Anssi Koskinen’s first memories of off-road cycling take him back to his teenage years in Vahto, Finland, where he grew up on a farm/forest estate. He bought his first fatbike four years ago. This sport, originally developed in Alaska, has steadily gained popularity in Finland. The forest is the most popular place for fatbiking. It can also be done on roads and on ice, as long as the ice is sturdy enough. Koskinen uses his fatbike to commute, too.
“There are some good forest routes of a few miles that are close to the city. Nearly every time, I find a short trail that I haven’t tried yet.”
Koskinen considers fatbikers to be responsible forest-goers. Many are experienced hikers and they use their everyman’s rights with discretion. “Mostly, we are just wearing down the trails. Some of the bikers even perform small forest management tasks along the way, e.g. by clearing small, fallen trunks away from the routes. And they respect the nature reserves.”
In the forest, the biking season never ends.
In winter, Koskinen braves the weather by using studded tyres and putting on some warmer clothes. “Early spring is my favourite season to go for a ride. Forest ground provides the fastest ride around March. And of course, it’s quite an experience to drive in the forest when there’s snow.”
Fatbiking is easy to combine with other types of forest activities. Many stay overnight in the forest during longer biking trips, or take a camera with them. “You should take your time in the forest. I usually only stop to check for directions, but these stops give me an opportunity to take pictures or pick some berries in the summer. That gives you a little bit of that reclusive feeling.”
Anssi Koskinen’s tips for fatbike beginners
Try it first. “It’s relatively easy to rent a bike, or you can borrow one from a friend. You can ask a shop for a road test, which is usually allowed.”
Check out your surroundings. “So many trips would be left unfinished if you always had to drive by car to a far-away location. Even smaller forests have good trails.”
Go biking together. “Take a more experienced biker with you and follow their lead. Ask for tips and take note of their driving position and route selections.”
Bike night and day, all year round. “The forest is quite different in daylight than it is in the dusk. You can also drive in the dark as long as you have good lamps. There’s something spectacular about each season.”
Enjoy nature! “Take breaks; you can even bring some hot drinks with you to enjoy. Sit down and listen to the sounds of nature that you never hear in the city or on a road.”
Text Jaska Poikonen, photo Heikki Räisänen