One of the biggest defeats of my childhood in Lapland was related to biking. In the incident, I was denied to cycle on my own to pre-school / kindergarten. Despite being a real “biker kid”. Fascinated by how far and fast I could go with my little bike, I also wanted to get to the pre-school and back on my own. (My first bike was a red tricycle with a registration plate in front. Next came a white/pastel peach coloured Tunturi Poni with pastel coloured spoke beads and a basket in front, decorated with plastic flowers).
Of course, the far at the age of 5 was the kiosk 1,5 km away. Where I spent my weekly Saturday candy allowance. No more extreme. Though before the age of 6, I biked also the 4 km trips to my grandparents. Again, highly motivated by the bakings of my grandma.
The details of the story are a bit blurry. Though I know the kindergarten did not want to allow little kid to take so much responsibility. Basic risk management. Nevertheless I like the story like this, with the cut lines (sometimes fun when riding bikes as well). Because biking on my own to kindergarten would have been the most badass thing ever for a 5 year old. Especially so for the best route between the pre-school and my home included a single track and a gravel road. It also included a detour option, through a sandpit and a wasteland, where I liked to play a lot with my imaginary friends.(My tendency for detours on my ways to and from school hints why in reality also my parents may not have favoured the idea of me biking on my own.)
I wish I could have that commute now. Because now I would have the freedom to go for it without permissions, and because I am sure that single track could have been done on a gravel bike as well. Like all those gravel roads and related paths in Lapland, where I biked, ran and wandered a lot in my young years.
Coming from Lapland, gravel road is the almost every road in the forest and countryside. Sometimes the road is perfectly smooth and velvety, thanks to the high amount of clay in the soil. Sometimes it is windy, with potholes the size of a football (the soccer one). Sometimes it is long and exhausting, with stretches reaching many km’s straight forward. And always the road continues with plenty of wood and bushes on both sides (with plenty of mosquitos), except when these are replaced by rivers and lakes and the vast fell landscapes and abandoned lawns the more north you ride.
What’s the best thing about the gravel roads in Lapland though is the small single tracks cutting the roads here and there, made by people or in most cases by reindeer. Most of the time their direction do not seem to follow any sense and that is why they are so fascinating.
In Switzerland, one does not find that kind of gravel road so easily. And where it is found in here, it regularly comes with not so fresh countryside smells, steep hills with tricky turns as well as occasional “no biking allowed” signs. Yet, I find gravel biking fascinating here too. Especially since last year – first time in my over 30 years of bike life – I got myself a bike which could be called a gravel bike. Including gravel suitable frame and tires, and a colour scheme of the Finnish frontier guard (my dad is a retired frontier guard and while Covid-19 keeps us far from each other it is even more funny to ride a bike reminding of him, though have to say the colours don’t really fit well with my personal style preferences).
Thanks to that bike (and my newest enduro one) summer of 2020 was a proper bike summer for me too. (I expect 2021 to contain even bigger global and personal bike boom than 2020.) I did not bike as much as I would have liked to. Nor did I get to bike in every road and bikepark I would have liked to. But I got to bike a decent amount of single track, and some flow trail too. And I got to bike a good amount of sunset rides and gravel rides and ice cream rides. As well as easy summer rides to swim in the beautiful Swiss lakes, and not so easy road/gravel rides around the mentioned lakes. All this with no need for a permission. Except the “permission” to bike freely outside on my own, or with my family and few friends (talking of the pandemic rules here).
So in 2020 I properly hopped on the gravel trend. Though for me it’s still basically just biking. Biking on whatever road I find leading from my home to new adventures. Or kindergarten. Or work, because what I wish the most for the summer of 2021 is the possibility to return to office.
Riding my bike, of course.