saddling it, if you’re riding it you’ll get it dirty (no pun intended).

Tsakhkadzor, about 500km after the purchase
Tsakhkadzor, about 500km after the purchase

Moreover, if you just love doing it in dirt and gravel, the need to wash it will rise a lot more often than if you’re one of those cafe racer dudes with a Fireblade.

And by often I mean pretty damn often.

Urtsadzor, dirts of Khosrov Forest
Urtsadzor, dirts of Khosrov Forest

So what do you do when the time comes? You know, when the rear suspension doesn’t work anymore because of all the dirt, the leather saddle and the handlebar grips conveniently stick to your pants and gloves like a candy, the turn signal button no longer works because of all the sand around, the mirrors show a blurred vision of a drunk person distantly resembling the reality behind you and she suddenly comes up with all these different reasons why she does not want to ride today? From that point (as well as from any ride that is more than 300km in Armenia) you have two options.

Option number one

Wash your motorcycle. Get some water running (better warm than cold), some dishwashing liquid detergent, a sponge and a bucket.

  • Make sure the engine is not very hot
  • Start with splashing buckets of water to essentially get the motorcycle very wet
  • Spray the running water and try to get off as much dust and dirt by spraying as possible
  • Get more water in the bucket and soap it using the detergent
  • Starting with the top (the mirrors), go down sponging and soaping all the parts, taking care of the dead bugs and paying attention to every detail. Avoid rubbing the sponge against big pieces of dirt or sand, as this will scratch the paint.
  • Clean the motorcycle chain using a commercial chain cleaner available in many stores including Honda’s Yerevan Dealership
  • Rinse the bike using running water
  • Let the motorcycle rest for a couple of minutes
  • Dry it using a damp cloth
  • Lubricate the chain!
  • Go on a ride to dry off the remaining parts (enjoy)!

One thing to keep in mind is, do not direct high-pressure water on the carburetor, the front fork suspension rings or the engine radiator. These parts can easily be damaged by that.

Option number two

Have someone else wash your motorcycle. Many riders are feeling very strongly against someone else washing the motorcycle. Moreover, there is a shared belief that washing the motorcycle at a commercial no-contact car wash (aka “Karcher”) will damage some parts because of the extremely high-pressure water and air. However, in reality things are not so grim, if you take necessary precautions and warn the washer about some specifics.

Commercial no-contact car washes have two big advantages:

  1. They do not accumulate any scratches to the paint, simply because pressurized air is used instead of a sponge
  2. They are quick

Warn the fellow to not direct the stream of water at the radiator, the carburetor and the front fork UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES and always stay to supervise what’s he doing. Then pay your 2000 drams and get done with it.

I am personally going to this typical Yerevan car wash in a yard at Grigor Lusavorich street where a guy named Galoust (he’s in the photo above) has become my own personal bike washing expert. Here is where the place is located:

View Bike Wash in a larger map

Tell Galoust I said hi!

The most beautiful church in Armenia, part 1

Second part can be found here, or you can read both together.

Yerevan - NoravankSunday was the first ride of the Season and it was decided that we were going to Noravank. Comprised of two XIII century churches St. Astvatsatsin and St. Karapet, I consider the whole monument on top of the gorge one of the most beautiful and St. Astvatsatsin perhaps the most beautiful church on the territory of the present Armenia.

Weather.com predicted a high of 16°C for the day and we figured it would be tolerable for a ride of ~260km wearing sweatshirts. There were some morning showers reported, so we decided to head out of Yerevan past noon. The air itself was so chilly in the wind that at some point we contemplated turning right to Khor Virap, which would slash our trip, leaving less than a quarter of the planned mileage. However, at the crossroads to Khor Virap we decided to stick to the plan.

Something that I just discovered near Khor Virap is that along the M2 road there are many stork nests built on top of the lightposts. The nests are huge and they look like hats for the wooden posts, and there is a stork standing in almost every one of them—looks awesome! The storks gave me a pleasant flashback to my childhood when they were somehow directly associated with Armenia in my perception, albeit being a child in Yerevan I had never even experienced a real encounter with a stork!

So we rode all the way to Yeraskh, which is of course the standard rest point where we took a Snickers & Bounty candybar break. I was eager to find an ‘extra large’ Snickers instead of the regular size, so we started traversing through all the local stores (which are really just old cargo containers turned into shops by cutting windows and doors into them).

And here we witnessed something extraordinary! There were other tourists taking a break in the area besides us, who I presumed were from Iran and were returning back after celebrating Novruz in Yerevan. Among these were two tan guys in mid twenties in one of the stores where we were looking for the large Snickers, and as all Iranians do in Armenia they were shopping for alcohol. These two in particular were going for some scotch and a bottle of Armenian brandy. While choosing and checking their goods out, they were chatting to the store owner, an old woman in her 70ies. A foreign speech catches anyone’s ear, especially if you are standing within half a meter of the speech source in a long–lost rural area in Armenia, and so I was trying to figure out how could that old woman speak Farsi so fluently, when it suddenly struck me—the speech sounded a lot more like Turkish than Persian! The guys paid for the goods and left, leaving an atmosphere of excitement in the dirty cabin and a sincere melancholic smile on the old woman’s face who obviously didn’t smile that often. I was already pretty shocked, and so I followed:

“Would you give me a large bar of Snickers?” I asked suspiciously.

After a short pause, the old woman replied with a mildly nostalgic voice, “I don’t have the large ones… You can have these, which are smaller…” At this point I realized the woman had a thick Baku accent. She seemed super nice, too.

“So, what’s up with those guys?” I tried to sound casual and careless.

