Monday, July 27, 2015

Trip report

From the northern part of the old postal road

Roughly 1500kms of very varying roads in Northern Finland, Norway and Sweden. Last years trip was more of a sightseeing run partly because everyone didn't have the appropriate equipment to go off the paved roads. This time my buddy "Jack" had moved from a Versys to a Honda CRF250L so we could pretty much go anywhere we wanted as far as bikes go.

Last year we traveled up north under the cover of darkness by train and rode back down. This time we went by train both ways. Doing hundreds of miles of boring tarmac still didn't seem tempting and besides that we were yet again on a tight schedule.
strapped in again

The route




Thursday evening/night
Turku - Rovaniemi by train

All Friday
Rovaniemi - Kautokeino (Norway) by bikes

All Saturday
Kautokeino - Alta - Storslett by bikes

All Sunday
Storslett - Kaaresuvanto (Finland) by bikes

Monday
Kaaresuvanto - Rovaniemi by bikes

Monday afternoon/night
Rovaniemi - Turku by train

The good parts
Saturday, The old postal road from Kautokeino to Alta
Sunday, The mountain road from Birtavarre to the foothills of Halti / Guolasjávri
Sunday, The Kalkkoaivi road (an old wartime service road)

Friday

The train arrived at Rovaniemi some time after 10:00 AM. We unloaded the bikes, filled up and pulled away from the city. We tried to stay on the gravel as much as possible, but the friday's ride was honestly just a mandatory transition to get to Kautokeino, where we would be starting on the old postal road. We had ridden about half of the route last year going south. As before, mosquitoes were plentyfull and the roads a bit boring outside the few gravel stints. 



Once we arrived at Kautokeino Norway, the weather had cleared up and it was down right warm. Actually warmer than 1200 kms south where we started from. We checked in a hotel (Thon Hotel Kautokeino) and went for a short ride to look around and take some photos. We found an old decommissioned ski jumping tower on the river bank that was a good place to get a few photos of the area. 

Town of Kautokeino



After the short sightseeing We inhaled a couple of local kebabs, took a few beers and went to bed.
Thon hotel Kautokeino at the hilltop

Saturday

The old postal road to Alta starts 10 kms from Kautokeino so after only 15 mins from the hotel we were in business. We had high expectations of the road, that supposedly had some water crossings, beautiful scenery and challenging run down parts. The old postal road was the so called "main attraction" of this trip.

start of the postal road
The road began as pretty well maintained gravel road and continued as such for a good while. The scenery was good to begin with but improved still as the road progressed deeper into the wilderness. Nothing but fells, lakes and rivers as far as the eye could see. 





Pretty easy as bad roads go
Some rocky parts, but really not much of a challenge 
The only water crossing, the water seemed to be down 
The old postal road is cut in two by the tarmac main road leading to Alta. This southern part was the more challenging to ride, but the northern part had even better scenery.

Is it real adventure if you can stop for coffee half way through...?
The road itself was a bit of a let down in the sense that it never really got properly rough or difficult. I don' t know whether it was recently renovated or something, but we could have ridden all of it with much "lesser" bikes. The only river crossing was also rather tame didn't really provide much of a challenge. That said, the old postal road was certainly one of the greatest rides of my life.  


Some shots from the northern part


reindeer gates, one of many
a perfect place to camp 







Alta - Storslett

After the postal road, we grabbed a quick lunch and continued on to Storslett where we would spend the night. The Norwegians are really making an effort as far as the roads. There was large scale roadwork being done on many parts of the road.

Some shots from the Alta - Storslett road








Sunday

Sunday had two routes planned. First we would ride to the foothills of Halti from the Norwegian side and after that we would ride the Kalkkoaivi road near Kaaresuvanto in Finland. Halti is the highest fell (we don't have any real mountains) in Finland so it's sort of big thing for Finns. For Norwegians it's probably not that big of a deal as they have real mountains everywhere you look. The Kalkkoaivi road is an old german built service road from WW2 time. Nowadays it's mostly used by fishermen and hikers going to the fells, rivers and lakes.

