It is truly amazing what a difference a proper bike does. I know mine isn't totally top notch one. Compared to my previous hybrid one it's totally from another world, however. And now that I upgraded its wheels a bit, it feels better than ever. I guess the next step is to get one of those fancy carbon bikes. That'll have to wait at least till the next Summer at least.
As my biking hobby has progressed, so has my overall fitness and health. I'm probably in the best condition of my life at the moment. The last two months were quite busy due to a job and I wasn't able to ride as much as I would've liked. In order to make up for this a bit, I decided to make my first epic bike trip as the gig ended.
In this post I'll cover my trip to some detail and offer some guidance to other people that might want to do something like this at some point. It really gives you a different kind of perspective on the environment when you travel "slow" sometimes. Often the trip to the destination is more interesting than the destination itself. That's true in this case at least.
The following thinger (provided it works), should show you my route from Oulu to Jyväskylä. It contains some commentary you might or might not want to read.
View Epic Bike Ride '11 (Oulu to Jyväskylä) in a larger map
As you can see I did not take the shortest route. I did this on purpose. I rather ride on roads with less traffic. This lead to some extra kilometers and effort. I don't really mind, though.
Few of my route choices may not have been quite optimal. It can be pretty cruel to ride on gravel roads, especially with a road bike. I had some rough idea of a route in mind before the trip, nothing too concrete, though.
I initially thought the trip might take four days. I made it in three. The first two days were easy (around 130k each). The last day (around 220k) was a bit tougher. Terrain in particular was challenging during the last day. Nothing's more fun than to climb those hills when tired (depends on your definition of fun). :)
Compared to my usual "short" rides (between 50-100k usually), this was a bit more challenging. In addition to the span of multiple days, I had to carry some extra weight. I split the weight on my backbag (around 5 kilos) and a handlebar bag (2-3 kilos). I also carry a small saddle bag with some essential supplies to get some repairs done on the road if needed.
Albeit it was challenging I think the bike trip was just great. I didn't start out in my peak performance as I suffered some kind of stomach flu thingy a few days before the trip. Despite this I had no issues whatsoever with my fitness. I guess taking those two first days a bit easier wasn't that bad an idea. As a buddy of mine once said, it's not the distance that kills, it's the speed. :)
It was really interesting to have just a rough idea of a route instead of micro-managing it. Sure this lead to some extra effort. On the other hand this allowed me to make decisions on the fly. I usually started to look for a place to spend my night in somewhere around four PM. Luckily for me this worked out fine. Note that it's a good idea to be in some pretty populated place when you begin your search.
Alternatively you could do some research beforehand and make reservations if that suits you better. This ties you to a partially predetermined route, however. I guess this is pretty much of a necessity during busy seasons, though.
It's always a good idea to have some extra nutrition with you. In my case trusty old Snickers bars worked out great. Same goes obviously for water. This is true especially during hot weather.
Keep in mind that biking takes a lot of energy. Try to eat as often as possible. You'll begin to respect a good breakfast after a trip like this. :)
I noticed it often pays off to discuss with the local people. They'll be able to point out the local restaurants, hotels and such with little problem. Sometimes just having a map with you (in your phone or physically) just isn't enough.
Overall finns are quite nice people even though they might appear to be a bit shy. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Often they speak English even.
My last bit of advice has to do with motivation. How do you motivate yourself to achieve epic (for me anyway :)) things like this? The answer is surprisingly simple. You just have to split it up in small enough segments that you can understand and accomplish. In my case I split the whole in days. These days were further split to smaller legs (ie. from Haapajärvi to Reisjärvi). I split these even further on the road (till the next hill, till that bend over there).
It can be really satisfying to reach these smaller goals. After you reach enough of those, you reach one of those bigger ones till reach the big, epic one. I know it sounds simple, and it probably is, even still this is something that seems to work for me.
So was it worth it? Definitely. I really would not mind doing a trip like this again. I bet the next trips are a little bit easier now that I've gotten a little bit experience.
Before anyone gets any trippy ideas of their own, do keep your physical realities in mind. Even though it might sound easy it isn't. Make sure you are fit before trying anything like this. Consult your doctor if needed.
If you don't wish to travel alone, carry all the luggage ie. keep in mind there are guided bike trips arranged by various agencies around the world. They'll provide you all the basic amenities you happen to need. In this case you can just ride and enjoy. :)