Sunday, January 8, 2017

Tour de Kurjenrahka - Early January Edition

The year has started with excellent outdoor weather. Good ice and almost no snow provided a paradise for Nordic skating, until it started to snow on Saturday. Snow is also nice and while I would like to have more, this was enough to warrant a fatbike overnighter. I also needed a shakedown ride for the Surly Ice Cream Truck, so this was an excellent opportunity. Jarkko joined me.

We started riding from Rantapiha at seven in the evening. The first kilometer went on the duckboards of the regular trail of the Kurjenrahka mire.

We soon left the trail, though, for a route that has a rideable surface, provided the water level has been high enough when everything froze. In November, this route was too dry and though frozen it was too soft to be rideable. Now we could ride almost all of it, but it was hard work and with a temperature of just a few degrees below freezing also hot work.

We sought out terrain that was as even as possible, which in practice meant having as much ice as possible. Sometimes animal trails and sometimes not. Finding a good route on open mire isn't easy, since you have no reference points and only see maybe twenty meters ahead of you. It would actually be easier to navigate without using the bike light, since you would then see some features and contours in the distance. Riding wouldn't be possible in the darkness, though.The first part went surprisingly well.


After one hour we arrived at the Töykkälä shelter, which was full. We continued towards Vajosuo, mostly on road that felt extremely slow. The Vajosuo shelter was also occupied, but there was still a third shelter within reach. Riding on the Vajosuo mire was a lot more difficult. The rideable spots formed a veritable maze and it was impossible to keep a straight line, as seen below. I should configure the GSP software to provide a continuous view, but I actually resent that a little. I'm too much into maps and compasses. (Photo by Jarkko Holopainen).


After 2 h 45 minutes and 14.5 rather hard kilometers we arrived at the Rettu shelter and found it empty. Fortunately, since at this point we were quite tired and hungry after some very hard work.

After having started the fire, it was time for dinner. With some vegetables, chicken meat and suitable spices...

... and some patience...

... we made an excellent Thai style wok.

Since Jarkko had a Muurikka pan there was no reason not to make pancakes.


We went to sleep some time after midnight. The weather was now quite clear.

I got up at seven in the morning. Jarkko had been up for a short while and started a fire. The temperature was around -7C. I had been pretty comfortable with my 600 g summer sleeping bag reinforced with a 600 g quilt. We had plenty of time for breakfast before the planned start at nine.

We started at 8:45, when it was light enough to see something without the lights.

After a short trail section we had a short section of road. The Vee Snowshoe 2XL tires are really something on a hard surface: They need a fairly steep descent to actually roll of their own. Picture by Jarkko Holopainen.

A short trail section later, we were at a new mire, which we reached after some bushwacking. First picture by Jarkko Holopainen.




Though there was no need for floatation beyond that of an ordinary fatbike, I think there was a little advantage to the larger 2XL tires in the most uneven sections.

After some bike pushing between two mires, we found some respite in the lag zone again, where it was wet enough to have ice beneath the tires. There were also narrow animal trails that were easier to follow. First picture by Jarkko Holopainen.


My new fatbike in bikepacking mode. I'd rather have a rear rack than a seat bag, so I'll have to see which options there are. The Salsa Alternator 190 rack should fit, but does it have room for the tires?

Jarkko still has the original purple Surly Pugsley bought in 2009, almost one year before I got my first fatbike. Back then, I remember that the tires looked huge.

There is a slight difference in size between 3.8" tires on 65 mm rims and 5.05" tires on 100 mm rims.


The mire was magical with the mist and frost.




Short bike pushing section through a dead forest.

The final rideable mire of the route.


This lag zone almost always provide a good entry to the Lakjärvenrahka mire, which is only partially rideable.

Arriving at Lakjärvi.


A short coffee break at Lakjärvi. Both shelters were occupied with people having been there for the night. There was no one at the old firewood shed, though.

A half hour of riding on trails remained. The total of the day was 3.5 h and 14.5 km. Walking speed, though actually walking the route with all the overnighter gear would be much slower still.

I finally found a VBL sock solution that worked. The plastic bags I've used before have always slided down and ended under the heel, but the Exped SVL sock stayed up and worked, though. The inner surface obviously has much higher friction than plastic bags.

A nice overnighter again, and a good shakedown ride for the new bike. Thanks to Jarkko for the company.