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A Ride in Finland: March 1994

By Markku Tuomi, 1994
Sunday March 13 appears uninspiring. The sky is grey. The snow is dirty. There is slush, it is +1 C. The breakfast newspaper is dull, the oatmeal bland. Finland is depressing. What can save the day? A bike ride! Yes, there is a small road on the map yet untraveled. Go boldly forth, break new ground. I even have a go-ahead from the good doctor for a gradual increase of strenuous exercise.I take care to dress not too warmly. It is already around twelve when I begin to work my way out of Jyvaeskylae and the adjoining eastern suburbs. I overheat and remove a layer from my torso.

Finally I leave bicycle routes behind and hit highway number 9. It has been unusually warm (not freezing) for a few days and I have to avoid huge pools of dirty water on the road. But, excitingly, the shoulder is visible next to the snow bank, half of it anyway. Suddenly I spin out my winter gearing and fly with a little tail wind. Cycling on a smooth pavement is great fun after a six month break. The whirring of my 144 studs does not matter at all. The noise from car studs makes traffic irritating, though. But the drivers really behave. One 60-ton 22-wheeler even passes me on the opposite lane, saving me from a brown shower. I meet and pass a few utility cyclists, then crouch down for a steep and fast downhill. I sight my favorite log cabin coffee shop with trout fishing and petting zoo and decide to help them make it through the rest of the winter. I forget myself at a newspaper and my tea gets cold.

After a little distance I turn off the highway and head SSW. Now the road is narrow and covered with thick snow. The heat wave has made the surface soft and sticky. My winter gearing again feels just right. I pass through a little village where old ladies on kicksleds stare at my helmet mirror. Then, perfect peace and solitude. The road becomes nice and hilly, twisting here and there. It is a famous little road. In about four months there will be thousands of people lining it, and 400-hp 4WD rally cars will be racing here for world championship points. I will be cycling far, far away. Now the steep hills and an unfavorable wind make me realize it is time for a break. I have some hot tea and a muesli bar. The road is not too pretty, farmland and patches of clearcut alternate with unremarkable woods, some of them sickly tree farms. I arrive at a junction and have another crunchy bar with tea.

Turning NNW I expect to greatly benefit from the troublesome wind but the effect is less than startling. Anyway I am happily making progress through the countryside. The road has suffered from more cars and there is more melting slush on it. A welcome opportunity to practice slow speed riding skills. I begin to daydream about a nicer, lighter and faster bike (training is too hard!). The desolate farmhouses seem apprehensive of the imminent expansion of the European Union. Uneventfully, I rejoin highway number 9 and stop at my favorite log cabin coffee shop with a great view over a beautiful lake. I have another newspaper with tea since the view will be unavailable for another two months. Upon leaving I add a dry layer to my moderately soaked garments. Then I happily proceed home. This is my longest ride since my illness last year, 60 km in about four hours of riding. I will be a cyclist again, I will.