Ruska – Ride Across Finland 2017

This page contains the most recent information of #Ruska, a unsupported bicycle ride across Finland in september 2017.  All information here is preliminary and constantly updating so take details with a grain of salt before doing any further plans. 🙂

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Whats and whys

Getting there and back home

General information of the route

Start, finish and controls


The whats and whys

If you are reading this I assume you are aware that bikebacking and unsupported cycling events are the new black and there is a new event popping up every time you refresh your browser. Hence Ruska is just another bikebacking event trying to mashup the best parts of the genre. Riding a bicycle across Finland is nothing new, but as far as I know there hasn’t been a free route unsupported event before. Most similar event is Rovaniemi 300 that is also a Iditarod qualifier. Ruska should be accessible to any cyclist who is well prepared and remembers to stay on the saddle. Route will take you from southmost city of Finland to the shores of Barents sea.  Event’s name ’Ruska’ translates to autumn foliage and that is the most beautiful time of the year to be riding across Finland.

Ruska isn’t a race. Instead of being fastest, your challenge is visiting all 3 control points and reaching finish line in Kirkenes in 8 days and 6 hours. The exact time limit is a subject to change. Clock doesn’t stop until you are done and you are free to ride fast as you want. Depending of your individual route choices minimum daily mileage will be atleast 220-250 kilometers. You are of course free to ride as fast as you can. Results will be posted in 3 categories, finished, late and scratched.

Event will have live online coverage with each participants (near) realtime location.

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 it means in case of Ruska. You are not allowed to recieve any support that is not available to all racers. 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 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 deadend. 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 recieve help, like asking directions or filling water bottles, from locals as long as supporte isn’t self arranged. You may also call home or chat with friends as long as it doesn’t include any dedicated help. Riders may not consult other riders about their riding plans. Everyone is 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 indicent looks blatant, removed completely from the results. And the world will have a good laugh.

There is solo and pair category. Pairs may offer any help to and draft each other, but other rules are similar to solos.

Many of the details depend on level of interest the event gets. So sign up for newsletter,  check your self interested in Facebook and patiently wait for more information.

Getting to start and back home

The start is from Hanko on friday evening 15.9.2017. Exact location is to be announced, but it is somewhere in downtown. Hanko is about 130 km from Helsinki and the main airport. There is a train connection from airport to Hanko. There are also ferry connections to Helsinki from Travemunde, Tallinn and Stockholm.

You may at your own expense and arrangements send luggage by mail to finish. I’ll update the information when I’m aware of best practises.

At Kirkenes there is an airport with daily connections to Oslo and from there to any international flights. For finnish riders heading back home there is a bus connection from Näätämö and there may also be connections directly from Kirkenes to Finland.

Equipment requirements

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

There is no mandotory helmet law in either Finland or Norway.

General information of the route

For finnish riders most of the details should be obvious. This section should be interesting to foreign participants.

Here are few of the highlights you should know about Finland when deciding wether to participate and when 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 south or coast of Finland. After 1st 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 supplies. Check and double check that services you plan to use are open and available. Longest segments without services should be around 100 kilometers. Except for the final approach to finish, where you might end up riding over 250 kilometers without services, depending on your schedule.

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 higher. In mid September there is little risk of snow.

Finland’s road network is in excellent condition and only a few roads that are forbidden from cyclists. In the beginning you’ll need to avoid roads 1, 3 and 4. Some segments of roads 5 and 9 near bigger cities are also forbidden. Google street view works on all paved roads. There is no principal reason to avoid smaller gravel roads. They are in good condition when it’s not raining.

Start and finish are in Schengen area so there is no need for special documents on the route. Russian citizens and visa holders may choose to approach finish line from Raja-Jooseppi to Storskog, but they should make themself familiar with the rules on Russian side of the border zone.

Polar circle is after half way on 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. Your route is likely to go by five of the 20 largest lakes in Europe. We don’t have any nasty uphills in Finland, but I did my best when choosing the control points.

Start, finish and controls

Start, Hanko

The start is from Hanko. It is famous for being the southmost point of Finland’s mainland. If you have huge red beard, enjoy rum and your vocabulary consists of yarr! you may find Hanko interesting. For the rest of us it is just the southmost point of Finland’s mainland.

On route to first control you’ll pass the most crowded parts of Finland. Traffic on friday night and during the weekend should be very light. You will leave the busy parts behind before sunday morning.

Koli, approximately 650 km from start

Koli is a hill by lake Pielinen. Scenery is famous from Eero Järnefeld’s painting ’Maisema Kolilta’. For more information you can check the Koli national park Wikipedia page. Control is on top of Ukko-Koli.

After Koli you’ll head north and there are fewer and fewer route options available. Also fewer and fewer places to get support. Just endless pine forests, lakes and swamps. And then there is more.

Syöte, approximately 1050 km from start

Syöte is the southmost fell in Finland. Region is another national park. From there on the autumn foliage will be at its best. Control is on top of Iso-Syöte fell.

After Syöte the route continues further north to Lapland. Northern region is also region of Sami people. They are the only group with indigenous people status in Europe. Most visible difference when entering Sami region is that you’ll start seeing bilingual street signs. Also trees will be getting smaller and fells more common. Area before 3rd control is likely to be crowded by tourists.

Saariselkä, approximately 1450 km from start

Saariselkä is the Finland’s equivalent of continental divide. To the north rivers flow to Barents sea and to south they flow to the Baltic sea. Control is the top of Kaunispää fell.

After Ivalo the route gets even less populated. There is essentially nothing for the last 250 kilometers. Just poorly growing forests, more fells and lakes. And if you are lucky, northern lights, reindeers and pure joy of cycling because you are almost done.

Finish, King Oscar II’s chapel, approximately 1800 km from start

Finish line is at Grense Jakobslev. None will be there for you. There are no permanent resident in the village. Just an old chapel facing the winds of open Barents sea. Across the river and Russian border is the Petsamo district that was part of Finland from 1920-1944.

Congratulations. You are done. Now try to make it back to Kirkenes before the party starts on saturday evening 23.9. Place to be announced. See you there.