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Pioneers – Leg 10 Giresun to Tbilisi

Who are the Pioneers?

All the riders who have participated in any of the very first nine legs of our UK to Sydney adventure are in an exclusive club called the ‘Ride25 Pioneers’.  Each year the Pioneers will be invited to complete the next leg for the very first time and raise money for 1moreChild.  Pioneers help to define the journey and adventure to Sydney.

2023 is Leg 10 (of 25 legs) from the UK to Sydney.  To get a flavour of the previous legs visit the Pioneer Photos and Pioneer Videos.

 

Snapshot of Leg 10

  • Dramatic, expansive and inspiring scenery in a mountainous region.
  • Sparsely populated region with mostly quiet well surfaced roads.
  • Stark cultural differences as we cycle from Eastern Turkey to Georgia.
  • Area under flux due to enormous dam infrastructure project – due for completion in early 2023.
  • Lots of tunnels but all well lit, quiet and well surfaced.
  • Final party in Cosmopolitan City of Tbilisi

See the whole route for Leg 10 below or you can click here for a full page map (Best viewed on a desktop).

 

 

 

Start:

Giresun – 07.30 Tuesday 20th June 2023.

Finish:

Tbilisi – 18.00 Sunday 25th June 2023.

Days Cycling:

6

Distance:

553 miles

Total climbing:

46,979 ft climbing

Road Surface

100% Tarmac

Max capacity:

70 cyclists due to lack of hotel rooms

Itinerary

We will be cycling for 6 days from Tuesday 20th June to Sunday 25th June 2023 inclusive.  You will need to arrive in Giresun on Monday 19th June and leave Tbilisi on or after 26th June 2023.

Pre-Start – Giresun 7.30pm 19th June 2023

Drinks and dinner on the terrace at the pre-start hotel (same hotel as the Leg 9 Finish La Quinta by Wyndham) on the night before the ride. It will be a great opportunity to register, pick up your shirts and see everyone again before the cycling begins the next morning.  Please note the hotel & Dinner is included on the night before we leave Giresun.

 


Day 1– Giresun to Gümüşhane – 96 miles, 8,900 ft total ascent

We begin in a group convoy with Police Escort along the Black Sea to the first coffee stop overlooking the sea in Tribal. We then turn right inland to go up the Giresun Mountains.  The day is a long a steady climb up to the mountain resort of Gümüşhane at 3,700ft. The roads are good condition and quiet with dramatic shear rock formations and an abundance of waterfalls. There are multiple tunnels but all bar one are well lit and quiet.

Day 1 – Full route including elevation profile, stops, photos & GPX EXPORT

Day 2 – Gümüşhane to Bayburt  – 61 miles, 4,849 ft total ascen

We start with a lie-in for undoubtedly the shortest day of all 10 legs so far.  We begin with a climb up to 6.700 ft in the first 20 miles through similar rock formations as day 1.  We then enjoy some gentle cycling in a very different landscape with large agricultural plains with snow capped mountains in the distance. Beautiful cycling on quiet roads all day.

Day 2 – Full route including elevation profile, stops, photos & GPX EXPORT


Day 3 – Bayburt to Yusufeli – 110 miles, 6.087 ft total ascent

One of the best days ever!  We spent the day following the fast flowing River Chorokhi and descend from a peak of 5,300 ft to 1,900 ft across the day.  The total climbing shown by RidewithGPS is often exaggerated due to the near vertical rock formations alongside the road often artificially inflating the climbing. On the recce the total elevation gain measured 4,800 ft but we also benefit from a massive elevation loss so we don’t expect the day be as hard as the distance suggests.

The town of Yusufeli is due to be flooded in early 2023 so will will need to stay in hotels that are 9 miles off the route. We will ferry some from Yusufeli to the hotel and back again the next morning. Final details will need to be decided nearer the time!

Day 3 – Full route including elevation profile, stops, photos & GPX EXPORT.

Day 4 – Yusufeli to Yavuzköy – 84 miles, 11,787 ft total ascent

Another quiet day in the mountains! The first half of the day is on newly constructed roads with plenty of tunnels and relatively flat until lunch at Artzin. We then have a climb out of Artzin and another long ascent throughout the afternoon until we reach a resort in the mountains at Yavuzköy. This will be the hardest day of the leg.

