Cycling in the Finnish snow

Billet en français

In the past two weeks I was in Finland, thinking: ‘When the snow doesn’t come to me, I will go to the snow instead!’ That wasn’t the main reason though. I needed to travel to Finland as a speaker at the International Winter Cycling Congress 2020 which was held in Joensuu, the capital of North Karelia. This city, a 450 kilometre long train ride from Helsinki (where there was no snow), was an excellent location to brush up my skills for cycling in the snow. I will make a post and a video of the conference days and the pre-conference meeting with cycle tour in Helsinki, but since I only got back last Sunday I had no time to do that yet.

View from the 360 camera down on me while I was cycling in the snow.

To give you an appetizer I did make two videos of the ride from my apartment to the venue where the Winter Cycling Congress was held. Since there are fans of the 360 videos and people who rather see ordinary videos, I made a video for each of those groups. They are two different rides on two different times and locations.


My rental bike that the city of Joensuu provided for the people attending the conference. Here parked at the apartment I rented.
Most of the original wooden one-family houses of Joensuu were replaced by more generic apartment buildings with mostly four floors. The population of the central part of Joensuu could therefore increase a lot in the same space. In this area walking and cycling are combined on the sidewalks.
There were several attractive shortcuts for walking and cycling in parks. In this area of the city you will find more one-family homes with gardens.
In some of the streets cycling took place on the roadway. Children cycled to school in high numbers. A lot with a wool hat. Contrary to popular belief among helmet proponents Finland does not have mandatory helmet laws, also not for children. The law only states “one usually should wear”, not “one must wear” when it comes to that plastic head gear.
This car driver had priority over me, but he or she decided to stop to let me go anyway. On the whole I found the drivers very courteous in Finland.
I could cross the only four lane road in this route by using this underpass. You can see clearly how the snow on the cycleway was shoved to the sides. The remaining snow was compact and not slippery at all.
Passing through an area with schools I encountered this school class. The children were all carrying skis.
In the same area you can also find the university and there is ample – well-used – bicycle parking around the university.
I crossed one bigger road on a signalised crossing. This is what you see when you look down that road. There is a bi-directional cycleway on one side of it.
This is the crossing. Odly enough there is no specific traffic signal for cycling. Cyclists have to use the pedestrian signal.
At the “Joensuu Areena” this temporary sign informs about the Winter Cycling Congress taking place there.
Also at the “Areena” there were enough cycle racks to park the bicycles.
My rental bicycle came with winter tyres. There are small metal spikes at the edges. More than enough to have perfect grip. I didn’t slip once.
The route I chose in Joensuu (from the centre on the right to the Areena on the left) may not have been the shortest, but I liked that there was an underpass in this route and only one intersection with traffic signals. (1.44km) This was the most convenient route for me. Route in Google Maps.

My ride in Joensu as a 360 video.

The same ride (on a different day and time) as an ordinary video.


16 thoughts on “Cycling in the Finnish snow

  1. Ah so beautiful and peaceful. One thing I miss from North America is those precious quiet periods after it has snowed 🙂

  2. It looks like a beautiful town, with beautiful riding conditions in your pictures and video.

    Those look like very good studded tires. The first ones I bought, and the best ones I’ve owned, were made in Finland by Nokia.

    Although I rode through 20 winters in Canada without studded tires, I wouldn’t choose to be without them now that I know how well they work. In my area there are many thaws and many re-freezes each winter, so there are many patches of ice and sometimes in surprising places. However, they do cause extra rolling resistance so they make biking a little slower. In winter especially, that’s OK with me.

    1. I noticed some extra resistance, but even snow alone already causes that. I think the extra resistance from the studs isn’t too bad. I agree that the advantages they offer outweigh that small disadvantage. In the Dutch situation that would be different. We have too few snow days.

    2. Very interesting. I almost never cycle in ice or snow, but now, after reading your comment, I would not have believed that snow tyres would help, but now I am a believer.
      Thank you.

  3. The “small metal spikes” on the tyre are called “studs” in English.
    I know these bicycle tyres from my time in Oslo, Norway, where I lived for almost 3 years.

    I can buy these tyres in my home town here in The Netherlands too. These tyres are expensive. But, oddly enough, not more expensive in The Netherlands than they are/were in Oslo.

    There is no use for these tyres in The Netherlands. With possible 2 exceptions. One, cycling on frozen lakes/channels. Two, cycling on heavily snowed on roads in the hills in the east or South (Limburg). Meaning, in practice they are never needed in The Netherlands.

    PS These tyres are less comfortable to ride with on clear asphalt.

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