Ruska – Ride across Finland 2019

This page will have all the most up to date information about #ruska2019 – Ride across Finland in September 2019. See points of interest on a map.

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What and why is Ruska

If you are reading this I assume you know something about unsupported cycling and bikepacking, but here are a few reminders. Ruska is a just another bikepacking event where I try to combine all the best parts of the genre, taking something from randonneuring, bikepacking and unsupported bike races. As in the inaugural Ruska in 2017, the route will be across Finland from south to north. Name Ruska stands for autumn foliage and it is the most beatiful time of the year to ride across Finland.

Ruska is not a race, there are just a closing time of the finish line and 2000 km of Nordic roads to compete against. Yet everyone is free to ride as fast as they can. Start is from Tartu on friday 13.9.2019 at sunset 19:40 o’clock and participants have until midnight 21.9. to find their way to Hammerfest. That is about 8 days and 5 hours due to the finish at a different timezone. Results will be posted in 3 categories, finished, late and scratched.

Route goes through three controls points and each of them lead to another point. All the points are part of the Struve geodetic arc. For rest of the route participants can ride any road, path or whatever, that is allowed for cycling. Flawless navigation and properly planned route are essential to finishing in time. On this year’s route it means roughly 250 kilometers every day.

There are solo and pair categories. Pairs may help and draft each other, but otherwise they have the same rules as solo riders.

Again, if you are reading this and haven’t been living in a barrel for last 5 years, you’ll know something about unsupported cycling ethos. Here is a little briefing of what that means in Ruska. You are not allowed to recieve any support that is not available to all riders. During the event you can’t have a friend bring you food. Or make you a new route when you get lost. Or fix your mechanical problems. Or arrange your accommodation. Or warn you about a meteorological mayhem. Only thing your friends and fans are allowed to do is cheer you online and bite their nails when you are riding to a dead end. Also you are not allowed to help other participants, unless there is an emergency. Any prolonged riding with another participant is considered forbidden help and drafting obviously is not allowed at any time. You are allowed to use any public and commercially available services. During the event you can use shops, restaurants, hotels and other services as usual. These include any online resources that are available to everyone. You may receive help, like asking directions or filling water bottles, from locals as long as the support isn’t there for the event. You may call home or chat with friends online as long as it doesn’t include any dedicated help. Riders may not consult other riders about their riding plans. Everyone has to make those decisions on their own. It is solely participants own responsibility to follow the rules. You may have a cunning plan to break these rules. Then, if you can’t provide a proper explanation for breaking the rules, you can still have a nice ride across Finland, but you will be listed as scratched in results. Or if the breaking of rules looks blatant, removed completely from the results. Including any old results. And the world will have a good laugh.

In the inaugural edition we had 18 participants and 13 finishers. There is unlikely to be limit to the number of participants as there are no logistical limitations on behalf the event to that. Live tracking of riders will be done with mobile phones and there is plenty of road for everyone. Price is to be confirmed, but it should be between 5 and 20 euros to cover all the needed brevet cards, bells and whistles.

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Getting there and back

Start at Tartu is accessible by train and by bus from Tallinn and Riga. Many trains have space for bicycles and buses are likely to require a bicycle bag. There are flights to Tartu, Tallinn, Riga or Helsinki. From Helsinki there are ferry connections to Tallinn every few hours. There are also bus connections from Warsaw. Remember to check that your train and bus allows bikes.

There is an airport with daily connections in Alta, 140 km from finish. For what I know there are no direct bus connections to Finland from Hammerfest. There will be a forum for participants to discuss travel options.

Bike and equipment requirements

Any street legal 2-3 wheeled human powered bicycle is allowed. You must have front and rear lights. Lights and a reflective garment must be used in low light conditions.

There are no mandatory helmet laws in either Finland, Sweden or Norway.

General information about route and conditions

For finnish riders most of the information here should be obvious. This section is mostly for the foreign participants.

Here are few of the highlights you should know about Finland when deciding whether to participate Ruska and planning your route. You’ll be riding through most sparsely populated regions of all Europe. So there are on average 16 people / km^2 in Finland or roughly 1/10th of typical European country, but it doesn’t stop there. Most live in either southern parts or coast of Finland. Before 3rd control you’ve entered area with little to no population at all. That is something you should keep in mind when planning your route and resupply. Check and double check that services you plan to use are open and available. Opening hours of services in smaller cities are very limited. Longest segments without services you will encounter should be around 100 kilometers.

September is typically the least rainy of the warm months. 1st half the route should have temperatures between 5-15 celcius and 2nd half 0-10 celcius. On clear nights temperature is likely to go below 0 degrees and when it is raining, temperature is typically a little higher. There is a above zero change of snow between cp3 and finish.

Road network for most parts is in excellent condition and there are only a few roads that are forbidden from cyclists. Only roads near your route that are not allowed for cyclists are likely to be around Helsinki and parts of road 4 in Finland. Most roads in the region are in Google street view. There is no principal reason to avoid smaller gravel roads. They are likely to be in good condition when it’s not raining.

Polar circle is around half way of the route. Autumn foliage in the north is stunning. Also after Polar circle the chance of northern lights during the night is more than 50% and at finish line they are seen almost every night. Northern half of Finland is area of reindeer husbandry where reindeer wander around freely. There are about 200000 reindeers and only a few more citizens in Lapland. Finland is known as a land of thousand lakes. There are actually 168000 lakes over size of 500 square meters.

Route and controls

Here are the controls (see map) and some thoughts about the route. Details of the controls are provided to participants later.

The Ruska 2019 route honors the Struve Geodetic Arc. The arc was built between 1816 and 1855 to measure the accurate length of the meridian and to determine the exact shape and size of the Earth. Work in Finland started late in 1819 when finnish astronomer H.J. Walbeck visited F.G.V. von Struve in Tartu, 200 years before this year’s Ruska ride. The triangulation tower network that spans from Black sea to Hammerfest had 265 points. Controls and parkour finishes of the route are locations of these points. Many of them are today Unesco world heritage sites. Here is a link to a video about triangulation and the measurements, if you want to know more.

Riders can use ferries across Finnish gulf.

Start Tartu to Võivere

The start will be from Tartu old observatory. From there riders will continue north to a short mandatory parkour from Simuna to Võivere windmill.

Control 1 from Porlammi to Oravivuori

There is no need to climb up to either of the points. The points are info plaques.

First riders will go to Porlammi and then choose one of the two parkours to Oravivuori. The parkour options should make it relatively equal to choose a route on either side of lake Päijänne.

Control 2 from Kivesvaara to Puokio

Control point is the Struve point at Kivesvaara. Second point is simply the crossing at Puokio as the location of the point is not known.

Name of the control is likely to cause chuckles among finnish riders as it literally translates as ”testicle danger”.

Control 3 from Tornio to Aavasaksa

Control point is the Struve point Ala-Tornio church. There is a short parkour across to Haparanda to another Struve memorial.

Second point is Aavasaksa. It is also a location of Maupertius’ earlier geodetic expedition to determine the shape of the Earth

Finish from Jupukka to Hammerfest

Route up to Jupukka’s Struve point is the only one likely to include a little hike-a-bike of about 200 meters.

There is ~30 km gravel parkour before Alta that will lead riders across two Struve points.

Finish is the Meridian memorial at Fuglenes.