Day 4 – Full route including elevation profile, stops, photos & GPX EXPORT.

 

 Day 5 –Yavuzköy to Akhalalaki in Georgia! – 88 miles, 8,475 ft ascent

The day begins with a 3,500 ft climb over the first 13 miles to an elevation of 8,000ft! We continue much the same as day 4 on quiet mountain roads with dramatic scenery. We are finally rewarded with finishing the full length of Turkey as we cross the border into Georgia at a quiet boarder crossing alongside Lake Kartsakhi. We then cycle through the Javakheti National Park to our first Georgian evening in the small town of Akhalalaki.

Day 5 – Full route including elevation profile, stops, photos & GPX EXPORT.

 

Day 6 –Akhalalaki to Tbilisi – 111 miles, 6.873 ft ascent

We leave the small town of Akhalalaki and start are final day into Tbilisi.  It’s a relatively gentle day including lakes and the Algeti National Park. We are rewarded with a wonderful 13 mile long descent off the mountains into Tbilisi. In total we start at nearly 6,000 ft elevation and finish at 1,400 ft so the total miles will be offset by a lot of downhill.

Day 6 – Full route including elevation profile, stops, photos & GPX EXPORT.

 

Which hotels are we staying in?

More than in previous legs – the nature of the Ride25 adventure means that the routes and accommodation is dictated to by what the inventory of hotels looks like along our journey.  We are travelling through a very unpopulated part of the world so large hotels are scarce.

Most of the hotels serve alcohol except on night 2 – no alcohol is permitted in public places – we need to respect this.

Pre-Start – Giresun – 3* hotel with outdoor pool on the sea front.  La Quinta Hotel Giresun

Night 1 – Gümüşhane – 4* Modern hotel with Spa. Ramada Gumushane

Night 2 – Bayburt – 4* Modern hotel with Spa. Bayberd Hotel 

Night 3 – Yusufeli – 2 x 3* Hotels & Lodges – Agara Hotel & Eliya Pansiyon.

Night 4 – Yavuzköy – 2 x 3* Hotels nearby.  Green Valley Hotel & Black Forest Hotel

Night 5 – Akhalalaki – a collection of 10 x 1-2* hotels / guest houses around town and in the next town.

Night 6 – Tbilisi – 4+* Modern Hotel with pools, Spa etc. Radisson Blu Tbilisi.

There will be an element of logistical hassle on nights 3, 4 and 5 due to the location of the hotels. We will aim to all eat together every night.

It is possible that there are not enough single rooms for everyone who wants one on nights 3 and 5 – depending on final numbers and ongoing negotiation with the hotels.

How does the trip compare to previous legs?

This has been the hardest leg to organise with a very sparsely populated region, few places to stay and a limited choices of roads.  Circa 100 miles across days 3 and 4 are in the middle of the world’s fifth largest dam project ever undertaken.  The benefit is that large sections of the road have been rebuilt and often tunnelled through the mountain reducing the amount of climbing required.

It is not known if the town of Yusufeli will be under water or not when we travel but the current routes are effectively worst case in the event that we need to use the existing roads.  It is likely that the new roads will be complete by then which will reduce the climbing.

The climbing data is a little unreliable in places but we have used data from driving the route in these places to give as accurate a representation of the routes as possible.

We will be doing an average of 92 miles per day and 7,829 ft of climbing across 6 days so although the averages per day are no harder than in previous legs we need to keep it going for 6 days. There is no one day that is particularly fearful but some days are long and others have quite a lot of climbing. We also have to deal with the overall elevation that rises to over 8,000 ft in places.

One of the points of Ride25 is to use it as an excuse to stay fit – this is definitely the year to make sure you train for it.

Click for data on previous legs.

In total by the end of Leg 10 the journey so far is over 4,100 miles.

 

What is the route like?

As always the challenge has been to find interesting, quiet cycling on good tarmac with great scenery and good quality hotels. There is always an element of compromise, however the route is almost all very enjoyable with only small compromises required across the trip.

