The Arctic by Cycle Bikepacking Route Network consists of 2000km of gravel, quad-track, and single-track bikepacking routes that cover the area from the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland to the Arctic Ocean in Northern Norway. The routes connect the villages, National Parks, wilderness areas, 100+ wilderness shelters, sights, landmarks, and the services into a versatile network of some stunning bikepacking routes, divided into gravel routes and MTB routes. All the routes are designed to be accessible by public transportation, which makes hopping on and off the routes relatively easy, considering that you’re in one of the largest wilderness areas in Europe, covering three times the size of Belgium.
In Lapland, there are over 600 open wilderness cabins, hundreds of campfire huts, and over 1000 lean-tos for public use. Combining that with over 100 000 km of gravel and logging roads, thousands of kilometers of quad tracks, and an extensive trekking route network, it's not too short of a bikepacking paradise. Lapland is incredibly sparsely populated (the reindeer-to-man ratio is 5:4) and parts of it are extremely remote, but the long-existed tourism industry has created dozens of oasis-like service centers in remote locations here and there, making touring in the wilderness much easier than you would think. There are also little Lappish villages with one-stop-shop style gas stations & grocery stores, which often offer accommodation too, in an old school or an old farmhouse typically, serving the cyclists spot on.
For the summer of 2022, there are 5 MTB-graded bikepacking routes 6 gravel-graded bikepacking routes (and another 1000km route in the making for 2023) which interlink and service points and public transportation hubs, making trip planning easy. The route categorization is simply based on what bike is recommended to tackle the route, MTB routes being all-terrain routes with single track sections needing a mountain bike, ideally, as gravel routes are usually on skinny-tire-friendly gravel and dirt roads and easy double tracks.
RIG AND RUBBER
Bike-wise, not surprisingly, an All Terrain Bicycle with 2.4-3.0” tires is a good compromise if planning to hit both types of routes during one tour with enough volume to crawl over the rough stuff when necessary on MTB routes, but still hold a decent momentum on gravel routes. Though the tire size recommendation varies from route to route, so see the route-specific bike and tire size recommendations. Most of the gravel routes are well doable with 40mm tires and therefore nearly any bicycle, but on the harshest of the MTB routes, not even a full-suspension mountain bike or a fatbike, is an overkill. Therefore it comes all down to personal preference and a little compromise.
Like always, going lighter makes touring easier and more enjoyable for many, and especially the MTB routes favor a light bikepacking setup. On the gravel routes though, you can really strap whatever gear you have to your bike however you see fit, as riding is non-technical and the climbs are usually short. Read more about the route-specific gear and tire-size recommendations in the Difficulty section of the route descriptions.
In short: from mid-August till early October.
The Arctic winter is long and most of the year the arctic taiga of the Southern and Central Lapland and the arctic tundra of Northern Lapland and the Finnmark highlands of Northern Norway are covered by a thick layer of snow. The gravel and dirt roads are usually dry enough to ride by June, but any single-track and quad tracks can stay soft and wet all the way till July. Though, the infamous Lappish räkkä (the high population of mosquitos, black flies, biting midges and horse flies) starts usually by late June and lasts usually till mid August), making the end of the summer and autumn (mid-August till October first snow) the main season for bikepacking. That is especially the case for MTB routes, which cannot be ridden before the räkkä due to wet terrain, but some early summers you might be able to squeeze in a couple of weeks of räkkä-free gravel touring in early June.
Despite the routes being technically accessible through the summer months, the route opening times are designed in cooperation with the local reindeer herding associations to minimize the impact of bikepackers on critical seasonal reindeer herding work. The routes usually opened a little later than the terrain would allow to let the reindeer herders finish the spring calf markings and most of the routes close in mid to late September to keep the areas cyclist-free when herds of thousands of reindeer are gathered together for autumn round-ups. See the route-specific opening times in the route descriptions, requested by the regional reindeer herding communities.
The Arctic by Cycle routes are designed to be accessible by public transportation and especially the Lappish railway stations of Kolari, Pello, Rovaniemi, and Kemijärvi function as access points to the route network. Flying in, there are airports in Rovaniemi, Kittilä, and Ivalo with daily flights from Helsinki, and the Alta airport in Northern Norway can be reached from multiple airports as well. See more information on the route-specific logistics in the route description.
The Arctic by Cycle Bikepacking Route Network was created as part of The Arctic Bikepacking Trail Route Development Project (2020-2021) and ongoing The Arctic Bikepacking Trail II Project (2021-2023), funded in part by the local municipalities, Metsähaliltus, and local companies, but most importantly boosted and funded by the European Regional Development Fund, granted by the Regional Council of Lapland. The project is executed and managed by The Finnich Center for Cycle Tourism, which was started in 2020 by The Network of Finnish Cycling Municipalities and the Finnish Cyclists’ Federation. Read more about the projects here.
ARCTIC BY CYCLE
ARCTIC BY CYCLE
Photos: Taneli Roininen & Timo Veijalainen