Kilometrikisa challenges into getting outdoors; flow state, nature exploration, and staying in shape get Unikieans to mount their bikes

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Unikie People

Unikie is taking part for the third summer in a row in the Kilometrikisa cycling challenge organized by Pyöräilykuntien verkosto (network of cycling municipalities) and Suomi Pyöräilee (Finland cycles) campaign. This year, the challenge has attracted a record number of participants, and Unikie’s own team is also bigger than before. Over the first two months of the challenge, 23 Unikieans have biked a total of 9,200 kilometres. Seeing as last year’s Unikie team reached a total of a bit over 14,000 km over the course of the competition, the chances to significantly improve last year’s score seem very good; after all, the holiday season is only getting started.

The playful Kilometrikisa challenge is widely seen as a fun addition, even though most participants claim it does not have a significant effect on how much they bike. Mika Viinikkala, a Senior Software Developer at Unikie has already hit a thousand kilometres, so we asked him to elaborate on what gets him pedalling and how he keeps racking up kilometres.

“I ride for a lot of reasons. It’s a suitable way for me to stay in shape and improve my endurance. I find it a more interesting and a less exhausting way to exercise than for example, running. I mostly ride to work, aside from the very darkest months of the year. I would probably do so regardless, but as a family man, I find it particularly sensible, as I would rather not waste what little time I have with my family after work on my own exercise. Cycling also happens to be ecological. In my case, my commute takes the same amount of time by bike than it would using public transit. In addition to everyday cycling, I go on longer rides on my road bike, usually away from the city,” Mika explains.

The Viinikkala family aspires to take on all shorter distances on two wheels. The kids travel along in a small trailer attached to the bicycle. Timo Keränen from Oulu attests that his family also bikes on a daily basis and their kids travel to for example daycare in a similar trailer.

“I take the kids to daycare by bike as well as cycle to Unikie’s office in Oulu, although the trip is only 4 km each way. I only really use the car if there is a specific need, or if it’s raining heavily or coming down hard with sleet. I also bike in the winter, though usually not particularly long rides, only daily activity”, says the test engineer working in Unikie’s Voice & Messaging team.

Timo Keränen
Timo Keränen likes to ride on a carbon-fibre road bike in the peaceful summer breeze of the countryside.

For everyday trips, Timo uses a cyclocross he bought a few years ago, in the winter, enhanced with studded tyres. However, most of his kilometres in the challenge have accumulated from purposefully planned bike trips. His rides of up to 100 km he takes on comfortably on a carbon-fibre road bike in the peaceful summer breeze of the countryside.

Corona spring and a warm June caused an increase in cycling

The restrictions brought on by the corona virus prevention measures have limited many hobbies over this past spring and summer. Restrictions on for example fitness gyms and team sports have driven many people to turn to cycling instead. If the covid-19 restrictions have inconvenienced people in Finland, so they have elsewhere too. In California, where the restrictions are far stricter, biking has still been an allowed method for getting out of the house. This has caused Jussi Mäntynen who works at Unikie’s US office to become excited about cycling in a whole new way.

“It’s nice to get out of the house and see other people even in passing. This has been particularly important to me now that my family is in Finland and I am here by myself, and otherwise I would just have to stay indoors staring at the same four walls all the time”, states Unikie’s General Manager for North America and the Middle East who gets on his bike six times a week.

Jussi Mäntynen
Jussi Mäntynen enjoys riding both on and off roads and says he often rides for a couple of hours at a time. From time to time, he also takes clients along on his bike trips.

“Cycling lifts your spirits and improves your endurance. In addition to the experience itself, the thing I enjoy about cycling is monitoring my performance both through the Garmin trip computer as well as the Apple iWatch I wear on my wrist. I have a few friends with whom we like to compare our results”, Jussi says.

The hot Californian summer means that Jussi’s bike trips tend to take place in the evenings. In Finland, heat is an rare treat, but the unseasonably warm June this year provided excellent conditions for cyclists. Cycling is one of the few sports that are easy to enjoy even in a heat wave.

“A state of flow you feel with the pavement or a gravel path rolling underneath your tyres”

But what is it that is so appealing about cycling? Kalle Pahajoki, a Senior Software Developer at Unikie says there are several things that appeal to him:

“The state of flow that you feel with the pavement or a gravel path rolling underneath your tyres. When you complete a technically challenging uphill stretch and stop to catch your breath on top. Or the free flow your get from a suitable mount after speeding up. But also, the feeling you get when you come home completely frozen or covered in mud after a long ride and get to shower and get in the sauna to warm up.”

According to him, an important factor for someone with a sedentary job is simply staying in shape.

“For me, biking is first and foremost a form of exercise that takes you outside into fresh air. Either in the midst of fields in the countryside or on small paths in the woods. Particularly in the early summer, the breathtaking scent of flowers in the fields, the cool breeze, and the steady pedalling is practically meditative.  The surrounding nature is an essential part of the experience with road biking”, says Kalle who has also competed in triathlon and road biking.

Mika Viinikkala feels the same way. The surrounding nature with all its scents is a significant part of the pleasure of biking. Additionally, he feels that cycling enables him to listen to his own thoughts.

“I prefer smaller, more varied country roads where you can smell the sea or freshly cut crops, and where all the features of a road bike become eminent. Cycling bears the same appeal as any other endurance sport. Additionally, there is also a little bit of technology involved”, Mika pronounces.

The Kilometrikisa challenge takes place between 1.5.2020-22.9.2020. Anyone who wants to join the competition can still sign up to improve their health, explore nature, and accumulate kilometres.

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