We usually relate summer to sunny beaches, people in shorts, cold drinks, and funny tan lines. However, that is not the case above the Arctic circle where, despite being hotter than in winter, you still need to carry around a rain jacket and wear long trousers. This is one of the reasons why that region is not the most well-known bikepacking destination, not even for Finnish nor Norwegian people.
By the end of June, Henna Palosaari was wondering where she could ride in her third year as a bikepacker. She had heard about the 400 km Arctic Post Road route from Ylläs (Finland) to Alta (Norway). She knew the area from when she had snowboarded on it, but she did not know what it was like to ride there. She asked Sami Sauri to join her in August, she accepted without hesitation, and Henna immediately started to plan the route.
With two possible variants, a 410 km gravel version with some road sections and a 430 km MTB one fully off-road with gravel and single tracks, they both rapidly agreed on doing the gravel track but joining the MTB route every time they would have to ride on tarmac. With this, they did their own version of the old Post Road that passes through the fells of the Finnish Lapland, runs through the Finnmark highlands, and finishes in the Norwegian Arctic ocean. With a reindeer-to-man ratio of five to four, certainly, they would experience what it is like to cover vast extensions with a complete feeling of solitude and wilderness.
The movie ‘Arctic Post Road – Bikepacking Adventure in the Far North’ narrates their bikepacking trip through Lapland where they encountered all kinds of surprises. Totally self-supported with everything on their bikes, they started on a fast tarmac section to rapidly go off-road and barely see anybody. Each day was different, as the terrain and weather changed every time. Coming from Spain where Sami was riding at 40 ºC, above the Arctic Circle the temperature never rose above 17 ºC, rain accompanied them along the route, and they rarely saw the Sun appear between the clouds.
Sleeping in a tent has its benefits, like stopping wherever you want, but mornings can also be challenging. Some of the MTB track sections were quite tough, moving forward at 10 km/h with hike-a-bike parts, but the views were magical and totally worth it. They crossed wide extensions, creeks, and large rivers, through single tracks and endless straight gravel roads filled with puddles. Not meeting people also has its ups and downs and you must plan your food supplies well ahead. But whenever you find someone, they are welcoming and charming, opening the doors of their home. In short, a journey of discovery, friendship, and beautiful images of a virgin area to explore.