Article by Mia Sinisalo
I remember the moment I first learned to ride a bike without stabilizers. These days when I hop onto my bike and start peddling, I still get that same sense of freedom and thrill from the movement. When part of my life moved into the woods, it was only natural that cycling would soon follow. Mountain biking entered my life two years ago.
Those two years on the back of a mountain bike have been up and downhill, in every sense. The problem has been that my skills haven’t quite reached the level of my enthusiasm for mountain biking.
The search for the perfect trail came to a happy end, when I pedalled out of Fiskars Village Trail Center, which is about an hour’s drive from Helsinki. For me the best thing about the Fiskars trails was being able to achieve a level of relaxation while riding. I’m a somewhat cautious mountain biker, who only occasionally gets an adrenaline rush from executing some slightly more daring moves, riding a few small drops or down steeper slopes. Mostly this doesn’t happen. But in Fiskars the trails were just the right amount of meandering and bumpy, rising and falling, twisting and turning, so I got to ride longer distances without having to walk my bike or kick for more speed.
Because there were so many trail options with varying levels of difficulty, I got to test myself: was I really as cautious as I imagined?
Fiskars Village Trail Center
Fiskars Village Trail Center was founded in 2016 and it instantly became a popular destination amongst seriously enthusiastic mountain bikers as well as the cautiously curious.
The trails are specifically created for mountain biking. What luxury! Usually a mountain biker has to pedal on paths trampled by walkers, meant for the hiker, or on routes intended for motor vehicles. There is such a noticeable difference when you get to try trails designed for mountain bikers by mountain bikers.
The Trail Center’s bike rental centre can be found in Fiskars village’s workshop square, but the actual trails are, of course, in the forest surrounding the village. Fiskars Trail Center also organises different events from mountain biking expos to courses.
If you don’t own a bike, you can easily rent one via the centre’s website. Booking in advance is highly recommended, rather than just turning up randomly. And do make sure that you check the rental centre’s opening hours beforehand.
By renting from the centre, you get to test how it feels to ride a decent mountain bike. All bikes are quality mountain bikes by Canyon, which allow even beginners to get a good feel for the sport. There are also a couple of children’s mountain bikes at the centre.
Day 1: Flacksjön and Långbrobergen trails
The Fiskars trails have been designed with mountain bikers’ varying levels of ability in mind. Each trail’s level of difficulty is colour-coded:
green – easy
blue – moderate
red – difficult
black – extremely difficult
First I decided to test a combination of the the trails that run on the north east of the village: Flacksjön (8 km) and Långbrobergenin (5 km), which were classed as ‘moderate’. These were the newest routes from the Fiskars Trail Center’s selection.
‘When designing the routes and building them, we were specifically thinking about beginners and sunday riders, who just ride now and then’, says Marko Halttunen, from the Flowriders Association which runs the Fiskars Trail Center.
The route from the trail centre to the forest and onto the trails themselves is well marked. I’m an expert at getting lost, but managed to stay on track most of the time. There were only a couple of points where I needed to stop and check my location on my phone, worried that I’d missed a sign.
The trail had some easy sections, almost completely without roots or rocks, which I cycled along quickly and easily. The beginning section of the trail encouraged me to trust my own cycling skills, but there were times when I had to concentrate hard, especially when the trail narrowed and went down to Stensjö lake. Although I surpassed myself on a few stony and rocky bits, I left out the biggest drops and carried my bike through some short but steep parts. I managed to get into a good riding flow, which was only interrupted by the squawk of a deer, when a mother and her fawn leapt out of the way on the rocks.
The mountain bike season is at its busiest in Fiskars in the autumn and spring. I arrived during the summer heat, and had a refreshing wading session on Flasksjön’s beach. If I’d had a swimsuit with me, I’d have definitely gone swimming. Although riding in the forest you don’t get too hot, because the trees provide shade from the sun and the breeze from riding also cools you down. I also had plenty of water with me.
I don’t know if I covered all corners of the trail, but the part in the forest and getting to and from the trails took a total of 1,5 hrs. That was a perfect circuit length for that evening.
Day 2: Elevation changes, views and easy pedalling on a dirt road
On the second day of riding, I wished that I had company: I would have liked to have ridden with friends or on a guided group tour, because I feel that mountain biking is actually best in a group. When someone is cycling in front of you confidently and you know you musn’t slow down the person behind, you ride faster that you would by yourself, when you’re thinking about every stone and root.
Fiskars Trail Center’s trails on the east side work well for bigger groups, even if the group contains a mixture of beginners and experienced enduro cyclists. Everyone can cycle the routes from one trail to another together, and after that each one can find their own suitable trails with the help of a trail map, signs and painted arrows.
Elevation differences are typical of eastern mountain bike routes. If you want to sweat a bit and raise your pulse, then this is the place for you! There is some occasional relief from the up and down slopes on stretches in the woods and on dirt roads, giving you a chance to catch your breath or rest your burning thighs. There are also two easier, green routes on this side.
On Fiskars’ trails I realised that my enjoyment of mountain biking also depends on the trails, not just on me.
Finishing off a day of riding with good food and drink
Fiskars Trail Center’s inspiration is from abroad. Flowriders’ Marko Halttunen has been on many bike trips in different countries, and he wanted to bring the same atmosphere to Fiskars: the chance to ride on great trails in good company, and then relax at the end of the cycling day with good conversation, food and drink.
In Fiskars this works out perfectly. In addition to restaurants that choose to serve local food, Fiskars has its own brewing company, cider made from local apples and a distillery.
Throughout the year there are different local food festivals, including the Slow Food festival which is organised at the end of the summer, bringing together Western Uusimaa’s fishermen, bakeries, meat producers, garden farmers, organic farms and food artisans. Local food and mountain biking are a good combination, when you’ve ridden through the forest to the point of exhaustion and ravenous hunger.
Fiskars village is known for its handicrafts, design and art. After a day of cycling, you can slip straight into the holiday vibe, strolling along the shores of Fiskars river, with its bridges, and popping into handicraft boutiques and art exhibitions.
And don’t forget that Fiskars has plenty of other options for outdoor recreation. The village lies in the middle of the lush forest and countryside scenery of south coast Finland. Large oaks reach over paths, and cows graze on the grassy shores of the lake. For lovers of the outdoors, this means that in addition to mountain biking, you can go trail running, paddling and hiking.
Trail running is also permitted on the Fiskars Trail Center’s blue and green routes. If you run out of time to do all of the activities that you want, you can even spend the night at Fiskars. I returned already a week later to test more trails!
Translation: Becky Hastings