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Pioneers Leg 7 – Thessaloniki to Istanbul 2018

Pioneers Leg 7 – Thessaloniki to Istanbul 2018


Who are the Pioneers?

All the riders who have participated in any of the very first six 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.

2018 is Leg 7 (of 25 legs) from the UK to Sydney.  To get a flavour of the previous legs see the most recent films here:

Leg 6 – Bari to Thessaloniki

Leg 5 – Rome to Bari

Leg 4 – Milan to Rome

Leg 3 – Geneva to Milan


Snapshot of Leg 7:

3 countries – Greece, Bulgaria & Turkey, far reaching views, coastline, varied food, diverse culture, quiet rural roads, swimming in the Black Sea, mosques, turkish flags, former capital of the Ottoman Empire, The Bosphorus, staying in an Ottoman Palace & ultimately Asia!


Thessaloniki Seafront – 8.00am Wednesday 23rd May 2018


Istanbul on the Bosphorus – 18.00 Sunday 27th May 2018

Days’ Cycling:



506 miles

Total climbing:

31,811 ft climbing

Max capacity:

125 people


Dates of the trip

We will be cycling for 5 days from Wednesday 23rd May 2018 to Sunday 27th May 2018 inclusive.  You will need to arrive in Thessaloniki on Tuesday 22nd May and leave Istanbul on or after Monday 28th May.

Pre- Start – Thessaloniki 7.30pm 22nd May 2018

Drinks (Pay bar!) at the Makedonia Palace Hotel  on the night before the ride. It will be a great opportunity to pick up your shirts and see everyone again before the cycling begins the next morning.  Please note, you will need to organise your own pre-tour accommodation in Thessaloniki – see below for link to get a discounted group rate



Day 1 – Thessaloniki to Kavala 101 miles 6,238 ft total ascent 

Our Grand Depart will be from the Makedonia Palace Hotel  on the seafront in Thessaloniki and we will quickly leave the hustle & bustle of the city to cycle through the woods. Over the first 8 miles we enjoy (!) our only major climb of the day to 1,700 ft. What a way to start! This is the hardest climb of the whole leg with gradients of 5-20%. The rest of the morning is spent cycling around Lakes Volni & Boronia in a large National Park of over 2 million acres – renowned for it’s ecological value.  Lunch is overlooking the beach in Asprovolta.  The vast majority of the day is on quiet roads with amazing views, vineyards & olive groves. Dinner is in an open air roof top restaurant above the hotel overlooking the Kavala harbour.

Day 1 – Full route including elevation profile & GPX Export.


 Day 2 – Kavala to Glavatartsi  – 107 miles, 8,959 ft total ascent

Day 2 is again the day to remember! After a flat 30 miles to Xanthi we begin a steady climb towards the Bulgarian border on very quiet rural roads with outstanding views.  We have our last greek meal in a village famous for it’s hot springs and spit roasted lambs. We then cross the border to Bulgaria using a little used border crossing near Zlatograd before continuing on quiet roads for the majority of the day. We pass through the busy town of Khardzhali before finishing at a lakeside Bulgarian resort called Glavatartsi.

Day 2 – Full route including elevation profile & GPX Export.


Day 3 – Glavatartsi to Edirne – 94 miles, 4,769 ft total ascent

We leave the lake and begin our journey on quiet roads all day through rural Bulgaria past numerous horse and carts and a simple way of life. Outstanding, far reaching views all day as we pass through Bulgaria’s finest vineyards.  Late lunch at a beautiful fish restaurant overlooking the river in Svelingrad. We then pass across the border back into Greece before another border crossing out of the EU and into Turkey.

Edirne is is a culturally rich city that was the former capital of the Ottoman Empire. We have dinner overlooking the river and the mosques of Edirne in the distance.

Day 3 – Full route including elevation profile & GPX Export.


Day 4 – Edirne to Çerkezköy – 107 miles, 4,436 ft total ascent

We begin by climbing past Selimiye Mosque – one of the finest mosques in Islamic architecture dating from the 1500’s.  The morning involves cycling through 40 miles of open farmland, rollercoaster roads and far reaching views. There is a busier period in the middle of the day before continuing on quiet roads through the afternoon. There is a small section of compacted sand in the afternoon before arriving in Çerkezköy.


