Words & riding by Mark Matthews // Additional riding by Mason Mashon // Photography by Bruno Long // Film by Max Berkowitz
When Emrah Ozbay first invited me to Turkey, I had no idea what to expect. I saw some photos and video on social media, and the Erciyes Bike Park looked like an interesting project. Building a bike park in a place completely off the radar? I had to see it for myself. I invited my good friend Mason Mashon, photographer Bruno Long, and videographer Max Berkowitz. We were all ready for this random and awesome Turkish adventure! After a little more research and getting to know Emrah more, I was intrigued by his passion for trail building and love for the sport. Not only is he a talented trail builder, but he is also the only trail builder. He's extremely passionate about putting Turkey in the spotlight.
We spent the first week of our trip in Kayseri at the Erciyes Bike Park. Erciyes is a newly opened bike park with only one qualified trail builder, so there’s really only one downhill trail. We wanted to give back to the park, so we set out on a mission to build some extra features. Between all of us, we built a hip jump and a couple of side hits in two days. This beautiful location has huge potential; I can’t wait to see how it develops over the next couple years.
Once all our sessions at Erciyes wrapped up, it was time to finally experience the Cappadocian region. The riding here was unbelievable! The landscape is filled with unique sandstone formations and natural turns you can hit at full speed. Ripping through the erosion-shaped landscape of the Goreme valley, while being surrounded by ancient churches and dwellings, was a pretty surreal feeling. All the human creations packed into this region are as equally impressive as the landscape. There’s so much rich culture and history here.
For a few nights in a row, we camped out in an ancient winemaking cave. We were roughing it by sleeping on the ground, but our host cooked up delicious traditional Turkish meals for us every night. This became our home base for the next three days as we explored mainly around Red Valley. Every morning we were up by 3:30 am in hopes to catch the hot air balloons rise in golden light. Their take-off points are dependent on the winds, so this became a huge challenge for us to figure out what ridges to hike up. Although we didn’t get the perfect shot, we were still appreciative for every second of it. Watching over 100 balloons take off at the same time is a pretty spectacular scene—one morning we even got to ride in one!
This trip was a fun way to give mountain biking in Turkey some recognition and experience some of the amazing natural terrain in this region. Between the iconic Cappadocia and the Erciyes Bike Park, our crew had an epic time on bikes!