This week on Reader’s Rig, we check out Tomi Paajanen’s Surly Ice Cream Truck. He shares some thoughts on his affinity for practical steel bikes, some words about his native Finland as a bikepacking destination, and more. Continue on for details…

Words and photos by Tomi Paajanen (@tomi_paajanen)

I’m Tomi Paajanen and I live in a northern country called Finland. Finland is known for its extensive wilderness, lakes, and of course our small population of only six million people. We’re little bit weird, but tough. My home is close to the center of our capital Helsinki, but still in the middle of the woods.

The nearest National Park is only half an hour by bike. And that’s good because I’m an outdoor enthusiast. Spending time outdoors is one of my greatest passions, whether it is a bike ride, bikepacking, camping, or exploring rivers and lakes with my old Alpacka packraft. I finance my bikes, bikepacking, and outdoor gear by working in the film and TV industry.

Tomi Paajanen, Surly Ice Cream Truck

I got my first mountain bike, a Scott Peak, in the 90s. I grew up in a wooded area, so naturally riding bikes in our backyard was the logical entertainment. We raced, jumped, and fixed our bikes. I made my first bike tour approximately 20 years ago and it went terribly wrong. I had a heavy backpack, no bike bags, wide MTB tires, and too much teenage enthusiasm mixed with a minimum amount of planning. My first thought after the trip was: never again.

I simply love riding bikes, and that’s why it has become such a dear hobby for me. I like how they look, especially steel bikes, and part of why I so highly respect those who build bikes.

Besides being great exercise, cycling (and more specifically bikepacking) is a lifestyle for me. It’s a way to experience and explore. Every year I make a few longer bikepacking tours and several shorter overnight trips, both in summer and winter. Most of the longer trips I have made in the Nordic countries, but perhaps the most memorable bikepacking experience was our expedition to Iceland. We cycled 1,000+ km, mostly of on gravel roads and trails. I left my heart to the road called F26. Part of it also known as Sprengisandur.

  • Tomi Paajanen, Surly Ice Cream Truck
  • Tomi Paajanen, Surly Ice Cream Truck

I was an N + 1 cyclist. However, I have slowly arrived at the natural situation where I only own few “multi-functional” bikes (plus of course my vintage bike projects). Nowadays, I only ride two steel bikes. The first is my Surly Ice Cream Truck, my year-round bikepacking bike for harsh conditions and wilderness trails. I also use it as a MTB and trail bike. And my Surly Straggler is my workhorse for gravel roads and longer bikepacking trips on better roads. I rode the Straggler across Iceland and through the highlands with 40mm tires (I must admit, that couple of times I missed my fatbike a lot). Not to be forgotten, my Surly ECR is also hanging up as a beautiful decoration and I still haven’t been able to make the hard decision to sell it or keep it.

I bought my Ice Cream Truck about year ago. It replaced a Salsa Mukluk. Nothing bad to say about Mukluk, we had great times and memorable adventures. In fact, I don’t think the Ice Cream Truck is the most ideal as a bikepacking fatty. There are certainly lighter fatbikes on the market, but I don’t pay too much attention to the grams or kilos of the bike. If I have to reduce the weight of the bike, I’ll just leave one beer out of the bag. Thankfully, I haven’t had to do that so far.

  • Tomi Paajanen, Surly Ice Cream Truck
  • Tomi Paajanen, Surly Ice Cream Truck
  • Tomi Paajanen, Surly Ice Cream Truck
  • Frame/Fork Surly Ice Cream Truck
  • Rims Surly My Other Brother Darryl
  • Hubs 150x15mm (32h) / 197x12mm (32h)
  • Tires Surly Bud & Lou, 4.8″ / 45NRTH Dillinger 5
  • Handlebars Salsa Rustler
  • Headset Cane Creek 40, ZS44/EC44
  • Crankset Race Face Aeffect
  • Pedals Race Face Atlas
  • Cassette SunRace 11-speed 11-42T
  • Derailleur Shimano RD-M7000 SLX
  • Brakes SRAM Level
  • Shifter(s) Shimano SLX
  • Saddle Brooks C17 / WTB Volt
  • Front bags Apidura Expedition Handlebar Pack and Expedition Accessory Pocket
  • Frame bags DIY
  • Rear bags Apidura Expedition Saddle Pack
  • Accessory bags Apidura Food Pouch and Backcountry Top Tube Pack / DIY top tube pack
  • Other accessories 3x Salsa Anything Cage, Surly 24-Pack Rack, Gränsfors Bruk Axe

I’m also a wannabe bag maker. I’ve already prepared several bags, mainly frame bags, and always promise myself that each one will be the last one I’m going to make. But then after a few weeks or months, I’ll take a dram of whisky and after a moment my sewing machine starts singing again. Sometimes is meditative, though on the other hand it can be goddamn annoying! My handmade bags are “maybe-waterproof” so whenever I need 100% waterproofness, I use Apidura bags.

Finally, a few words about Finland as a bikepacking country: Finland is a wonderful country for bikepacking as it’s a tall country with very different environments. We have the world’s most magnificent archipelago where you can do island hopping bikepacking trips. Our country is full of forests and wilderness, so we have millions of kilometers of gravel roads, trails, and paths. In addition, we have Lapland, with its tundra and small mountains. You can ride through the spectacular wilderness without seeing other people for days and if you’re lucky you will see a bear, wolf, or wolverine. Usually, however, you don’t see them but they see you.

See more from Tomi on Instagram @tomi_paajanen.

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