HELSINKI RIDE REPORT #1
10 years I’ve been traveling to this city for work and I’ve never had a weekend to myself. Never gone on a ride in that part of the world. This time was going to be different. I had good intentions of riding often while I was there - I even packed pedals, shoes, shorts, a base layer and shirt. Then you get there and Good Intentions don’t often stand a chance against a busy schedule. I did manage a one hour ride on the purgatory stationary bike in the hotel gym. There should be verb for whatever that type of riding is, in the basement of a hotel on a bike that goes nowhere (It should rhyme with fuckin-pathetically-stupid).
By Friday I needed to ride, but a tentative plan of a Saturday mtb ride with a colleague was postponed all the way until week 2. Then my Nordic-modern hotel came to the rescue. See, not only did they serve an amazing, whole-barley porridge (turns out it’s something of a Finnish National dish) but they also had bicycles. Huzzah. So Friday night I put my name down for one and when the Nordic modern gentleman at the desk asked “will three hours do, and do you need a helmet?” I declined both and asked for the whole day. Wales 1, Finland, 0.
As I walked out of the hotel’s front door I had a moment’s hesitation as to what type of bicycle may be awaiting me. A nordic modern hotel, while not overly self-conscious as some boutique hotels aspire to, could well pull out a surprise. A classic Finnish city bike is the Jopo. This is a bike that you see all over Helsinki, ridden by hipsters, businessmen and…Grandmas. And perfectly at home in a nordic modern design store or chained to a fence. But I wanted something with a bit more legs. What it was, was really quite nice, a battleship grey Pelago. My bike for the day was a single speed, coaster brake, St Sebastien – with a basket.
It turns out that Pelago is a bit of an emerging institution in Helsinki. I acknowledge that it doesn’t sound too Finnish, there’s a vowel at the end and a distinct lack of I’s, k’s and n’s. The company has recently established a new shop in the heart of Helsinki on Kalevankatu 32. It’s very nice, and wouldn’t be out of place in Portland or Spitalfields, London. Unfortunately due to Finland’s store opening hours, my trip to Pelago on Saturday afternoon around 5pm, meant that all I could do was window shop. Maybe a good thing in retrospect.
My ride that day took me in a clockwise direction around Helsinki. I had a few galleries and exhibitions that I wanted to see, but in between found that I just followed not my nose, but other cyclists. Helsinki is a bike friendly town, with extensive bike routes and paths. The paths follow the many lakes and archipelago, which is characteristic of south and west of Finland. Without any pre-determined route, and a whole day to kill, I followed those other cyclists – at a distance – until I felt I was heading off my clockwise course; and then just latched onto the wheel of another cyclist. The day started with clear skies, that steadily grew cloudier and colder as the day progressed; ending with showers and finally a rainstorm.
It was a good day. While missing home and family, I managed to convince myself I was lucky to have the chance to ride around a beautiful city, on a nice bike, with nothing much to do and nowhere really to go.
Now the downside: I now need one more bike. A single speed, battle ship grey, city bike. But I’d prefer it be called Eeroviniamankkienkatu.
You know, something Nordic modern.