Saturday, May 30, 2009

Road biking

It has been a superb day of sunshine and blue skies. I started the day a bit miserable that with a throat infection and dripping nose, I couldn't go climbing with friends, but despite being still bunged up I went out this evening for a bike ride. It just seemed to good a day to miss. I might moan about the length of my commute into the city, but the plus side is that I can be out in the countryside immediately. I haven't ridden my road bike yet this year, and it feels so strange to start with - wobbly and insecure on those skinny wheels. But after a few kilometres the old feeling comes back, and you can enjoy the speed and ease of acceleration that only road bikes have. Despite the crappy cold and drippy nose I still nipped round a 25 km circuit averaging just over 30 kmph.

I've seen more road bikers this summer than before I think. It seems to be becoming more popular than in the past. I think the rural areas just beyond Helsinki's outer ring road are one of the capital region's best kept secrets - and absolutely perfect to explore on a road bike. There is very little traffic because virtually all traffic leaving the city uses the four motor ways that spread out from the ring road. Still not too far from the civilization of the biggest city, even the minor roads are surfaced (unlike in much of rural Finland), hence skinny road tires cruise along noiselessly and speedily. The land is heavily farmed meaning the fields you ride amongst give you a feel of open space, yet of course being Finland the forests are always there at the edge of the farmer's realm. Currently the crops are sprouting, so most of the fields are a lurid green of first shoots, but later many will turn a vibrant yellow under the flower of oil-seed rape or the golden with corn. There are no huge hills, but neither is the land tediously flat, and small brown rivers often snake between the fields. The Finnish summer is also perfect for the evening cyclist, the sun was still bright when I left at 8 pm, although lower in the sky making the newly leafed birches golden and capturing the tree pollen blowing in the wind.

To the north of the city you are not far from the airport, and oddly as I cruised along one quiet road north towards Klaukkala, a Finnair Airbus A340 was climbing maybe a kilometre away to my right. At that distance it oddly felt that I was going at about the same speed as the huge plane. It was so quiet and gentle to watch, notthe feeling you get on board with all the engines at full throttle pushing all that mass into the air. Soon enough the plane climbed up and turned lazily in front of me, white in the blue sky, heading eastward for probably Beijing or Tokyo.

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