The Roine cycling route, part of the vast Lake Trails cycling network in Finland’s Pirkanmaa region, bears the name of the lake it encircles. Roine, a modestly sized body of water, stretches its watery arms across the Kangasala municipality, with a smaller portion nestled within Pälkäne. Within the realm of cultural and literary heritage, Roine has earned its repute, for the verses of Zacharias Topelius, a 19th-century poet, tenderly speak of its shores embraced by the loving waves in the poem ‘Kesäpäivä Kangasalla’ – a hymn to a summer day in Kangasala.
Through the passing years, I have cycled the circumference of Lake Roine multiple times on my trusty bicycle. Each journey unfolds as a distinct expedition, offering fresh vistas and discoveries. Resting between Tampere in the west, Pälkäne in the east, Kangasala in the north, and Valkeakoski in the south, Roine serves as the beating heart that binds these four communities together.
By and large, Roine constitutes one of my customary training routes. However, my preference for the smoothness of tarmac has steered me toward a slightly altered path, deviating from the official Järvien reitit Roine route. Thus, certain sections, particularly those that veer away from the paved surface, unfurl before me as untrodden ground, ripe for exploration.
The starting point for the Roine route lies at the heart of Kangasala, conveniently situated near a car park for those arriving by car and in close proximity to the central bus station for those opting for bus travel (although not all bus connections permit bicycles aboard). Being approximately 13 kilometres distant from this point, the most sensible course for me was to simply embark from home by bicycle, as always.
On the morning of June 10, basking beneath the radiant sun’s warm glow, I adorned myself in cycling attire and set forth on my journey. Having acquired the route from the Järvien reitit website and transferred it onto my cycling computer, I ensured a backup plan by also loading the route onto Locus Map and Komoot. Should my head unit encounter any unforeseen failure, I could rely on my smartphone to guide my way.
As I departed from the bustling centre of Kangasala and veered right onto the road leading past the health care centre toward Tiihala, the charm of this region enveloped me once more, reinforcing my affection for both this area and the act of cycling here. Progressing along what appeared to be an isolated country lane, I marvelled at its proximity to town. Even the heart of Tampere was not so distant. Crop fields stretched before me, accompanied by the graceful presence of horses and cows. Birds soared overhead, dancing freely amidst the vast expanse, while my wheels caressed the smooth tarmac beneath them. It was an intimate dance between the rustic and the urban, an alluring juxtaposition found in this very locale.
I make a departure from my usual route, bypassing the straight path along Lahdentie to Pälkäne. Instead, I turn right, embarking on the ascent up the road that leads to the Vehoniemen car museum. This particular road has long eluded me in my relentless pursuit of greater distances. I reasoned that cycling via the highway would offer a quicker bypass of Pälkäne and the subsequent roads, all while affording me a splendid view of the medieval ‘Church of St. Michael’, a monument that shares my name.
Before I reach the car museum, my gaze falls upon an observation tower known as the ‘Vehoniemen näkötorni’. The first time I passed by here must have been around 2016, so it is high time I climb to its summit. And lo and behold, I am not disappointed. Though die-hard cyclists may shun the idea of ascending stairs, the climb proves less arduous than expected, and the rewards from the top are certainly worth the effort. As I stand there, the vantage point lies unoccupied, devoid of any souls. I cannot help but wonder why such a breath-taking view of the sprawling landscape and the serene Lake Roine does not draw a crowd. Perhaps it is simply a matter of timing.
Pressing onward, I continue my ride along the meandering ‘Vanha Pälkäneentie’, which winds its way through the enchanting countryside north of Pälkäne. It has been approximately five years since I last traversed this road, yet little seems to have changed – except for my perception of the idyllic landscape that unfolds before me. Gradually, I enter Pälkäne and pass through its centre, and it is at this moment that I remember a particular olfactory cue. The aroma of freshly baked goods wafts through the air, signalling my turn to the right onto the road that leads me toward Valkeakoski. Indeed, before my eyes catch sight of Uotilan Leipomo, the warm and inviting fragrance tantalizes my nostrils. It is my cue to make the right turn.
