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.
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.