Traffic – 80% of the route is on very quiet roads with busier roads on the final day into Tbilisi.

Scenery – All 6 days have outstanding rural / mountainous scenery.

Dual Carriageway – the only dual carriageway is at the beginning of the first day – we will do this in convoy with a police escort.

Road Surfaces – these are good throughout except on day 3 when we leave the main road to get to lunch (circa 1 mile).

Tunnels – the whole route is mountainous and there are major dam projects in place across large sections of the route as a consequence there are a large number of tunnels mostly on day 1 and day 4.  These are almost all on quiet roads and are modern, well surfaced and well lit (apart from one tunnel).  The tunnels take out a lot of elevation gain and will be a rest from whatever weather we are faced with. There will be an imperative requirement to have working, HIGH quality front & rear lights for each day.  Most of the tunnels have two way traffic so a front light is important in the event that someone (illegally) overtakes in the tunnel.

 

Health & Safety and General wellbeing

As in Leg 9:

  • Cycling on the roads in Turkey in the dark even with lights is not safe.  The cycling is harder than Leg 9 but we expect everyone to finish by 6pm but we will pick up any cyclists at the afternoon coffee stop if there is a risk they would still be cycling in the dark.
  • Using RidewithGPS should further reduce any navigation issues and will enable easier diversions if required.
  • As in previous legs we will demand insurance details before you cycle – this is important so that we can contact your insurer in the event that you are unconscious and your next of kin is uncontactable or doesn’t know your insurance details.
  • We will also have a Paramedic and a Turkish Tour Guide on the crew again.

In addition we will encourage everyone to use a product like this to toughen up tummies for the journey. Endurance sport does put short term pressure on your body – particularly if you push it hard.  Coupled with eating food in local restaurants and hot weather there is clearly a higher risk than normal of attracting food poisoning.

There is no point in pushing too hard – enjoy the scenery you’ll never cycle these roads again. We will have 5 x 9 seater vehicles available too and you can be picked up without getting any abuse. We will also discourage drinking any water from taps or village fountains – better safe than sorry.

How will I navigate?

Same navigation suggestions as in Leg 9.

We request that everyone does both of the following:

1) RidewithGPS Phone App

This is far superior to Strava for navigation for the following reasons:

  1. Elevation data is accurate
  2. All routes can be downloaded at home and are available without roaming / data turned on
  3. All lunch / coffee stops are plotted including photos
  4. Detailed maps available if you get lost even with no signal
  5. High quality navigation setting including turn by turn prompts that enables you to navigate with ease without a Garmin (portable phone charger required)
  6. Zoomable elevation data visible

The routes are all provided on RidewithGPS.  You need to:

  • Download the App
  • Create a RidewithGPS account
  • Save the routes into you account –  Day 1.  Day 2.  Day 3. Day 4. Day 5. Day 6.
  • Download the routes on your phone in the App so they are available online / out of signal

You can still use Strava to track your rides but have RidewithGPS on your phone as a backup for navigation. If you are using RidewithGPS to navigate you will need a portable battery supply to get you through the day.

If you convert the RidewithGPS routes into Strava routes the elevation data will lose much of its accuracy.

 

2) Garmin / GPS 

As we are now out of Europe you may not have access to maps on your Garmin.  There is a great description here of how to download maps onto your Garmin for free.

As always we do not follow the quickest routes each day – the routes are planned to minimise busy roads and maximise the scenery and significant places. We also try to avoid poor road surfaces.

If using Garmin to prevent navigation problems please:

  • Follow a the route as a “Course”
  • Ensure that “Autocorrect” is turned off in your settings for each course
  • Do not “navigate to start” when prompted at the start of a ride

As usual Ride25 will provide a cloth map that will get you out of trouble if you are lost with no working devices but to navigate effectively you’ll need to use a Garmin or equivalent.

 

What do I wear?

Normal cycling attire is fine for both sexes across the whole route.  We recommend women cover their legs & shoulders in Turkey in the evenings and at coffee stops / meals.

Do I need to train?

YES.  553 miles cycling is a significant challenge for anyone particularly during a Turkish summer but as in previous years it is achievable. We highly recommend you follow a training schedule. 

As in previous years you can always call the support team if you need picked up at any point. We will have a total of 5 x 9 seater vans so that it is easier to get picked up if required.

In addition we will operate a sweeper system that means the crew will pick you up if you are too far behind the rest of the riders / are not going to make it to the finish before the sun sets.

The trip is in no way a race – everyone can take their time.  Breakfast will be at 06.30 each day so that you can leave early. Breakfast will be at 06.00 on the hardest day (Day 4) so that you can leave even earlier.

Flights

You will need to fly to an airport near Giresun.  The closest international airport to Giresun is Ordu-Giresun (OGU) which is circa 30 minutes transfer from the Hotel in Giresun. Turkish & Pegasus Airlines fly from OGU. Ideally find a flight which avoids changing airports in Istanbul – they are a long way apart with a bike box!

Alternatively you can fly to the larger airport of Trabzon (TBZ) which is circa 90 minutes transfer from the hotel in Giresun. There are multiple flights from the UK every day – generally with a connecting flight required in Istanbul. Use Ride25 Pioneer Sponsor Skyscanner to find the best deals.

You will also need to book a flight back from Tbilisi.

The fastest journey times from Tbilisi to the UK is circa 8 hours which is a great indication of the distance we’ve cycled so far!

 

What is the cost?

Cost: £1,200 per person with a single supplement of £400. As in all previous Pioneer trips this is a not for profit – ie the cost is a sum of the direct costs of running the trip only.

The price has gone up – a combination of a few factors:

  • It’s 3 years since we last priced a Pioneers tour and inflation in rampant particularly in Turkey
  • Leg 10 is 1 or 2 days longer than previous legs
  • The hotels are more expensive
  • Shirt costs have risen
  • We are no longer running with any volunteer crew
  • Logistics are more complicated / expensive with the border crossing

This includes:

  • 7 x nights accommodation in Giresun, Gümüşhane, Bayburt, Yusufeli, Yavuzköy, Akhalalaki and Tbilisi.
  • 7 x breakfast
  • 6 x lunch
  • 7 x dinner including celebration party in Tbilisi
  • 6+ manned support vehicles including 3 x bike mechanics, paramedic & turkish speakers
  • Transportation of bags each day to the finish
  • Transportation of bike boxes from Giresun to Tbilisi
  • Water, fruit and supplies in the vehicles
  • 6 x personalised cycling shirts – ensure you enter the correct shirt size when you register
  • 6 x GPS files of the routes
  • 6 x “get out of trouble” cloth maps

50% Deposit due on booking, balancing payment due in Feb 2023. No deposit refunds – any deposits forfeited and donated to 1moreChild if there is a surplus.

Please pay by Bank transfer only- you will receive an invoice with bank details when you register.

What’s not included?

  • Flights to Giresun or home from Tbilisi
  • ALL drinks & incidentals – please pay for all your drinks at each stop / meal / hotel.
  • Medical Insurance – details of your policy required before travel.

Optional extras:

  • Single room.

What happens after Leg 10?

Leg 11 will be Tbilisi to Baku in Azerbaijan. It’s likely to be 4 days cycling in June 2024 – a lot less distance and a lot less climbing!

 

What are we raising money for?

As in previous years all participants shall pay all their own costs and all money raised shall go straight to 1moreChild.

What is 1moreChild?

1moreChild was set-up by Harry & Hen Ferdinando in 2008 to help enable street children in Jinja, Uganda to go to school and prosper. Ride25 raises money for 1moreChild for the following key reasons:

A small amount of money goes along way – as little as £15 per month can transform a child’s life. 100% of all money donated to 1moreChild goes to tackle the problem.  There are no western overheads, admin costs or wastage. In addition Harry & Hen pay all their own costs. The money raised from the cycle will make an enormous difference to 1moreChild and enable them to take many more children out of the slum.

1moreChild provide school fees, 3 meals a day, school uniforms, school supplies, shoes, clothes, medical care, tutoring, mentoring, a football club and various other activities.

