(Porkkala, September 2013)
For a few months now, I've been planning to write another introduction to sub-24 as the older ones are lost in the mists of posts. So (with reference to the trip we just enjoyed), here goes...
Sub-24? What's that all about?
The last Friday of every month, a group of like-minded people pack their bags, jump on their bikes and ride away from the bright lights of the city to find a quiet place to eat, drink and rest for the night. In the morning, we pack our bags and go back home. Usually when questioned, everyone simply agrees that this was a better option than another night on the sofa / in the bar / at the cinema / etc. This month, we went to Porkkala.
Where did the idea come from?
Grant Petersen, cycling guru. Google him. Find his interview on The Bike Show.
'Sub-' as in less than, '24' as in 24 hours. The trips are usually 5 pm Friday until lunchtime on Saturday.
We usually meet at the Bemböle Shell service station. Here we can buy last-minute things and wait for others to arrive. The reason we meet on this side of Helsinki is that it seems to be the shortest route to good cycling roads and lots of camping options; for example, the Nuuksio National Park. We have visited other places too, but we usually ride west. There are some regular places we visit. Have a look at previous posts to see. We seem to go to Porkkala every autumn.
What if I'm taking a train to meet you in Bemböle and I get thrown off in Helsinki because you're not supposed to travel with a bike during rush-hour?
We will wait for anyone who has the determination to continue against the odds. Or we'll arrange a meeting point further down the road and split into two groups. Send an email to email@example.com to say that your coming and we'll give you a contact phone number in case of such emergencies. Chapeau, Chad.
What do we take with us? You probably need: Food and drink. Spare clothes, warm clothes. Tent, sleeping bag, torch. So that you don't need to, one of the regulars always brings: a stove, an axe, fire-lighting equipment, a tyre pump, simple tools and puncture repair kit, a first aid kit, extra water.
What do we eat and drink? Some people bring simple camping food like pasta and sausages to grill. Others bring proper luxuries, like fondue or fois gras! Someone usually brings wine or other drink to share.
What if I don't own / forget something important?
How far do we ride, how hard is it?
Porkkala is about as far as we have travelled. It was about 45 km from Bemböle. The ride took us about two and a half hours. We try not to rush (why would we want the ride to be over more quickly?!) and we always aim to travel at the pace of the slowest rider. When we get spread out, we stop and wait to regroup. If time or energy is lacking, there might be an option to take the train some of the way.
How many people come? Who are they all?
We're mostly Europeans, but we've had riders from North and South America, an African, an Australian, some Asians. We've even had the odd Finn too. The most common languages heard are English and French. And a bit of Finnish too. This weekend, we had riders from the UK, Belgium, France, Spain, Russia and Canada. All we have in common is that we like riding bikes and spending time in nature. A newcomer is welcomed almost every month. And they sometimes even return. A whole year later, Dries!
What about when it's cold, what about winter?
We have undertaken various sub-24-style trips in winter, using bikes, skis, snowshoes, tents, cabins, campsites, etc. The driving force of sub-24 is the sunny bicycle ride, but no one wants to stay at home all winter either. Warm clothes, enough food and a good sleeping bag combine perfectly with a mildly adventurous heart.
Well, give it a quick check before you come - any air in the tyres, do the brakes work at all? Someone in the group will have the necessary knowledge and/or confidence to fix any problem. Someone will help you. The rest will continue and get the fire started. No one has ever thrown quite so many expletives in the direction of their chain as in Porkkala in September 2013.
What if I need to leave early? What if I need a lie-in? What if I want to ride but don't like camping?
Some sub-24 mornings, we've been up early and on the road quickly - this weekend, we were riding by 9 am. Sometimes we take our time and enjoy the nature for a bit longer. Sometimes someone leaves on their own before anyone else wakes up. We've never left anyone sleeping, but we have left someone who chose to stay longer in the forest. Often, someone will ride with us, eat some dinner and then ride home again. Robin disappeared off homewards into the dark forest of Porkkala this weekend. We're waiting to hear from him.
What if I fall of my bike and hurt myself?
First aid skills abound as do 1-1-2 dialling skills. We will look after you. We have experience.
What kind of memories might I be left with?
Obviously your wind-in-the-hair, "I feel so free!" kinds of memories. And there is sometimes some interesting conversation (mainly when Dima is present). This weekend... rainbows, passing other cyclists, tractors, a deer crossing the road in front of us, a bumpy path, quiet waves, hot chocolate, cold sausages, the Milky Way, shooting stars, tent condensation, geese, instant coffee, stiff legs, headwind.
Thanks, everyone, for a good trip. See you again next month.