The logically named ‘Valkeakoskentie’ awaits me – the road that leads to Valkeakoski. But not before an intimidating uphill section presents itself roughly three kilometres after the right turn. However, the Roine route, ever considerate, gracefully sidesteps this challenge. Approximately two kilometres prior to the climb, it veers left onto a gravel road. Personally, I am not particularly fond of climbing. I take pleasure in observing the artistry of climbers, envisioning myself ascending with the grace and ease of a Marco Pantani. Yet in reality, I know I likely resemble an overweight lorry driver burdened with the weight of a few extra ‘Marcos.’ On the other hand, gravel does not hold much appeal for me either.
The gravel road beneath my tires is flanked by freshly ploughed soil on both sides. The distinct scent of the countryside permeates the air, instilling a sense of tranquillity within me. It is not as bad as I anticipated. True, I cannot glide along at the same speed I would on smooth tarmac. I must remain vigilant, attentive to the road ahead, anticipating challenging sections, loose stones, and potential hazards. Yet, the remedy is simple – slow down. Just as in a peaceful life, slowing down allows one to become more mindful of the surroundings. Perhaps I could benefit from adjusting my tire pressure as well.
Days prior to my ride, I meticulously studied Google Maps and checked the route in Komoot, making note of a B&B situated along this stretch. While I have no intention of staying overnight, such details do not escape my notice. I often find myself pondering why someone would require such services for a relatively short journey. But truth be told, I often fail to comprehend that ‘normal’ people – the rest of the world – do not necessarily derive the same pleasure as I do from the pursuit of kilometres on outrageously long rides.
The ‘Willa Pintele B&B’ buildings come into view long before their official road sign catches my attention. As I speed past, I steal a glance, silently confirming that I remain on the correct route. Oh, the redundancy of it all. But just ten meters down the road, the realization dawns upon me. The sign is beautifully handwritten on a chalkboard, adorned with a little drawing of a bicycle atop it, as if beckoning to cyclists, welcoming them. In that moment, I make a vow to myself – I must stop and capture these instances, take a photograph. Ah, well, perhaps next time.
As I reach the T-intersection at the end of the road, it is the people walking their dogs that capture my attention. One individual even walks their dog while pushing a stroller. While this sight should not surprise me, I did not expect it here. In my mind, gravel roads still lead to the very heart of the wilderness, to the middle of nowhere, to places where one would not anticipate encountering people going about their daily lives. I occasionally find myself fantasizing about living a reclusive existence, far removed from society. And it seems that others have embraced this way of life. Oh, the peace it must bring.
Continuing along the road, occasionally passing a farm or a house tucked away behind trees, hidden from view, I draw nearer to the main road connecting Pälkäne and Valkeakoski. A cycling path emerges within the familiar terrain of open plains, fields, and scattered farms. Eventually, Valkeakoski looms before me, and almost instinctively – perhaps fuelled by muscle memory – I pedal across the pedestrian bridge that spans the divide between the sports park and the central harbour. Coming to a halt at the customary bench, I indulge in a break. I eat, I drink, and I immerse myself in the vibrant sights and sounds of Valkeakoski’s centre – not quite sitting on the dock of the bay, but close enough.
Now, it is time for the homestretch. Leaving Valkeakoski behind, I ride along Kangasalantie, heading in the direction of Kangasala, the place where my journey began. At the municipal border between Valkeakoski and Kangasala, marked by signs displaying the names of these municipalities, the road changes its name to the beautifully named ‘Kaarina Maununtyttären tie’. Farms, fields, and crops stretch out on each side of the road, wrapping me in a sense of tranquillity. Every so often, I catch a glimpse of Lake Roine to my right. Alas, all too soon, my left-hand turn comes up, guiding me onto Saarenmaantie, and leading me back home.
Yes, I used to dislike gravel. Perhaps it was the fear of falling, or perhaps it was the dread of encountering flat tires. However, I have learned that gravel roads possess the power to transport me to vistas I would typically only witness on television, YouTube, or within glossy cycling magazines. The tranquillity, beauty, and overall sense of serenity – both in sight and sound – awaken a longing within me, an eager anticipation for my next ride beyond the realm of tarmac.
Lake Roine awakened my senses, and perhaps it can perform the same magic on you as well.