Today is the day that four Turkish cyclists will depart from Copenhagen on a 2530km Journey of Hope towards Vienna. Tour leader Feridun Ekmekci is our designated “Forrest Gump” who is gathering a lot of “company” to join him on the road. But he also has three dedicated teammates who will complete the entire journey with him: Adnan Cangir, Aysel Ataş and Meliha Kaya. With 31 days on the road ahead of them, we asked what made them fall in love with long distance cycling and what keeps them on track.
For Adnan Cangir it is the second year in a row that he is embarking on a pan-European bike tour with teammate Feridun Ekmekci. Just two days after the team arrives home in Turkey at the end of the tour, he will be back in the lecture theatre at Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University. But he doesn’t mind – after all, that’s where his passion for cycling began, when his students gave him a gentle nudge towards active transport.
“I started to really use my bike when one of my students commented on the fact that I had a very old car. He made me think about how I was acting and I started riding my bike more and more, today I hardly ever use a car,” Adnan says.
After seeing and feeling the benefits of cycling every day, he was hooked.
“The longer I travel by bike, the more confident I feel. The idea that I will do this [tour] pushes me further, but also that I will do it without polluting the environment motivates me.”
This year, Adnan will update us regularly on the team’s adventures for the NowWeMOVE blog. Last year’s guest blogger, Emel Calkam, is sitting out the 2016 event, but two more women have grasped the opportunity to join the NowWeBike team and test themselves, Aysel Ataş and Meliha Kaya.
“I feel proud to be part of this team. I always wanted to do a really long tour, and this is a really good team so I am excited for the tour to start,” Aysel says, remembering her shaky introduction to cycling in one of the world’s most cycle-friendly counties.
“I was eight when I moved to Holland. When I got my first bike I fell, several times, but in the end I learnt it on my own. Now biking is a natural part of me.”
Meliha is an experienced long-distance cyclist, despite only returning to cycling after her retirement from work.
“I had bikes as a child, but when I started working there was never the opportunity. But when I retired I found the time again, and I started participating in long tours,” she says.
Like tour leader, Feridun, these cycling “warriors” can’t wait to start the journey and inspire people along the way.
“I love cycling and the NowWeMOVE campaign is a great way to promote physical activity to society,” Adnan says.
“To encourage others to do physical activity is a great idea. People shouldn’t only bike because they have extra time, they should make it a daily part of their lives by commuting.”
Find out more about the team on the official Journey of Hope website – they are ready to meet you along the route!
By Rachel Payne and Fredrika Germundsson
The Journey of Hope is co-funded by the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Sport programme and promotes the #BeActive message.