Sunday, March 16, 2014

Winter again?

After some time with warm weather, the temperature being mostly above freezing, everyone was ready to embrace the spring, including me, after a miserable and mostly non-existent winter. However, this weekend the winter struck back. The change was visible in the weather forecast a few days earlier and we started to talk about a small overnighter this weekend. Not everybody could make it, but I, Toni and JJ decided to meet up at Marttila at 16:30 on Saturday. With the effect of the days getting longer now being very noticeable, we would have more than two hours of daylight before the sunset.

The amount of snow wasn't that large, but it still cheered up everything.

I had my trusty Salsa Mukluk with the typical bikepacking setup, enabling me to ride without a backpack, which is my preferred style. I feel that I still can handle the bike quite well even in rather technical terrain.

The feedbag hides a new beer, the Kukko Vehnä (a Weissbier).

Toni was a bit late and we rode to meet him on a forest road.

Me, myself and I.

Toni and JJ.

The trail was marked, but at places still hard to follow, at least on open sections.

View over the Juomakivenrahka mire.

JJ rode his old Nicolai.

There was surprisingly little storm damage on the trail, but some places still needed a little bike pushing.

Another view of the same mire. Also includes a tire.

A short duckboard section. The duckboards were not entirely visible under the snow, but still not difficult to ride.

The sunset is getting closer. The tire might look familiar by now.

Closing in on the Lotikonkellari shelter.

Much to our surprise, there was firewood at the shelter, meaning that we would stay here for the night. We now took a short break to enjoy the sunset.

JJ x 2.

The time was now a little over six, so we couldn't stop here. After checking the maps we came up with a suitable loop. A wise man would perhaps have left the gear at the shelter, but that would of course have been cheating.

Easy terrain.

We took the trail at the north edge of the mire, a trail I hadn't tried before, since according to my information there would be no duckboards there, meaning that a bike could leave ugly marks in the soft mire terrain, something which should be avoided. This time the ground was firm and frozen, though, so there was no risk for that to happen.

It was now getting darker, but that could to some extent be compensated for.

The riding was very nice and the fatbikes had a clear advantage.

On the way back to the shelter, the riding was very flowy and the speed increased, until Toni rode a bridge at a poor angle and took a nasty fall. He fell down from the bridge on the ice of a ditch and hurt has right hand and arm. The ice broke, which probably lessened the impact, but instead he got a little wet.

The right crank arm also took a tough hit and was bent. As a result it no longer cleared the chainstay, but later at the shelter we managed to bend it back a bit.

We were quite close to the shelter and continued there to make a fire and assess possible further damage. JJ used his small pocket knife, a Varusteleka Skrama, to prepare the firewood. I suspect the knife is more of  a weapon than a tool, but it worked for this as well.

The wind was now rather hard and the fire took some effort to get started, but after a while we could make our food and hot drinks.

JJ had mustamakkara (black sausage) to go with his beer.

Toni tried pizza...

... while I had something really delicious. Chopped beetroots, carrots and turnips with olive oil and some spices in one package and freshly smoked salmon, heated on the fire, in the other.

And so the evening went on. The wind was rather strong and the temperature a few degrees below freezing.

Around half an hour after midnight I withdrew into my sleeping bag. I used my summer sleeping bag reinforced with my summer quilt, which kept me warm during the windy night. My plan was to sleep until seven in the morning, making me the first one to wake up, but a little over six I woke to the others talking. Toni couldn't sleep due to his hurt arm aching, and JJ had found and exceeded the comfort temperature of his DIY summer quilt, which he had finished a few days earlier. For once I woke up to a ready camp fire.

Breakfast in the making.

The shelter is in a quite nice place.

The challenges of hydration...

Toni wasn't able to ride with his hurt arm and took the shortest possible route to the cars, pushing the bike, while JJ and I rode the more difficult route of yesterday.

Yesterday's mire in a different light.

An excellent overnighter cut a little short in the morning. Hopefully Toni's injury heals soon. Thanks to JJ and Toni for the company.

PS. The answer to the question that has puzzled at least some readers. How did the new Kukko Vehnä taste? The answer is that it tasted pretty much as expected, a pretty standard Weissbier with a little watery taste, due to the limited alcohol content allowed in beer sold in ordinary stores. The liquor store version of many beers is usually a lot better. Maybe the ordinary store version is simply made by diluting the real stuff with water?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Winter Video

I dusted off my Panasonic GH2 and made a little video about the current winter, or whatever you would choose to call it.

