Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cycling Scandinavia: The Plan

Bike touring in Australia
 In a couple of days I will return to Germany and after a brief stop over in Berlin to change gear I will embark on my three months cycling trip across Scandinavia. So what is the plan? The plan is that there is not much of a plan, only more of a rough idea. Last year I had to learn the hard way that fixed routes and finish dates lead to time pressure that can seriously reduce the enjoyment of trip. So on this trip I will try to avoid any time constraints.

One way to avoid time constraints is not booking any transportation in advance which is most easily achieved by starting from home. As the only thing I could call home now is the place where my storage unit is located I will start directly in Berlin. No flights to catch, no trains to board - I have never started a trip that easily.

From there I plan to cycle up to Denmark visiting friends in Northern Germany on the way. I will spend plenty of time in Denmark taking advantage of the extended bike route system there before taking the ferry to Sweden. There again I want to use a bike trail called "Sverigeleden" to make my way up North and cross into Finland. And now comes the beauty of this trip: If I run out of time or don't like it, I don't have to cycle all the way but can take a ferry over to Finland. Finland does not have that many bike routes, but there is the Baltic Sea Cycle Route and Via Finlandia that can take me to Helsinki where I will take the ferry to Tallinn. In the Baltic States there is the Baltic Sea Cycle Route again and the Tour LatEst. I could theoretically cycle from the Baltic States all the way back to Berlin on the international bike route R1 but I doubt I will have enough time left. But again: The beauty of this trip is that I can just take a ferry back to Germany from Klaipeda. So with all these possibilities of shortcuts via ferry I hope not to encounter any time constraints this time. I am planning on being back to Germany around September 1st to start my next long hike across Europe.

My bike set up
I was a worried about what to prepare for this bike trip. I have cycled across Japan and South Korea with basically no preparation at all and just a road atlas. So bike touring does not require a lot of preparation. But on the other hand preparation could save me time on the road and make decisions en route easier. Therefore I have bought most of the maps beforehand which was relatively easy: Only one road atlas from Freytag&Berndt is required for almost the whole trip! So 29,95 EUR bought me the maps for almost three months. Additionally I discovered a great free map of Denmark from their tourist organisation that shows all the national bike routes! The rest of my preparation consisted of marking the bike routes on the maps and reading a lot of guidebooks which left me more planless than before. In my experience bike trips are very spontaneous. You decide on the spot where you want to go and then go. You don't need bike trails and I wonder how much I will actually stick to them once on the road.

The other half of the preparation concerned my bike. I spent a couple of evenings at my local bike club and with my friend Wulf and in the end I had changed the oil of my Rohloff hub, put on a new back tube and tire, changed brake pads and gear shift cable. Already having a true and tested bike set up helped a lot. I basically just had to do a tiny bit of maintenance and get my old bike gear out.

I am most worried now about the weather. I have spent the whole month of May in Britain basically freezing my ass off. And now I am going even further North! I just hope the weather improves and summer finally arrives. Updating this blog will be another challenge: Usually I buy a SIM card for every country I hike in  but I'll be passing through so many countries in such a short time that this does not make much sense. I will rely on free wifi and my smartphone. Also I have not cycled long-distance for quite a since 2010 and wonder how I will get back into it.

3 comments:

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Have a great trip! There are actually loads of cycle paths and routes around Finland - I don't think on map shows them all, but these maps are light, cover quite a lot of ground and aren't ridiculously expensive http://www.karttakauppa.fi/workspace.client_organization/PublishedService?file=page&pageID=3&action=view&groupID=1761 You'll often find that there are virtually unused older roads that go basically the same places as the highways but will be MUCH nicer riding.

German Tourist said...

Toby, thanks for the info. I am aware of those maps, but for my route I would probably need three or for of these maps. Therefore I will either leave it or buy them once I am in Finland. Are they easily available in bookshops in Finland?

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

I've definitely seen them in a number of chain bookshops (and outdoor shops) around Helsinki - so you'll probably be able to find them in the bigger towns and maybe for sale in some of the big service stations along the way.

In the north and central Finland there are fewer roads than in the south, but there are just a couple of main routes (the road between Oulu and Jyväskylä for example) which take a large proportion of the traffic. These aren't motorways generally, so you can ride on them but it really wouldn't be much fun I wouldn't have thought. If you can follow one of the marked national biking routes that avoids these trunk road that will be so much nicer and safer. Once you are on back roads, it's great! See: http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.fi/2011/09/road-biking-in-helsinki-hinterland.html and http://lightfromthenorth.blogspot.fi/2012/06/big-ride-kangasala-vantaa-190-kms.html So the outdoor maps are good for that reason. Anyway, have a great trip!