Wandrering the winter cycling capital of the world
Craig and I have very much enjoyed learning more about winter cycling from Wandrer Pekka Tahkola, an urban planner and well-being engineer who lives in Oulu, Finland. We recommend following him on social media (Instagram / Twitter / YouTube). Oulu is the the winter cycling capital of the world and this BBC News short video and Pekka’s head-to-head Winter Safe Cycling Showdown make it clear why.
What stands out to me most from Pekka’s stories is that once you’ve built the infrastructure and invest in maintenance, everyone can and will keep riding their bikes year-round. Just look at this schoolyard in Oulu in the middle of winter:
And these kids out by themselves with a sled, captured in a screenshot from the Winter Safe Cycling Showdown:
Pekka emphasizes that there’s no need for special bikes or other gear thanks to the infrastructure & maintenance. Kids bike unaccompanied by adults even in -30C (-22F) weather and 90-year old grannies will do their shopping with a regular single-speed upright city bike. As a result, I think Oulu looks vibrant and alive, even at -10C (14F) in the dark (another screenshot from the Winter Safe Cycling Showdown):
It’s perhaps not a big surprise that Pekka has explored quite a lot of Oulu (69.3% / 5,320 km / 3,306 mi / #1) and Finland (6.3% / 31,129 km / 19,343 mi / #1). Here are a few images of Pekka’s map at different zoom levels:
Now, for those of us who are willing to invest some time and planning into exploration by bike, Pekka says that the northern winter can make it possible to extend adventures. The rivers, lakes, and sea freeze near Oulu, allowing for rides in places that wouldn’t normally be possible. Sometimes going off the Wandrer map can be rewarding:
This video on Pekka’s Instagram shows how snow crust conditions can sometimes make it possible to ride on an otherwise impassable swamp. (Sound on for the snow crust crunch!)
You can also see the northern lights:
While Pekka is perhaps accurately described as at least a bit “cycle-mad”, enjoying some pretty spectacular & occasionally extreme adventures, he emphasizes that his job is to make sure that no one has to be cycle-mad to enjoy cycling year round. Pekka & Oulu show it’s possible – I hope we can all learn from them!
Traveling with a baby for a mountain biking vacation
Craig and I hesitated about having a baby for a long time because we weren’t sure it would be possible to continue having adventures once we were responsible for a little one. But we haven’t stopped! We bike toured in Taiwan from age 4 to 6 months and spent almost a month at my family’s home in Maine at age 11 months. And last week we took a road trip to Bentonville, Arkansas, primarily to mountain bike with a group of riding friends while also hanging out with our 13-month old baby. I wanted to share a little bit about what we found in Bentonville and our experience traveling to mountain bike with a little one in case the info is helpful to anyone else.Read article
Bike touring with a 4-6 month old baby in Taiwan
We had a wonderful time on our bike touring adventure in Taiwan with our little 4-6 month old baby. Our confidence to try touring was very much inspired by two mini-guidebooks (Cycle Touring with a Baby/Toddler, Cycle Touring with Two Young Kids) written by Maya and Gili on the Life in MAGIc Land blog. Since we learned so much from them, I wanted to share our thoughts here, in case they can be of interest/use to others.Read article