I used the GH2 and the Panasonic 14-42 lens, as well as the Panasonic Summilux 25/1.4 for a few clips. A short clip was also made with the waterproof Panasonic FT4. I tried a new hack on the GH2. The Cluster X Moon T7 in HBR 25p mode didn't work reliably with my Sandisk Extreme 45 MB/s cards, but the Cluster X SpitzZ T6 worked well. These hacks almost triple the bitrate of the video data in the camera, and I think the result is visible when you are editing the video. There is more detail to be pulled from the shadows, something not entirely unusable when filming in high contrast sunny weather and it also helps to maintain the excellent resolution of this particular camera. This resolution makes it possible to do small pans and zooms in post, something which was not possible to do well with the earlier Canon 60D I had.

Unfortunately, this non-winter hasn't provided much inspiration for doing video work. Last winter I managed to make four videos, but this time I probably won't make more than this one.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Non-winter overnighter in March

It was time for an overnighter again. The purpose of this one was to celebrate Toni's almost-win of the Rovaniemi 150, though you don't really need a reason to do an overnighter. This time we decided to go to the Töykkälä shelter, where I've only slept twice before. Since I had been a little sick a few days earlier, I decided to take the car to the Vajosuo parking place and ride from there, about one hour of riding from the shelter of the night.

The winter can only be described as a complete catastrophy, at least from an outdoor person's point of view. The weather was cold enough for a winter for less than four weeks and we only have had around two days of snow good enough for skiing in the nature. The previous winter offered skiing in the nature for about four and a half months, so the contrast is enormous. Still, complaining about it doesn't do any good, and you just have to accept the weather that is being offered.

I packed my bike and loaded it onto the car.

At seven in the evening I arrived at the Vajosuo parking place, where Jarkko waited for me. I unloaded the bike and a quick phone call confirmed that Toni was late, so we started riding a loop of trails. To our surprise, the trails were mostly in quite hard and dry condition, with a few rather wet exceptions.

In one section the duckboards were somewhere under the ice, which for the most part held our weight.

I had now switched out my winter wheels with 100 mm Clownshoe rims and 4.5" Big Fat Larry tires to something more suitable for the non-snow conditions: Rolling Darryl rims with 4" tires.

After almost an hour, Toni joined us and we could continue towards the shelter. The mild winter and long wet fall had again led to considerable storm damage in the forest and on the trails.

After less than one hour more, we arrived at the Töykkälä shelter, where Tommi was starting the camp fire. He had arrived by car and walked the last stretch due to time constraints.

Tommi had brought his dog Pekko with him.

Now was the time to prepare something to eat and start with the beer and just generally have a good time.

I had some tasty meat.

Tommi had sausage.

I even had a second bottle of beer this time.

Toni and Jarkko involved in a seemingly very deep philosophical discussion.

We went to sleep an hour after midnight. The temperature was a little below freezing and I had brought a 600 g quilt to make my 600 g summer sleeping bag a little warmer, which was totally unnecessary. In fact, I was too warm during the night.

A little over seven in the morning I got up, immediately followed by Jarkko, and started a fire.

A few more pictures of the shelter and surroundings.

Tommi and Pekko.


It started snowing a little and a small amount even stayed on the ground as snow.

Pekko is quite photogenic.

After a slow morning we started riding some time before ten.

A short road section between the trails.

The Vajosuo trails offered difficult duckboard riding again.The difference between my front tire Nate and back tire Knard can clearly be seen here.

Jarkko rides a purple Pugsley and he was one of the earlier fatbike adopters in Finland.

You don't see this tire track very often anymore. The Endomorph was the first real fatbike tire and still has one of the best knob patterns for snow, but it is a little narrow for snow use by today's standards.

The original fat tire setup with a 65 mm rim and 3.8" Endomorph tire next to Toni's setup, which has the widest combination of today, a 4.8" Lou tire on a 100 mm rim.

My Salsa Mukluk.


Another lagg zone.

Easy riding.

We took a short detour to the Vajosuo bird watching tower. This is the mire that should provide excellent skiing at this time of the year.

Self portrait.


The MTB-Turku bog section.

Our three fatbikes posing. Ton'is 907, Jarkko's Pugsley and my Mukluk.

A short road section back to the parking place, where I loaded the bike onto the car. Toni and Jarkko continued home by bike.

That's it. A nice overnighter, thanks to the participants.

Toni's report.
Jarkko's blog entry about the outing (in Finnish).