Day 4 – Full route including elevation profile & GPX Export.


Day 5 – Çerkezköy to Istanbul – 103 miles, 7,403 ft total ascent

The last day of cycling in Europe before reaching Asia!  The morning involves gently undulating hills on farmland & woodland. Lunch is at a well known fish restaurant on the Black Sea.  Due to the lack of alternative roads we do cycle along dual carriage-way for circa 30 miles on day 5.  The road is new tarmac with three lanes and a large hard shoulder.  There is very little traffic on the road and we are able to cycle along the hard shoulder.  The only road bikes seen on the recce were on this road!   We finish by cycling through the woods on the outskirts of Istanbul before cycling the last 11 miles along the Bhosphorus.   The finish is at the only Ottoman Palace and Hotel in Istanbul.  Home for the night is the 5* Ciragan Palace Kempinski Hotel.

Day 5 – Full route including elevation profile & GPX Export.



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Timing of the trip

We have been able to keep the trip to the same weekend as 2017. The Monday after the finish is a Bank Holiday and also is the start of half term for most UK schools. Istanbul is an interesting holiday destination. Everyone is welcome to the party on the last night.

Pre-tour accommodation: where do I stay in Thessaloniki?

The package does not include accommodation in Thessaloniki on Tuesday the 22nd May 2018. We have secured a discounted group reservation at the same hotel in Thessaloniki that we stayed at last year –  The Makedonia Palace Hotel. If you wish to book a room in the group booking please follow this link to book your room. The offer lasts until the end of November.

How does the trip compare to previous legs?

There is always a lot of chat about how much harder each leg is to the previous year so here are the key statistics about the all the legs so far.  All have been measured using the Strava route planner.

  Number of Days Average miles per day Average Elevation per day (Ft) Max climbing in 1 day (Ft) Max Elevation (Ft)
Leg 1 – Parmoor to Paris 2.5 92 5394 5674 737
Leg 2 – Paris to Geneva 4 91 6148 8560 4339
Leg 3 – Geneva to Milan 4 88 4139 7467 8127
Leg 4 – Milan to Rome 4.5 102 6082 9448 3116
Leg 5 – Rome to Bari 4 101 8524 12073 3713
Leg 6 – Bari to Thessaloniki 4 95 7198 12089 5010
Leg 7 – Thessaloniki to Istanbul 5 102 6362 8959 2394


Leg 7 is longer than originally planned purely driven by finding reasonable places to stay, good meals and safe roads to use. It should be no harder than the previous four legs.

The total climbing on the hardest day is also <75% of the hardest day on leg 6. We also stay at a lower elevation for the whole trip (max 2,394 ft) than leg 6 so should not have the same issues with cold weather up mountains.  In fact it is likely that the weather may be quite hot at 25-30 degrees C.

In total by the end of leg 7 the journey so far is a total of 2,700 miles.


What happens after Leg 7?

Planning is underway for the next 3 legs which will take us across northern Turkey, Georgia & Azerbaijan. The legs are likely to look something like this but subject to significant change!

Leg 8 Istanbul to Samsun, Turkey (6 days)

Leg 9 Sansun to Batumi, Georgia (4 days)

Leg 10 Batumi to Baku, Azerbaijan (6 days)

After Leg 10 the route will depend on the political / security advice at the time.  At the moment there is likely to be one long trip to go through Iran in 2022.  This is likely to be a 2-3 week trip so will require some advanced diary planning as we get closer. If you have the appetite think about how you can fit it into your life.  Sabbatical?  Gardening leave? Retirement? Unpaid leave?  I envisage this be a much smaller group but will be one hell of an adventure.  We will then probably miss Pakistan & Afghanistan due to safety concerns before continuing the journey in 5/6 days trips across India and beyond.

How will I navigate?

As in previous legs we encourage everyone to have a Garmin (or similar GPS navigation device) and install the Ride25 App / add the routes to your Strava account.

As always we do not follow the quickest routes each day – the routes are planned to minimise traffic & busy roads and maximise the scenery & significant places.

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

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, the Ride25 App or Strava on your phone. 

