When on a bike tour, you’re always at your destination

Whenever Taina Renkonen from Helsinki has time, she’ll take out her bike, pack along her hammock and drive out of town. Sometimes her trip takes a weekend, occasionally several weeks.

Beautiful summer weather encourages cycling! In our May issue of Nette magazine, we published an article about Taina Renkonen and her passion to go on biking tours. Get the best tips here to start a new hobby!

“Biking sneaked into my life years ago when I got a summer job that was 17 kilometres from my home. A didn’t have a driver’s license, so I started cycling. My bike became my transport of choice, wherever I’m going. I still haven’t got a driver’s license.

Later I took to bike touring, venturing further and further. On many Fridays, I would fill my backpack, cycle to the ferry and go on a weekend adventure in Estonia.

You don’t have to have an expensive super bike or have the stamina of a top athlete to go on a bike hike. Most bike tourers are ordinary people who simply have a dream to travel by bike.

Improved stamina.

I still use the hybrid bike I bought 12 years ago for my commute. A hybrid is a combination between mountain and road bikes. I’ve spent so much time with my bike that it’s really my travelling companion, so much so that I’ve decided to give it a name, Roxy. Nowadays I pack my things in the side bags.

I can fit in everything that it need: ultralight hammock, sleeping bag, mosquito net, canopy to protect where I camp out, first-aid kit, insect repellent, headlamp, bike repair kit, suitable clothes for driving and camping, and one set of clothes for city life.

At first I stayed at hostels and inns, but after I’d spent one night outdoors in a hammock, there was no going back. How cool – and exciting – to sleep in the open air! When you closed your eyes, you could hear cracks around you, and you were wondering which animal that was.

Nothing nasty has ever happened, but to be on the safe side, I always send my coordinates on WhatsApp to my mother or someone else that’s close to me.

“I like to push my limits. I’ve also tried roller derby and Thai boxing. When you pluck up the courage to push yourself to your limits, you get confidence to manage a variety of situations.”

I’m a cultural geographer by education. I have a desire to see and explore the world, also through biking. On longer trips I usually sleep three nights outdoors and in between one night in some accommodation to wash my clothes and charge my phone.
If I stay indoors for any longer, I yearn to get back into nature.

And besides, when you sleep most of the time outdoors, you don’t need much of a travel budget. To camp, all you need is two trees at a suitable distance from each other.

“The feeling of freedom is amazing.”

A hammock is good in that it leaves no trace on the ground. It’s also attached with treehugger straps that do not damage the trunk.

I typically travel alone, but I meet like-minded people during accommodation. I use the Warmshowers network to find people who can put you up for the night. It’s like couch surfing, but for bike tourers.

In Tartu, for example, I stayed at another bike tourer’s home, who had been on each continent and once on a three-year tour. It was amazing to listen to those stories.

I tour during three seasons: spring, summer and autumn. I spend most of my summers on my bike. Last summer I was touring the Baltic countries for six weeks.

“I never make any exact itineraries. I just decide on a direction and when I might be coming back.

I leave a lot for improvisation, because I want to live in the moment and find my own paths.

Usually I cycle 70–100 kilometres a day. It’s cool getting about using my own muscles, but I don’t consider it a sport. It’s more like mental maintenance.

Bike touring provides the perfect balance for work, with its busy timetables of calendars full of meetings. When touring, everything revolves around basic issues: where will I sleep, where can I get food, and where can I charge my phone and backup power sources. When at home, all of this is obvious.

And the funny thing when touring is that all food tastes incredibly good, even instant tomato soup.

I’m dreaming of a bike tour around Europe, through the Nordic countries, and sleeping out in Lapland. I was supposed to go on the Nordic tour this summer, but it looks like I’ll be staying in Finland this year. What I’ve learned through bike touring is that you don’t have to go to the other side of the planet to experience something.

Bike touring is a continuous 24/7 experience. I can experience smells, beautiful scenery, see interesting places, feel the wonderful and awful weather conditions and dip into a lake at the end of the day. I’m not waiting to get from A to B – I’m at my destination all the time.”

Text: Ella Pesonen
Pictures: Heli Blåfield

Taina’s tips for starting bike touring

  • On Facebook, Suomalaiset retkipyöräilijät and Bikepacking Finland are good groups.
  • Start with short trips, using the equipment you have.
  • Always remember to have with you a first-aid kit, food and drink and enough backup power for your phone.
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