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Cycling in Finland and Sweden

Cycle Routes
In general, the 700km of cycling I did in Finland and Sweden on this trip were very pleasant. The national cycle routes in Finland tend to stick to quieter country roads and occasionally take you onto very busy stretches with little or no hard shoulder but you're normally not on a proper cycle path. Although the route I took was quite attractive, it wouldn't be too hard to pick out an equally good route yourself with a decent map. The cycle paths in Espoo are excellent, totally separate from the roads, and take you almost anywhere you would want to go. The same isn't true of Helsinki, unfortunately, as when you cross the city border into it the cycle paths instantly become pot-holed, and intermittent. Whereas in most other countries, Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa would be one big capital, Finland insists on splitting the area into three different, conjoined cities. Espoo and Vantaa are really suburbs of Helsinki itself, and it's a bit like pretending that London consists of three separate cities. Although the cycling I did in Sweden was more limited, the national routes I took again tried to keep to quieter country roads, and neither country's routes seem to compare to the fantastic, extensive cycle paths of Denmark or especially Germany. Stockholm seems to have a good network, and a well signposted cycle path took me from the very beginning of the suburbs right into the centre. Car drivers in Finland and Sweden seem really quite courteous to cyclists, rarely cut me off, and even stopped at crossings to let me pass.

Maps

Unfortunately, Finland doesn't have outdoor maps of the same quality as Britain's Ordnance Survey. They have a 1:50 000 topographical series called Maastokartaa but the detail is difficult to interpret, they use strange colouring such as orange for natural features, and they don't show amenities such as campsites. I soon gave up using them and turned to the less detailed but easier to use 1:200 000 Outdoor GT series, which show the national cycle routes, campsites, and youth hostels. In Sweden I used the Blue Series 1:100 000 Lantmäterriets Vägkarta (they also make a more 1:50 000 series if you need lots of detail), and they were a pleasure to navigate by, showing cycle routes, national parks, and camping places.

Transport
All the ferries from mainland Finland out as far as Korpoo in the archipelago are free, even for cars. The rest of the ferries are free for foot passengers and cyclists all the way across the rest of the islands to Mariehamn. This means that the entire crossing from Finland to Sweden only cost me €4.40 for the final ferry from Eckerö to Grisslehamn - quite a bargain! The return ferry from Stockholm to Helsinki was €38 with Silja Lines - the bike travelled free. Apparently, the buses on the islands do take bikes if they have space, although I didn't try it and most trains in Finland take bikes for a €9 surcharge, irrespective of distance.

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