What else will happen on Leg 7?


  • Dogs & Bears – there are no wild bears in the areas that we’re cycling this year. There are also none of the sheepdogs that we encountered last year.  You will see stray dogs along parts of the route but they will cause no problem if you cycle past steadily rather than trying to race them!
  • Different start times – We will encourage people to leave between 7 – 8.00 am each day depending on your speed.  You can of course leave when you want to but by doing this we are far more likely to see more of each other.
  • Pit stops – We will have designated stops mid morning and mid afternoon . As the areas are so sparsely populated some of the morning and afternoon stops have very limited provisions. The trip is in the middle of Ramadam – so no eating or drinking for 95% of the population during daylight.  It will mean that many cafes will not be open during the day.
  • Lunch – we have found interesting lunch stops most days but due to the lack of options they are quite late in the day on days 3 & 5.
  • Finishes – the finish on days 3 & 4 are in strong muslim cities and there are far fewer places to buy a beer – dinner will be licensed each night!
  • Dinners – these will all be at the same sitting this year either in the hotel or a short walk away.
  • Party in Istanbul – we have secured a great venue for a party in Istanbul – a terrace on the Bosphorus overlooking Asia.  It will be a different format to previous years with a cocktail food menu, bar, free seating & free drinks!
  • “Alex Fraser Baggage Tax” – as announced in Thessaloniki there will be a fine for the heaviest luggage – there will be 20 Euros per kilo donation to 1moreChild for the heaviest luggage at the start of the trip.

What are the highlights of Leg 7?

  • Cycling through largely unvisited parts of Bulgaria
  • Quiet rural roads – particularly in Greece & Bulgaria
  • Even more stark cultural differences as we move further east.
  • Visiting & staying in Edirne – not on the tourist trail but the former capital of the Ottoman Empire
  • Swimming in the Black Sea
  • Finishing & staying at an Ottoman Palace on the Bosphorus
  • Wild & crazy Istanbul

What do I wear?

Normal cycling attire is fine for both sexes across the whole route.  We recommend women cover their legs & shoulders in the evenings on nights 3 & 4.

Do I need to train?

Yes. 500 miles cycling is a significant challenge for anyone but as in previous years it is achievable. We do 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 multiple seats available in the support cars so that it is easier to get picked up if required.

Training Rides

We will organise a training ride west of London in the Henley area on Saturday 21st April.  Please put it in your diaries.


You will need to book a flight to Thessaloniki with your bike in a bike box.  There are direct flights to Thessaloniki from the UK every day but it may be cheaper to book an indirect flight.  Use Ride25 Pioneer Sponsor Skyscanner to find the best deals.

You will also need to book a flight back from Istanbul. The airport is a a major international airport so you should have lots of choices.


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.

For more information about 1moreChild:

Watch a short film made by Pioneers visiting 1moreChild in Uganda in 2017.


Watch the 1moreChild story.

Harry will again be one of the support crew on Leg 7.

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 £660,000 for the charity across legs 1 to 6.

As this is the last leg across Europe use it to raise money for the whole journey you have completed so far – 2,700 miles for all seven legs.

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.

What is the cost?

Cost: £695 per person with a single supplement of £250. 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.  We have a couple of costs that are not yet confirmed so it is possible that the cost may rise by up to £50 before the event.

This includes:

  • 5 x nights accommodation in Kavala, Glavatartsi, Çerkezköy, Edirne & Istanbul.
  • 5 x breakfast
  • 5 x lunch
  • 5 x dinner including celebration party in Istanbul
  • 4 x manned support vehicles including 2 x bike mechanics & first aiders
  • Transportation of bags each day to the finish
  • Transportation of bike boxes from Thessaloniki to Istanbul
  • Water, fruit and emergency supplies in the vehicles
  • 5 x personalised cycling shirts including the badges achieved – ensure you enter the correct shirt size when you register
  • 5 x GPS files of the routes
  • 5 x “get out of trouble” cloth maps

Despite the trip being longer by 1 day and the £ continuing to weaken the cost of the trip has fallen from leg 6.

Deposit due on booking, balancing payment due in early Feb 2018.

What’s not included?

