Not Far From Home
Erkki loaded his bikepacking rig onto an old fishing boat named Sitikka and set off on an adventure “not far from home”. He came back with this truly amazing film, some night riding tips, steps for a quick getaway, and thoughts on the new bikepacking-centric Kona Unit.
Kona Bicycles sent Finnish Kona Super Grassroots rider Erkki Punttila off with their new bikepacking specific Kona Unit for an adventure “not far from home”. Erkki strapped his bikepacking kit to the Unit, loaded up his old fishing boat, Sitikka, and pedaled off into the night. This film is sure to make you want to get out in your own back yard and explore. Watch the video below and scroll down further for more photos, trip insight from Erkki, and a little more about Kona’s bikepacking Unit.
Words by Erkki Punttila. Photos by Teemu Lautamies.
I love exploring new places with my bike, but I also constantly hear the call of the sea – why not combine the best of both worlds? First enjoy a nice evening cruise and then hit the trails with your lights on and find a peaceful spot to camp. My boat is an old fishing boat and has a 5.4 litre truck engine from 1972 that has proven to be quite “reliable”. Just like bikes they are somewhat simple machines after you get to know the basics of maintenance and repair. Remember your first wheel build? Slightly scary at first, but very rewarding at the end.
Big miles or a quick getaway
If you are planning to get big miles in for the day your only choice is to get up early and get going. There is no way around that. But sometimes it is utter bliss not to have a plan at all. Sleep as long as you feel like. Enjoy breakfast and coffee. Get going when you feel like it and do it for as long as it’s good. Have a break, take a nap. Eat warm food, look at birds – whatever makes you happy.
On the other hand, you can take these steps for a short getaway. Set up everything for a quick start before going to sleep. I fill my Jetboil with the right amount of water for porridge and coffee and keep it on standby in the tent’s vestibule. Have all the food you plan to eat ready (but don’t do this in bear country!). Then, this:1. Make sure your alarm goes off loud as f@ck in the far end of the tent so you’re forced to get up to turn it off
2. Open the valve of your air mattress
3. Get up and light up Jetboil
4. Shut off the alarm
5. Put on riding clothes
6. Stuff sleeping bag
7. By now the water is boiling. Pour it into your favourite titanium cup and add porridge flakes. Eat and scrape the sides with your spork. Pour more hot water and add instant coffee.
8. Since the coffee is likely too hot, pack your stuff and roll up your sleeping mattress while it cools.
9. Enjoy your coffee. It also cleans your mug from the porridge. Kind of.
10. Stuff your gear into your seat and frame bag, then take down the tent and pack it along with your dry base layer.
11. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame.
Tips for big days
- Eat light and fast in the morning. Ride for about 1-2 hours, take a dump and have a second breakfast :)
- Have food ready on your stem bags to eat on the go.
- Eat something once per hour even you don’t feel hungry. You don’t really need a big lunch break, just keep on going and remember to eat.
- Hydration is key. I always have one bottle with electrolytes and one with plain water. On longer legs I fill them from my bladder or other source and try to keep the balance.
- Your favourite candy and something salty like beef jerky is good motivational food.
- If you eat at a restaurant or gas station during the day, don’t eat in. Order 3 hamburgers and a coke, eat one standing and continue with the two burgers in your jersey pockets. The satisfaction of eating a cheeseburger while coasting along a gravel road at 25km/h is heaven.
A few tips for night riding
On longer bikepacking trips it would be ideal to find a camp site before the sun goes down. It just makes things easier. But sometimes it’s fun to ride in a pitch black forest with your lights blazing. Your focus shifts from the scenery to the trail and its obstacles. And what better way is there to scare yourself shitless than startling a sleeping moose just a few meters from you?
- Set up your lights before it gets dark. Then you can just turn them on and keep going.
- Know your gear. How long does the battery run on low/medium/full power?
- Conserve power. On roads you can use the low setting on your lights and then turn it up when the trail gets nasty.
- Always have a backup light source so you can continue if one fails. Probably the best option is to have a hub dynamo powered light for riding and recharging your GPS/phone/headlamp during the day. And a good quality waterproof headlamp for camp activities.
- Know where your gear is. Try to memorize all of your stuff when packing and always pack things in the same place. You can then find spare batteries or your multitool even with your eyes closed.
- Pack wisely. Having your shelter in one place with easy access is nice. I keep my tent as the first thing in the handlebar bag along with a dry base layer. Dry clothes, shelter, food, sleep.
Every trip comes to an end unfortunately. If you have a specific goal that you want to reach, why not celebrate a bit when you reach it? A mountain top, a tough hike-a-bike, a big climb, a 200km day, whatever – reward yourself and maybe take a picture of it. Later on you won’t remember all the details of the suffering, but you will feel the sense of accomplishment and have a great story to tell. Just go out there and do it your way.
About The New Kona Unit
For this adventure, Erkki rode what Kona dubs as its Swiss Army knife, the Unit, in its completely stock build. Constructed from Reynolds 520 steel frame with a pure single speed drivetrain, the Unit has been a mainstay in the Kona line for years. In 2017 they’ve given it some updates to expand its versatility and make it somewhat bikepacking-centric. The 2017 Unit features five bottle cages and room for 27.5+ wheels, which now come stock on the bike. According to Kona, the Unit is designed to get out there whether you’re looking for a singletrack ripper or the foundation of a solid bikepacking setup. The powder blue Unit in the video is available in Europe, while North American version comes in matte olive green. Get all the details on the Unit here. Here are Erkki’s initial thoughts:
I really liked the simplicity of the Unit setup as a singlespeed. For a quick weekend trip with no major climbs it was fun for a change. Getting out of the saddle ever so often makes riding more dynamic and fun. The stock gearing worked well even for a loaded bike, but for longer trips I would definately install gears, which is an easy upgrade. The simple steel frame with a big front triangle accomodates a large frame bag (my custom bag for the XL Kona Raijin frame fits perfectly a XL Unit). And the Plus sized tires made the ride feel smooth and enjoyable. I’ve had the Unit for just a short time so I can’t really say how the other components would work long term on bikepacking trips. Overall, it’s such a fun bike that I’m thinking of using it as my winter commuter rig and for shorter trips. For the price, the Unit is a great choice for someone just getting into bikepacking and all around mtb riding.
- Price: $999 USD
- Frame Material: Reynolds 520 Butted Cromoly
- Wheel Size: 27.5 PLUS
- Wheels: Alex MD40
- Front Suspension: tire pressure and your arms
- Fork: Kona Plus Fork
- Crankset: FSA Comet
- Drivetrain: Single Speed Bliss
- Cockpit: Kona XC/BC Riser bar and stem, Kona Race Light LOG grips
- Brakes: TRP Spyke
- Front Tire: WTB Trailblazer 27.5×2.8″
- Rear Tire: WTB Trailblazer 27.5×2.8″
- Saddle: WTB Volt Comp
About Erkki Puntilla
Erkki is quite the character. He approaches bikepacking excursions and his position on Kona’s team with a straightforward manner and plenty of dry humor. Follow Erkki on his blog, PackGoFind.com.