“Ah, young Azerbaijanis… Came to visit from Iran. I used to live in Baku, before coming here… [pause] Still remember the language… not so well.” The woman too sounded suspicious but casual. “Had to check the amount by writing it down on a paper to avoid a mistake…” At this point she kept smiling like a kid who knows he’s done something wrong and yet enjoyed the experience.

“Thanks!” I replied.

I was feeling pretty confused. We walked out of the container and I told Nariné, although she was standing by me all the way:

“Those guys were Azeris…”

Second part can be found here, or you can read both together.

Crossposted: First flight of the year by Nariné

I took the motorcycle out of the winter storage today. I am delighted to have the first actual riding post a full crosspost from Nariné:

In the pitch black of the night we are flying together occasionally passing half drunk young men driving their SUV’s home unsteadily, from whatever questionable deeds filled their Saturday night.  They look like they want to race, but there is no catching us.  We are flying.

The sound of the engine fills the sleepy streets of the city.  I wonder what goes on behind the very few brightly lit windows that watch over the slumbering city like sentinels. I want a glimpse into the secrets that are hiding behind the curtains.  But we are flying so fast that the windows are way behind us now.

The rain is lashing us sideways, as if punishing us for missing our bedtime yet again.  The city feels so close and so familiar, the way it can only feel late at night.  And while we are flying It belongs to us.  I wonder if freedom tastes like dust in your mouth.

I feel like I’m meditating, concentrating on all and nothing: on the road that I can barely make out, on the twinkling lights far away in the distance, on the wind in my ears, on how comforting it is to hold on to you tight as the beast is revving and charging into battle under me.  I am reaching a Zen, Buddhist monks spend decades trying to achieve.  The only feeling I have is this sensation of flight and immeasurable freedom.

I now proclaim the 2010 motorcycle season open.

…so do I!

Trip: Odzun – Dilijan. Second Part. Ode to Jaguar.

In the morning we made more barbeque for our breakfast and started moving out. It was just about time because there were clouds gathering above and we thought we needed to outspeed the rain at all costs.

The first nasty thing happened just as I was riding out of the grain field — my bike slip off the edge and I hit a rock with the bottom of my oil tank, breaking two protectors. Fortunately no oil seemed to be leaking so we continued the way, though the incident really pissed me off.

We wanted to visit Haghpat on our way and take the Dilijan-Sevan road to Yerevan. So we headed for Haghpat and it was another amazing experience after yesterday – Alaverdi was such an amazing city with this heavy and addictive spirit of industrialism! Afterwards came Haghpat and the one word that came to my mind was — magnificent!

On the road from Vanadzor to Dilijan the rain started and it was pretty intense. This Vanadzor-Dilijan road, by the way, is great for some speedy riding: it is not straight and boring like the major highways in Armenia but with its minor curves it allows some nice pace. In Dilijan I was already pretty wet and had to take a cozy tea break with friends. But the rain was intensifying and the worst things lay ahead!

I changed my socks and got on the bike to ride the omnifamiliar Dilijan-Sevan-Yerevan sector. After thirty seconds I became as wet and uncomfortable as I was before my tea break. Then the rain got worse with more cars on the road and the trip became the wettest one in my life. I rode the Dilijan curves, up to the tunnel, then to the lake and just stopped as I physically could not ride no longer! My 50% waterproof leather coat completely gave up on the heavy rain and my shirt and pants felt like heavy cold water sponge all over my body. I was planning to just sit by the road and wait till the rain is over.

It was in this moment, when all hope had faded, that Jaguar, son of Alexander, took up his friend’s motorbike.

On the toughest part of the ride, with reported terrible storm and sheer cutting wind. Jaguar rode through it with no single piece of motorcycling gear except a helmet, leave alone any rain gear. The one thought that lingered in my mind at that time was that the bar of the capabilities of the human being are absolutely not where we foolishly think they are.

Through the insane conditions on the road and in the sky we finally made it to Yerevan for some shower and tea. The Odzun trip turned out to be an amazing experience and into amazing memories.

Riding Memories from Germany

My bike in Germany last year, the sexy Suzuki Bandit 600. It was crucial in my understanding of the naked street bikes followed by my purchase of Honda CBF.




There was a lot of rain those days, but my rides on the perfect tarmac of the german roads as well as the A2 Autobahn, travels through Gütersloh, Bielefeld,  Melle and Dortmund were unforgettable! I miss Germany a lot these days.

Here’s a Honda Rebel CA125 (my first motorcycle) in Gütersloh:


A  retro BMW:


A nice custom Honda in Bielefeld that belonged to the owner of the Polo motorcycle apparel store, an old woman of non-traditional sexual orientation who has generously shown me around the city:


And finally, an ubercool custom Harley in Dortmund:


Riding in Germany was a shit load of fun and I miss it badly. If you happen to visit it, don’t forget to rent a motorbike — it’s only about 200 euros a week!

Trip: Odzun – Dilijan. First Part.


I always thought that I rarely travel north of Armenia. I somehow always perceived “north” to be cold and unfriendly, preferring the dusty Artashat highway that is so plain it makes you yawn and sing to yourself, pondering about the eternity. Oh well.

So we hit the road last weekend on Saturday, riding a nice and tidy Yerevan-Vanadzor-Alaverdi-Odzun-Dilijan-Sevan-Yerevan trip with camping.

Now, anyone who has read Tumanyan probably has this perception of Lori as some sort of a fantasy place. And I was so surprised to find out that Lori is in fact a much bigger fantasy than I expected it to be! Now I don’t know if it was the lucky weather or the adrenaline from the exciting curves of the narrow road, but the whole experience was so beautiful and rich in colors that I couldn’t help my jaw being dropped! Continue reading “Trip: Odzun – Dilijan. First Part.”