  • Flights to Thessaloniki OR back from Istanbul
  • Hotel in Thessaloniki pre-start
  • ALL drinks & incidentals – please pay for all your drinks at each stop / meal / hotel.  Drinks are included at the party in Istanbul – but they haven’t seen us lot drinking after 5 days cycling so they may well stop during the evening!

Optional extras:

  • Single room – there may be a limit of singles on night 2 – these will be allocated on a first come basis. If we do run out you will be in a twin on night 2.

Which hotels are we staying in?

The nature of the Ride25 adventure means that the routes & accommodation is dictated to by what the inventory of hotels looks like along our journey.  We pick the best hotels but they are limited in some places:

Night 1 – Kavala, Greece – Galaxy Hotel – Modern 4* hotel overlooking the sea.

Night 2 –  Glavatartsi, Bulgaria – quirky resort hotel with bulgarian style (!) – Glavartaski Han. Basic overflow hotel nearby. Both hotels have pools.

Night 3 – Edirne, Turkey – 3 x city centre hotels – Edirne Palace, The Mihranhanim & The Ottoman Palace Hotel

Night 4 – Çerkezköy, Turkey – 2 x city centre hotels –  City Hotel  & The Gabrali Hotel.

Night 5 – Istanbul –  The Ciragan Palace Hotel  – 5* Kempinski hotel in a former Ottoman Palace overlooking the Bosphorus.    If you wish to extend your stay please email and mention that your are part of Ride25.


How to book a place?

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Initial Payment: £150 payable to confirm place in a twin room OR £400 in a single room. This will be donated to 1moreChild in the event that you pull out. Alternatively make the full payment of £695 (twin) or £945 (single) now to avoid further admin.

What about Ride25 Pioneer Virgins?

Until the 15th October only cyclists that have completed a Pioneer event previously can book onto the trip unless you have received an email invite.

After the 15th October you can invite your friends but we will ask them to make a commitment to fundraising for 1moreChild.

We anticipate the trip being full within 2 weeks of launch.

What are the opportunities for sponsorship? 

We have put together a number of packages but are also open to offers from anyone for anything.

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.

Harry Ferdinando, the founder of 1moreChild is on the leg again this year so you will have plenty of opportunity to hear more about what great things the money you are raising does.

A number of places on the ride have been saved for Sponsors even if they are not Pioneers.  These were the generous sponsors in 2017:

What about individual sponsorship?

Please do create your own personal sponsorship page (we recommend Virgin Giving as they charge less than other sites) or use the group page to raise money by sending it to all your contacts.

What else do I need to do / bring?

  • Visas ARE required for most visitors INCLUDING British citizens. See latest advice here from the Foreign Office.  As at 15/9/17 visas can be bought at the border but this has historically changed frequently with no notice so we recommend that you buy a visa online up to 3 months before travel.  The cost is currently US$20.  Please investigate what visa you require for you nationality.
  • A waterproof bag / cover for your passport – we cross three borders on day 2 & 3 so you will need to cycle with your passport all day whatever the weather.
  • Local currency – you will need EUROS for Greece plus Bulgarian LEV & Turkish Lira. Euros are accepted in some places but many in Bulgaria & Turkey will not accept them particularly in the villages where you will want to buy snacks.
  • Some bikes on day 3 will be stored in an outdoor car park – this will be guarded overnight but I recommend you bring a lock for extra protection for your bike.
  • Hard wearing tyres – the road surfaces are similar to previous legs but there is a 4 mile section on day 4 that is a compacted sand road and more robust tyres would reduce the risk of punctures.
  • Chamois Cream
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses / clear lenses for glasses
  • Large saddle bag with –  2 x spare inner tubes, puncture repair kit and tyre leavers
  • Cycle pump or gas canisters
  • 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.
  • We recommend you pack some homemade flapjacks or similar. As in leg 6 some of the stops have very limited provisions so we recommend you bring provisions with you.
  • Your favorite energy gels or bars
  • Sun cream
  • Top bar bag for phone, wallet and energy stuff
  • Phone mount if you are using Ride25 App or Strava as a navigation tool
  • Portable battery charger for mobile
  • Garmin (or similar GPS navigation device) or Ride25 for phone

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