Esa Juhana ~ Designing Digital Experiences

Bikepacking in Southern Finland, The Archipelago Trail

Trying to do it all right the first time

Quicklinks:

Background

I have many friends that are into cycling, so it was a pretty straighforward for me to get started with cycling the last year. Of course I had been cycling my whole life, but I never had put more effort into it than just getting on the bicycle.

Once I start something I usually go in guns blazing - especially with the gear. I bought a nice cyclocross bike, Pinnacle Arkose 3 2016 from Evans Cycles. After that I’ve gathered some other relevant clothing, tools, etc.

My initial experience with the Pinnacle was not very good as the front derailleur doesn’t seem to suit the bicycle at all. I think the issue is with the 105 front shifter itself — it’s just faulty by-design. Good thing it now seems to be adjusted correctly, and I have most of my gears in use. In addition to this issue, the saddle was also insanely narrow — I finally replaced it this spring. Besides those previous issues, the bicycle has worked great!

I rode 1000 ish km last summer - as the front derailleur problems took some time away from my riding. The whole winter was a waste of time, as I only did two rides or so.

The Archipelago Trail

It’s described as the prettiest cycling route in whole Finland! Here’s an excerpt from their site:

The circular route of the Archipelago Trail, even though only about 200 kilometers in length, offers a surprising number of varied experiences. During your trip from one island to another, you will experience various ferries and vessels – most of which are free of charge.

Getting Fit

I haven’t been exactly just laying around, I’ve been to gym, done yoga, stretching, mobility and exercise band stuff, but the oxygen uptake hasn’t exactly what I’ve trained for. I’ve just kept my body feeling alright with various sports and conditioning workouts.

About a month ago I started to ride again, some 15-50km rides, but there’s still a lot to improve as I am writing this 1 week before riding in Turku Archipelago Trail (Saariston Rengastie).

I’m not in any shape… and I’m afraid I will end up with knee problems, but let’s see…

The Plan

7 people in total are going to ride The Archipelago Trail in Turku in two days. Our plan is to spend one night at Mossala Island Resort, which was about halfway into the ride. We are a group of various riders in experience, so finding a common velocity is a key thing.

The Route

We would ride the trail in clockwise, here’s an approximate route:

View full

You can see Mossala marked on the map.

How I Packed My Bike?

I made an excel spreadsheet to gather all my relevant items that I will pack into my Apidura Saddle pack, Apidura Handlebar pack, cheap console and a DIY pouch.

I made a packing list with the following columns:

Item name, Category, Weight (grams), Quantity, Packing location

I planned to have two dry bags (Ortlieb 12l & 20l) that I was supposed to use inside the saddlebar & handlebar to keep things super dry even on continuous rain, but I noticed that they don’t work as well as I planned inside the packs - During the initial packing I decided to go instead with waterproof Minigrip bags, that could hold all the small electronics items. I also took another 2l Minigrip for the tools I have. This way the packing became more modular than using just one dry bag inside.

Here’s some hints of how I packed everything:

Bicycle frame

Saddle pack (large items, heavy items, soft items)

Near the saddle post we want to pack everything super-heavy.

I decided to use the handlebar pack mainly for my clothes, rolling all the items into a roll, containing the least-wanted (non-riding clothes) in the center, and rolling the during-ride clothing alternatives as top layers.

Front console (important tiny stuff to be easily accessible)

Cycling jersey pockets

DIY Pouch (edibles)

Lots of companies are selling food pouches for bicycles — for example Alpkit offers some nice-looking pouches for tiny edibles and things that need to be accessed during the ride. Being a DIY man, I of course looked up all my previous hobbies’ gear through and found some reusable stuff. One thing was the a Nikon 35mm DX lens bag, to which I made a strap addition and added an inner dry bag that was some leftover from some camping tent ot so. We’ll see how it functions…

Here’s an image of all the bags in use, packed for a short test ride. DIY pouch is behind the console pack.

Bikepacking setup testing

First thing I noticed that the bike will become pretty heavy with such packing, so my plan is to strip some items from my packing list still before leaving. For example the hygiene / washing items aren’t necessary, nor the towel because the cabin we rented will have those available.

In bikepacking, it’s not about who’s carrying the most, but who’s carrying the least.

In Turku

I got a flat from Airbnb in Turku and left on Thursday evening to have a couple of days off before the ride in the pretty downtown and surrounding park areas. Turku treated me well, it was international market time and Aura river was crowded with international street food, handmade items, candy, people and sun. The two days we’re just enough enjoy Turku’s cultural aspects and nearby nature.

The Story

I did my final packing the evening before and the same morning for the ride. What I left out was the DIY pouch, as the console bag was more usable and basically for the same purpose.

Day #1

Our posse gathered near a supermarket to get the final snacks and other missing stuff, such as cash. One of us had his slippers stolen in Helsinki - Turku train, so he had to buy new ones! And so we went…

It was sunny and we we’re feeling joyful so kilometers passed fast — We stopped twice, at Sattmark for a coffee and at Nauvo for lunch and grocery store.

Finally, after sweaty times under the summer sun we arrived to Mossala and got our cabin. It was a really beautiful place near the sea, with a tiny pier. Once again we ate. Then we started relaxing: swimming, sauna, campfire, music, etc. The sunset was visible directly from our cabin door, and it was a delightful one to follow.

Day #2

Our ferry left to Iniö at 12.00, so there was no rush in the morning. We had a breakfast, packed our gear and went for the ferry. It was a 40 minute ferry, during it I met a german couple who were also bikepacking. It was fun to talk to them, even though I didn’t use my german skills except for one or two words. They had been doing bicycle trips for decades apparently and they had a huge amount of gear with them — 30-40kg a bike.

I was not feeling very energetic the whole day — maybe it was the stress I was going through and my mind playing tricks on me (and the lack of training!). But I managed to ride the whole day. This was the more dull part of the ride, as most of the 2nd day was on the side of the highway.

Our posse parted ways in Naantali: 3 to Helsinki, 3 to Turku, and I left to Naantali Spa to rest and to have a bath in the various pools they offer. And oh man did my legs love the feeling of streaming water jets, sauna and cold water.

Day #3

On my 3rd day I enjoyed riding around the surroundings of Naantali: Old town and great landscapes. I finally left Naantali for my train and officially finished The Archipelago Trail.

I think I would’ve stayed for a longer time, but it’s pretty costly to stay in hotels, cabins and Airbnb since I don’t have any other camping gear with me.

Aftermath

I came back a week ago and still my thoughts go back to riding…

Riding The Archipelago Trail was a delightful experience and I consider it to be my first real bikepacking trip.

I had a blast: summer, sun, food, culture, nature, friends, bicycles, photography, spa,… among other things.

Only thing I forgot to pack was the USB charger for my GoPro, but luckily one of my friends had the exact charger with him. This gave me another day to shoot POV material with GoPro.

Recommendations

Lists are easier than chapters:

TL;DR; Video

Finally, here’s a video I made of the trip! Enjoy!