Cycling Under the Auroras

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Cycling Under the Auroras

I think I can call the first trip a success!

The temperature was at -10C and promising to get down to -15C during the night. I packed the bike and wore four layers of my best winter clothes, plus a beanie, scarf, and boots that can withstand -40C weather. Now, some people are probably thinking that sounds like too much while pedaling. And sure, when you overdress there is the risk of sweating, which is outright dangerous in the cold. But the solution is simply to go slowly. And this way I can take frequent breaks for resting, eating, drinking, or photography without looking like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining.

The bike, on the other hand...

I didn't go very far, probably cycling less than 20km total. The original plan was to sleep in a "laavu" (a Finnish lean-to, free for any kind of trekking use), since they always have firewood. But the ones I visited turned out to be rather difficult to get to. They weren't far from the road, but without an easy path, even a few hundred meters takes an unreasonable amount of work in 2-3 feet of snow and a heavy bicycle. As the northern lights lit up above me, I head back to look for snowmobile tracks and a quiet place to camp off the road.

I did bring a tent with me, but wanted to try sleeping in a hammock. First of all, it's much easier to set up, plus there's the huge benefit of gazing at the stars and northern lights when falling asleep. Unfortunately I don't have an underquilt, which is pretty important in the cold. So here's what I did: I put a space blanket in the hammock, a sleeping mat on top of that, a folded up fleece blanket under the bum area (since that's usually where the cold comes through first), then a winter down sleeping bag, and the other half of the space blanket wrapped around everything.

Then I wore a second beanie, a second pair of gloves, and walked around to warm up my body before diving into the sleeping bag. Despite all of that, I won't claim it was particularly comfortable. It was fine at first, but after a while of sleeping, the chill would creep through and wake me up. So not exactly the most restful night I've ever had. The next time I'll just use the tent.

The bike itself felt good on its first journey. The aforementioned winter clothes made getting on and off a little difficult, and the tires obviously aren't made for thick snow. Still, I had no trouble staying upright. When I got onto the snowmobile tracks, I just walked the bike without even trying to ride. In any case, much more testing is required, and I certainly don't mind!

And it's not until spring and summer bring the proper touring season, that I can really start to get acquainted with my new companion.

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The Joy of a New Bike

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The Joy of a New Bike

Exciting news: My bicycle has arrived!

For so long I’ve dreamt about this journey, and now for the first time it actually feels like a real thing that is going to happen. Because it's finally here. This is the bike I’ll ride around the world on. And it’s a beauty.

It’s a Finnish brand called Chebici, made by Vesa Rauttu. He is quite a character - 69 years old and still building some of the best custom bicycles around. I met him a year and a half ago when I needed to replace a rear tire while touring and a friend recommended his shop. We got to talking and he pointed out some issues with my riding position. Quickly impressed by his knowledge and skills, I brought up this project and that I was looking for a new bicycle. Soon enough, he took my physical measurements, and after some months of discussion and planning he designed this unique frame specifically for me.

It has disc brakes, 2” tires, an 11-speed cassette and brifters - finally I don't have to take my hand off the handlebar just to shift gears. The saddle is a Selle SMP and from preliminary testing, it feels better than my old Brooks. Which would be great, since the Brooks requires a bit more maintenance and isn’t as comfortable as I would like.

All the pieces work really well together and there’s nothing so fancy that it can’t be fixed in a third-world country. And best of all, it’s great on both asphalt and gravel roads. Unlike my old bike with 32mm tires, which always caused frustration on uneven surfaces.

So now I have about three months to get accustomed to the bike, test everything, and make minor tweaks where necessary.

I can’t wait for my first tour.

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Around the World by Bicycle

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Around the World by Bicycle

So my dream is to cycle around the world.

This has been my life's biggest goal for at least a couple years now. Of course I could've packed my bags and set off almost as soon as I got the idea. But I wanted to get a couple things sorted first. Mainly, to learn photography to the point where I can somewhat confidently take high quality images along the way. Somehow I felt I wouldn't want to pedal for five years in truly amazing landscapes and end up with mediocre holiday photos. And secondly, sort my finances enough so that I wouldn't need to rely on the kindness of strangers just to get by.

The current idea for an approximate route is this: North Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, East Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South America, North America. After that, I don't know. Whether the oceans will be crossed by plane or boat is also still undecided.

The world record for circumnavigating the globe is 123 days. Most people do this in a year or two or three. I have no interest in trying to set any records. Not that I could even if I wanted to - my athletic prowess is somewhere on the level of a wet baby koala. But more importantly, the point of the trip is to enjoy the adventure and take as much time as I want. Trying to go fast would miss the entire purpose of the journey. Nothing kills enjoyment as easily as hurry. So I've set aside at least five years.

But who knows, it might take longer.

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Introduction

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Introduction

My name is Tomi Rantanen. I’m a 35-year-old photographer and long distance bicycle tourer from Finland.

I’ve been cycling for four years. Every summer I pack my bike and hit the road for two or three months. I simply love everything about this hobby. The adventure, excitement, sense of pure freedom, fresh air, gorgeous views, connection to nature, self-sufficiency, all the amazing people I meet, and the countless learning experiences. Here are my previous trips:

2013: I toured in South Europe, around Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, and Hungary (3000km)
2014: Criss-crossed from South Finland to the Arctic Ocean in Norway (3000km)
2015: Cycled to all 39 national parks in Finland (5250km)
2016: Nightless night tour in North Norway above the Arctic Circle (2000km)

You can find photos from the last three tours in the Gallery section.

I’ve studied photography for three years. The motivation to learn came in Slovenia. I didn’t think I could ever adequately describe the beautiful landscapes there, and phone snapshots just weren’t enough. So I decided to study photography in order to show friends and family how amazing the places I visit are. I bought my first DSLR in early 2014 and now my goal is to become a professional eventually.

My even bigger aspiration is to cycle around the world. More on that later.

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