Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Big Ride. Kangasala-Vantaa, 190 kms.

If you can see your ride from space, it has to be good eh? :)
Some times by mistake, you can end up impressing yourself. I’ve been riding a fair amount so far this spring and summer but mainly commuting and mountain biking; so the urge to ride a bit further on my road bike had been gathering. The family were heading to Kangasala, a small town on the outskirts of Tampere, Finland’s second city on Saturday. Kangasala is about 180 kms north of Helsinki. My original plan based on the weather forecast and general lazyness was to get up early and start riding towards Kangasala, and then when my family caught me up in the car - probably about halfway up - I’d put the bike in the boot and carry on the rest of the way with them. This was not to be though; my better half saying she wanted the whole boot available for the return journey; therefore if I wanted to ride it would have to be home, and the whole way. My protests about this being quite a long ride (Google maps suggested the most direct route home would be 150 kms) were dismissed as whining and that I shouldn’t be looking for easy ways out. 
Crossing the river in Valkeakoski
And so the dice were cast. I left Kangasala under blue skies and the warm mid-summer sun early in the afternoon, with Wittertainment playing quietly in my ears (hello to Jason Isaacs). My first decision was which side of lake south of Kangasala, Roine, to ride down. The highway back to Hämeenlinna goes on the east side, but driving up that road it was straight, relatively busy and narrow; hence not a great bike route. So I took the west side where a quiet and pretty road runs down to the mill town of Valkeakoski. Crossing the bridge in Valkeakoski seemed like the first target reached. Beyond the town I carried on down and over the attractive bridge crossing Rauttanselkä. This was probably the scenic high point of the ride; classic Finnish lakeland scenery.
Rauttanselkä, filtered via Instagram
My route then took the old highway down to Hämeenlinna; this section was distinctly weird, as it’s a big wide straight highway that now, with the motorway being so close by, has virtually no traffic on it. Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of the Walking Dead recently, but deserted roads are a bit spooky. The odd car trundling past was actually appreciated, in that it reminded me that I wasn't the last man standing after the apocalypse.  Such thoughts were dispelled on reaching the relative bustle of Hämeenlinna where, beyond the odd drunk, no zombies were spotted. I could have continued on the old highway straight back home but its straightness and proximity to the motorway make for unattractive riding, so I took a diagonal through the town leaving its southeast and taking back roads to Turenki. Leaving Hämeenlinna I had a minor disaster - pulling my food bag out of the back pocket of my jersey, the plastic split and jelly beans and cereal bar chunks were scattered across the road. Fortunately, coming into Turenki I spied a Lidl still open so was able to buy more jelly beans, plus some other snacks and drinks. A supermarket carpack might not be the most beautiful of picnic spots but I was happy just to loll around on the grass for a bit. 

Chocolate milk refueling stop; Lidl in Turenki
South from Turenki the roads got quieter and more attractive. I skirted east of Hyvinkää and eventually made it to Jokela for another refuelling stop. A couple of times Jokela has been the far end of a loop from home, but getting there on saturday felt like being nearly home - no more need to check the map for example. I had been watching clouds building in the southwest all day, but the last 40 kms were ridden under thick grey and the last 15, with the rain starting to fall. By the last ten or so, back on the old highway, I was bored and wanted to be home, and the rain didn't help. Nevertheless, on the positive side I wasn't getting any of the cramps or back pains I've had towards the end of long rides in the past.

A pretty knackered me, back home at last.
So too summarise; 190.48 kms ridden. Time riding: 6:39.25, plus an hour or so split between four off the bike rests and stops to look at the map properly. A 28.6 kmph average speed, of which I'm quite proud. From the time multiplied by my average cadence of 76, I think I turned the pedals 30 400 times! 5.5 ltrs of liquids drank (2 litre bottles on the bike, bottles refilled once; + a litre of choccy milk and a bottle of coke). One Apple pastry, two energy gels, about 100 grammes of peanuts, and 200 grs of Lidl's finest American style jelly beans (which were great) consumed. I was glad I didn't have to do it again the next day, but it was a great way to spend and afternoon and not as hard as I thought it was going to be. In particular I was pleased that I kept my pace up at a decent level for the whole trip.

En route - a Kirkonkylä (church village), can't remember which one
I don't really have much practical advice to give if anyone else fancies trying a ride along these lines, but I can give a little context: I've always had bikes, but I've never raced or been in a cycling club, so for me a long bike ride like this is more akin to my climbing and mountaineering adventures than a sporting event. I know many keen cyclists will have done many runs of this kind of length, but I think it is the second longest ride I've ever done after the Kallaveden Kierros, and by far the longest solo ride where you don't have the huge advantage of riding in a group. 

I've not really thought about it before, but road bikers were the original lightweight fanatics, long long before moutaineers and backpackers got in on it. You look at the weather and work out the minimum of gear you need for the worst it could be and then just figure you'll keep riding to stay warm if it does crap out. There isn't much room for packing 'just in case' gear as you can with rucksack-based trips. For this trip I rode in bib shorts and and a short sleeved jersey and had an ultralight windproof/water resistant jacket in my saddle bag. Also in the bag, I took some allen keys, a chain breaker (I've broken and seen friends break chains in the past, so figure it's worth it, others disagree) and two spare tubes. Normally I just carry a single tube, but being alone and someway from home, two seemed prudent even if punctures seem to happen rarely to me. Then my phone, which also serves as my camera and gps (in a plastic bag), iPod, food, cut down map, pump, ibuprofen tabs and some money plus bank card went in my jersey pockets. My only 'luxury' I guess was a small cable lock. Finns are a trusting lot but my knee-jerk Englishness still makes me think someone will try and steal my bike the second my back is turned, so for shop stops it's worth it for me. My bike behaved impeccably. Some say aluminium frames like my BeOne give a harsh ride on long rides although I can't say I've noticed this over my old, steel framed road bike. Having a decent track pump means I can now pump the tyres up to near their maximum pressure, which makes them roll really fast. And when you've got a lot of miles to go, that's what you want!

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