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A Ride in Finland: April 1994

By Markku Tuomi, 1994
Spring was on its way, finally. With the arrival of April, I had discarded studded tires and other winter equipment. Riding had been chilly and dirty, the scenery bleak but then the snow really started melting and the ice fishers were driven off the lakes (or drowned). Monday, April 25 was a pretty day for my traditional 100 km spring test run.

The thermometer climbs to 17 C and I can contain myself no longer. Quickly I put on shorts and jersey, grab some water bottles and zoom out around two. First time with summer cycling wear, and I need sunglasses. The wind is somewhat cold but doesn't hamper progress too much. I head out of Jyvaeskylae, central Finland, towards the east. Soon I'm out of the urban area and get on the highway. The road has moderate traffic and I can hear many tires with studs, illegal as of April. The nice shoulder, a luxurious 1 m or so, will extend all the way to my turning point at 50 km. Moreover, it is no longer muddy and sandy. The course is gently rolling and familiar enough to be awfully boring.

I remind myself to keep taking sips while I observe signs of advancing spring. The lakes are still frozen and the wind blowing over them makes me shiver. Birds are singing everywhere, ditches are swelling with water, and I can smell a lot of natural fertilizer on the fields. There are still many patches of snow on the forest floor. My legs keep doing their cycling thing and propel me and the bike up all the hills, over the bridges and through the trees. Joy of cycling overcomes me. I greet all of my familiar landmarks with a mental nod and arrive at my turning point, a gas station at a lonely junction in Naelkaemaeki (Hunger Hill). I like this place. They don't even sell tobacco, let alone allow smoking.

After consuming some food, peppermint tea and newspapers it's time to retrace my route. I stop a few times to adjust clothing and end up adding another layer over my legs and arms. The sun and the temperature are both going down. I'm feeling good and the wind is slightly more favorable now but dying out. Lots of timber has been cut and piled by the roadside, and the smell of fresh pine is in the air. My feet complain within my classic all-leather cycling shoes and leather straps as they are not used to this treatment yet. A guy on an MTB emerges from a side road ahead, sees me and starts frantically mashing up the hill. He runs out of steam before the top and falls behind. This doesn't even constitute an acceptable ego boost. Halfway home I stop for tea and newspapers again.

Near home I feel strong, which is promising for the summer. Now I can feel my illness (AS) is not keeping me away from cycling and I can look forward to a lot of cycling. I also arrive at the final conviction of the need for a longer stem. The sun is low over the horizon when I return to the city around eight. Distance was exactly 100 km, riding speed about 20 km/h (expedition pace), the fluids plentiful, the stops pleasant and the spring wonderful (it got much colder afterwards).