In the forest where no-one can hear you fall (a story)

It´s been nearly a month since I last touched the uni. That was when I entered a 24 hour mountain bike charity event with the KH24. I had thought of writing a short story on that, but it just became a drivel of Finnish geology and the stubbornness of the early inhabitants. I never got far into the part where I actually ride the course, in the end of which I slightly hurt my knee, thus losing the desire to ride muni for a while. So I´ll use that story somewhere else.

This week has been rainy and cold, brief heavy showers following each other like small ducklings follow mother mallard. It does wonders to the nature - trees, flowers and grasses of all kinds are flourishing. Being forced to sit indoors, bored like a slug, I could feel my muscles atrophy. I just hate getting wet if I´m not swimming or in a nice warm shower. Like in many aspects of life, best motivation is often found at a time when there is no choice. I was quickly approaching such a situation. I had promised to take my unis to a friends´ birthday party, and before going I need to be sure that I can still ride them. Luckily the rain ended early this morning, and a nice breeze came, drying the ground. I could even see the sun. I came quickly home from work, packed my equipment and left again.

First I thought that I´ll take it easy today, a nice leasurely ride along the gravel paths by the sea shore or something, the nice smell of the salty wind and the shade of the tall pines, it would be just perfect. However, on my way to the coast I remembered one place where I rode once last autumn. My biker friends had told me of nice single tracks in a nature preserve/historical site on the east end of the town. That time I parked my car on the wrong place and never got to the good bits. That wouldn´t happen today, this time I knew where I should leave my car to get to the correct paths.

The car park is small, there is only one other car and room for three more. I put on my gloves and guards, unpack the KH and mount it. The paved path leads towards the forest and a hill, where the surface changes to fine gravel. I wobble left and right, can´t seem to find any kind of balance. I try holding the handle with my left hand, right, then without holding anything, nothing works. The wheel keeps turning like a snake on sand. The hill is long, not too steep, but still I struggle. I arrive at an intersection, to my right there is even gravel, up to the left goes a smaller path which is covered in stones the size of my fist. These stone paths and other structures found in this forest are of historical significance, they were built by the Russians in the early 20th century as a part of the defences for St.Petersburg.

I choose the stone path. I walk up the hill and start riding again at the top. The path is very uneven and my riding hasn´t improved a single bit in the last 10 minutes. Wobble, wobble, upd. Repeat. I dismount often to check the path ahead. I remember reading the back-breaking stories only a few days ago, and this path is, if not a potential back-breaker, at least very potential bruiser and blood-shedder. The stones in the ground look sharp. I also remember that no-one knows that I´m here. Better not to do anything stupid. At a couple of places the downhills are steep and wet, they might be challenging even when dry. I take no risks and walk down. I have ridden a couple of kilometers and then the ground gets more even. There are no longer stones on the path, just hard soil. For the first time on this trip I feel that I´m in control of the uni, and start riding faster. The path goes slightly down and gets narrower, I get some air when I ride fast over some larger roots. Now this is starting to get fun.

I come to a field, and there are two choices. Either I go over the field, this leads to paved roads and back to the car park, or I´ll take a lot smaller path which goes back into the forest where it seems to be following the edges of the field. I choose the forest. I have no idea where the path will take me. It seems to head south, so it can only go on for perhaps five kilometers before it hits the sea. We´ll see, I think, and start riding. The path is narrow, the width is roughly one foot, not the official measure but the one at the lower end of my legs. It goes up, down, left and right, sharp turns follow in a quick pace. I upd often, large roots lie hidden in tall grass. I end up walking long sections of the path as it seems quite unrideable. Highest roots are something like 20 centimeters, and there are lots of them. There are also some fallen trees, here they are left to rot wherever they happen to fall. At places the path goes under the trunks, sometimes mountain bikers have ridden over them leaving chain ring marks on the wood. Sometimes a new path has formed where the trunk is too low to be ridden under and too high to be ridden over. I keep going because the bits between the high roots and other obstacles are awesome, tricky narrow turns and fast straights. The field is not in sight anymore, and shadows of tall spruces and birches fall on the path. Somewhere above there is a birds nest, I hear lots of squeeking. The bright greens of the spring are starting to turn into the dark greens of summer.

There is also lots of something quite different. There is one mistake I make every year, and again it happens. There is one thing that one must always carry when leaving the Finnish suburbs at summertime, one thing which must not be forgotten. That thing lies neatly in a cupboard in my living room. Mosquito repellant. They find pray by smell, heat, carbon dioxide. A muni rider smells of sweat, bakes in heat under the body armour and breathes heavily. The tone of the trip changes at this point. Stopping is not an option anymore, in the case of an upd it is necessary either to start riding immediately again, or to walk. I walk a lot. I´m starting to get thirsty, but can´t stop for a break. Those small blood-suckers would drink me dry in minutes and leave only a dry corpse behind. The crows and ants would take care of the rest. The path widens a little and I start riding faster, faster. I come to an intersection, a wide sawdust path. I remember riding here before, so I´m back on the map. There is a small patch of treeless land under a high-voltage wire, and there I dare to take a break. Here the number of mosquitoes is more manageable, I kill a few and then there are no more.

Back on the uni, I head to the sawdust path. Those are made for running, nice and springy, they are easy on the knees and ankles. Riding them on an uni is a different story. The tire sinks deep into the sawdust and every meter is hard-earned. I ride it knowing that there´s only perhaps half a kilometer of sawdust and then I´m back on gravel paths. The gravel path leads back to the direction of my car. I soon come to the intersection where I first went to the stone path. The car is less than half a kilometer from here, downhill all the way. So, what would a clever person do?

I choose the stone path. I ride up the hill and continue riding at the top. The path is still very uneven, but my riding has improved a lot in the last hour. It is a lot easier to ride when the path is familiar. I upd only once on the stony part of the path, but still I walk down those two small gnarly hills. At the field I see an another path going on the edge of the field, heading to the opposite way. I´m starting to feel a little tired, so I go there. It would be nice to get back to the car. The path is more rideable than its southern part, and I travel fast. The path gets a little uneventful, only some large roots here and there, lots of fun and fast riding between them. I really need to practise hopping and jumping, most of these roots are definately suitable for such. Suddenly the path ends, and I´m back at the car park. The ride is over. I´ll definately come back soon.


this submarine is from finland.

Sounds like an enjoyable place to ride! Thanks for the write-up, it was a good read. Have fun at your friend’s party, especially that you’re sure you still know how to ride.

im dissapointed… you didn’t even fall.

Nice writeup. Sounds like a fun trail except for: