We develop: An attractive cycling tourism route to the Kokemäenjoki valley!

15.5.2024Juhana AaltoWe develop

River valleys often offer excellent settings for cycling with their flat terrain, diverse service networks, and aesthetic appeal. In Europe, river valleys are particularly attractive cycling tourism destinations, but in Finland, they have somewhat been overshadowed by other bodies of water.

Two people cycling.
Photo: Juho Kuva / Visit Finland

The Kokemäenjoki Valley in Satakunta boasts some of Finland's most magnificent river landscapes, stories, and experiences. A new cycling route, Jokireitti (The River Trail), has been developed for the Kokemäenjoki Valley and will be launched for the 2024 cycling season. The route along the river has been developed as part of the 100Bike project, funded by the EU Rural Development Fund and carried out by the Tourism Development Center of Satakunta University of Applied Sciences.

Although a river valley naturally offers a clear entity, creating a new tourism route is a long-term process. The route mapping in the field has been carried out by experts from Ekokumppanit Oy. They have extensive experience in developing attractive cycling routes. Choosing the physical route itself requires local knowledge, as well as expertise in areas such as traffic planning, regional attractions, and an understanding of the target group – recreational cyclists. Creating the route line involves plenty of selection, each decision needs to be justified, and every decision affects subsequent options. It is also important to remember that a line on a map or on a GPX device does not constrain the flexible and adventurous cyclist, who naturally makes their own choices based on various factors. Therefore, the route is not just a line on a map but an interconnected system of services along and near the route, a kind of ecosystem. However, this almost organically forming network must have a binding backbone – primarily for communication purposes.

As mentioned earlier, the vitality and popularity of the route are guaranteed by a diverse and high-quality range of services and other experiences along the route. Therefore, mapping the area's services has been central to the route development work. The region has been meticulously surveyed for services that cycling tourists might need, from bike repair shops to cafes, hotels to beaches, and birdwatching towers. In conducting this work, it has been kept in mind that cycling tourists are not a homogeneous group. For most, the bicycle is just a mode of transportation, not the main purpose of the trip. This means that there are a wide variety of desires and needs. Research also shows that cycling tourists are willing to deviate far from the planned route if sufficiently attractive destinations are available. Thus, a broader network of services will hopefully develop around the backbone of the main route, with all services benefiting from the vitality brought by the main route.

The river trail brings the experiences of the river valley within reach

The new cycling tourism route, Jokireitti, emerging in the Kokemäenjoki Valley, will be launched for the 2024 cycling season. The route will have its own home base (jokireitti.fi), prepared by Ekokumppanit Oy, which will include a map solution. Additionally, a multi-faceted narrative has been created for the route, in collaboration with local stakeholders and guided by a professional storyteller. This narrative will be widely used in the route's marketing and will help distinguish it. A cycling tourist who enjoys culture often seeks not only concrete experiences but also the ambiance and "spirit of the place" – moments where the cyclist feels immersed in the area, its people, and its story. The story also helps the visitor to see their surroundings more deeply.

The life of River Trail, developed through the 100Bike project, will not end when the project wraps up in December 2024. Municipalities along the route have been involved in its planning, and it is hoped that further cooperation will develop around it. A cycling tourist coming from afar does not consider municipal boundaries, and many who pedal along the route will also come from nearby areas, including local residents and vacation homeowners. The cycling route is not only about business and tourism but also about physical and mental well-being and transportation. The goal is for the River Trail to find its place on the map of Finland's cycling routes as an attractive rising star. This will not be achieved immediately but will require long-term work, such as maintaining the physical and digital aspects of the route. The most important thing, however, is communicating about the route – only then will it be discovered. The route will not benefit stakeholders if it is not actively utilized.

Cycling tourism is at its best an addictive blend of adventure and responsible travel. It allows tourists to have unique experiences and unparalleled opportunities to immerse themselves in the culture of the destination and its breathtaking landscapes. On a bike, you feel the wind, encounter the scents, and immerse yourself in the sounds of the environment. Cycling tourism combines cultural participation, environmental awareness, and physical exercise, even when using an ebike. For these reasons, cycling tourism has seen a tremendous rise in recent years, and Satakunta offers excellent conditions for this – a message that has been promoted by the 100Bike project of SAMK's Tourism Development Center.

Did you know?

  • The Jokireitti connects the Järvien reitit (Lake Trails) network in the east to the The Bothnian Sea Experience Route and the pan-European Eurovelo network in the west.
  • The Cycling Tourism Center operates the Bikeland.fi website, which conveniently features domestic cycling tourism routes and cyclist-friendly services.
  • The number of employee bicycles is skyrocketing! Already, over 70,000 Finns are riding new bikes!

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