The road to Halti / Guolasjávri (lake Guolas) starts from a town called Birtavarre. There's still a 6 km hike to the mountain from where the road ends, but that's as close as you can get, legally at least. The fun part of the road starts after crossing a bridge over a gorge and the road is rather scenic all the way through. The roads is also in reasonably good condition and any family sedan will get through just fine. 


the bridge over the ravine












end of the road
There was a very interesting hint of a road starting from the end of the road to lord knows where, but we weren't all that sure that it was legally okay to ride it with motorcycles so we did only a few hundreds meters, parked, and "jack" cooked us coffee from the stream water.

After coffee we moved on and pushed towards Kalkkoaivi only to stop for late lunch at a gas station near the Saana fell.


Saana
Highest point of the Finnish road network...
The Kalkkoaivi road also started tame, but turned in quite rocky towards the end. In dry conditions, it was very manageable, but might be tricky if wet. We kept the speeds low to minimize the risk for a puncture that seemed to be the biggest risk on this road. We did have spares and tools with us, but changing tires on the road would royally screwup our schedule. The place was also totally off the cell phone grid so should an injury occur, we might find our self in a bit of a situation.


Entering danger zone... Kalkkoaivi road starts with a shot up sign

Amazingly neither one of us went down even once. Not that the road was that demanding, but we were pretty worn down from riding all day and the Kalkkoaivi was our last hooray for the day. By the time wegot back on tarmac and in to the cabin, we were pretty beat. The cabin had a sauna which was a heaven sent at that point.

Some photos from the Kalkkoaivi road











Monday

As usual, monday sucked a tiny bit. The only thing on the agenda was getting back to the train in time. We tried to take the scenic route and stay of the main roads, but the roads and scenery were hardly a match for what we had seen on the past few days. We made a point to cross the border to the swedish side and ride along the river for a while buut that didn't really do it for us either. 




All in all

A great trip. It really did deepen my love for the 690. Not that it's capabilities were fully utilized, but it's just a great machine in many respects. Riding roads like the old postal road has pretty much ruined me for tarmac riding. The asphalt roads were spectacular in every way, but all I could think of is getting off from the paved stuff and even now when the trip is over I don't feel any desire to ride the twisties near or far. 

Technical problems

On the Honda... none. On the 690, a clogged fuel breather hose vent. Apparently there is a tiny valve on the part that the fuel cap screws on to and where the breather hose originates from. I thought that the hose was obstructed some wehere where it disappeared inside the bike and promptly cut it in two, but that didn't solve the problem, There was still a vacuum forming in the tank. Blowing and sucking on the breather hose cleared the valve and the problem went away.

road side repairs somewhere in Sweden

About gear

Nothing failed during the trip. Even my modified attachment system for the Wolfman bags worked as planned. The dehorning method also seemed to work as the straps showed no signs of wear after the trip. Fuel cans were completely leak free and even the new Macna Jura jacket worked as expected.

As usual, none of the "just-in-case" stuff was not needed. Lot of stuff that was just dead weight, but I guess it's better to have it and not need than the other way around. At times I wished I had warmer gloves and a helmet with a flip up sun visor, but those are not really problems.

6 comments:

  1. Great report, thank you!
    Do you run stock exhaust? Any risk of burning the bags or straps even though you have the RR rack?
    Did you have to use the spare fuel?

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  2. Thanks!

    Yes, I run the stock exhaust. Nothing got burned or melted. I used the spare fuel once, but it turned out that I really didnät need to after all.

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  3. Hi, Interesting your comments on the head shake, I like these bikes so much I have just brought a new 690 to replace my 2011. I haven't had a problem myself with head shaking on the 690, though I only picked the new one up a few days ago so time will tell. I have found though that some bikes can be sensitive to the tightness of the steering head bearings and need to have just a little tension taken up to settle the front. Though as you say, tyre pressure, wear can alter handling.
    Great blog and great inspiration over the winter down here in NZ, though summer is almost on us here.

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  4. Hi, Can I ask what train service you used to carry bikes? Regards Paul

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    Replies
    1. Sure. The only one available, which is the Government railroad company = VR (www.vr.fi). We paid for a so called "car train" but of course we took our bikes instead of cars.

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    2. Thanks John. My plan is to ride from southern Norway, across Sweden and into Finland on a 690. Return via train and ferry looks possible.

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