Visit 1moreChild.org for more info.

What impact has the money raised by the Pioneers had?

The Pioneers cycle trip is the most significant fundraising initiative for the charity with circa 70% of their overall funding coming from this trip.  We have raised over £1,250,000 for the charity across legs 1 to 9.

As a result of our trips 1moreChild has taken nearly 250 children off the streets and given them everything they need to go to school. Many of the children have now gone on to do great things including studying at University and representing Uganda at cycling!

 

How to book a place?

Initial Payment: £600 payable to confirm place in a twin room OR £800 in a single room. This will be donated to 1moreChild in the event that you pull out. Alternatively make the full payment of £1,200 (twin) or £1,600 (single) now to avoid further admin. As noted above there may not be enough single rooms on two of the nights.

 

Book Cycling Holiday Now

What about Ride25 Pioneer Virgins?

You can invite your friends but we will ask them to make a commitment to fundraising for 1moreChild.

What are the opportunities for sponsorship? 

We have put together a number of packages but are also open to offers from anyone for anything. Sponsors get to stay in the best hotels if there is a choice!

Cyclists pay for the costs of the shirts, banners etc so all the money given in sponsorship goes directly to 1moreChild. The more you sponsor the largest exposure your logo will get.

A number of places on the ride have been saved for Sponsors even if they are not Pioneers.

What about individual sponsorship?

Please do create your own personal sponsorship page using Wonderful or use the group page to raise money by sending it to all your contacts. Alternatively you can donate direct to 1moreChild or make a donation from overseas through the 1mC website.

 

What else do / don’t I need to do beforehand?

  • Bike Service – make sure you book a Bike Service before you travel – you may need to book this a few weeks in advance but will seriously reduce the chance of issues on the ride.
  • Bike Fit – if you haven’t it’s worth getting your bike fitted properly by a professional – it will help prevent injury.
  • Visas are not required for UK citizens at the moment in Turkey or Georgia.
  • Buy Currency – Turkish Lira & Georgian Lari.
  • Book a transfer from the airport to Giresun.
  • Buy & Pack an Apple Airtag /  Android Tracker for your Bike Box – very useful if there are issues with bike boxes.
  • Use a rucksack for your clothes – at the Turkish / Georgian border you will need to cross the border with your Bike, Bike Box & your overnight bag – this will only be possible if you have rucksack for your belongings – this is the year to pack light!

What else do I need to bring?

  • High Quality Bike lights – Front & Rear – they must be fully charged and work for 12 hours at a bright setting.
  • Hydration Tablets – such as Precision Fuel & Hydration – critical for multi day long distances  particularly if it’s hot.
  • 2 x large water bottles for hydration drinks and water – very important on this leg – there are frequently large distances where it is impossible refill.
  • Hard wearing tyres
  • Helmet
  • Large saddle bag with –  2 x spare inner tubes, puncture repair kit and tyre leavers
  • Cycle pump or gas canisters
  • Sun cream
  • Phone mount if you are using RidewithGPS as a navigation tool
  • Portable battery charger for mobile
  • Garmin (or similar GPS navigation device)

Book Cycling Holiday Now

There's a lot more adventure from Leg 10 onwards!

A BIT MORE ON
Pioneers – Leg 10 Giresun to Tbilisi

What happens after Leg 10?

In 2012 we plotted the following legs / badges – with only some minor changes to the badges so far we are well on the way to completing all 25:


Plans will change each year as the next leg is plotted in detail and depending on the stability of the countries we need to cross. The current plan for subsequent legs looks like this:

Leg 11 Tbilisi, Georgia to Baku, Azerbaijan – 4 days

The situation in the Middle East is changing fairly rapidly particularly in Iran. After Baku the plan remains to go through Iran before missing Pakistan and cycling across India, however we will only go through Iran if we can confidently travel and cycle freely.  It will be dependent on the advice of the Foreign Office and any rules governing a cycle trip that may make a Pioneers trip impractical.

It is likely at the moment that we will leave two legs across Iran (12 and 13) for future years when the political situation may improve. We always had two “spare” legs in Vietnam so we should still be able to complete the mission in 25 legs.