Design thinking

The Challenge – Rovaniemi150 Report

Oskar Juhlin

In 2011, Veryday entered a contract to support Thule in their goal to expand the brand to outdoor sports. One of the several projects we launched was to develop an assortment of bike panniers and accessories. A dream project for a bunch of dedicated designers and outdoor enthusiasts like us! With Thule’s muscle and knowledge behind us, we had every opportunity to create something really great and new. As always, we set ambitious goals and strived for extraordinary results – despite super-short timelines and a challenging project.

 

Two years later we finally had a series of outstanding bags for the touring cyclist and the everyday bicycle commuter. The new Thule assortment launched at Eurobike 2013 and our commuter bike pannier received an iF Award for its innovative design.

More than 20 years of working as an industrial designer has made me wiser but no less curious, and I’ve always been into outdoor activities, especially biking and winter sports. Genuine user insights are fundamental to groundbreaking design, so during the Thule project I nurtured thoughts of testing the products to the limit while at the same time challenging myself. For an assortment like this, the biggest challenge was to build something that could handle heavy loads at low temperatures and with really long durations.

The Rovaniemi150 Arctic Winter Race appeared to be the perfect testing ground! That said and done, I packed my gear and headed off to a 150 km snow trail above the Polar Circle, deep in the woods of Rovaniemi, Finland. The race had a mandatory gear list that included a polar sleeping bag and mattress, and lights with batteries with at least 20 hours of use. The forecasted average temperature during race season was -15C but it could go down to -30C in some areas. I was lucky that this year the weather was actually rather warm at an average of – 5C. No food was supplied, only water and campfires at the nine checkpoints. The scenery was stunning, with deep snow-covered forests and the thin air of the north. But this only lasted as long as the sun was up and then it got totally dark. Without my lights the race would have been impossible. If you don’t feel comfortable being alone in the woods during daylight hours, don’t attempt the Rovaniemi 150!

The longest distance between checkpoints was a trail that lasted for seven hours. During that whole time I was all alone: biking, pushing and dragging my bike forward through the snow in complete darkness. Positive thinking and gear that worked was all that kept me going!

At the starting point on the Rovaniemi River we were a gang of 51 bikers, runners and skiers eager to get going. After 19 hours and 45 minutes I crossed the finish line, super tired but happy and empowered by the achievement and the fact that the equipment we designed withstood the test with honors.
I think it will take a couple of weeks to recover but there’s a little thought lingering in the back of my brain: how would the race be at a temperature of below -20C?

CONGRATULATIONS OSKAR!

Oskar had finished five times the Rovaniemi150 – 150 kilometers race. They decided to name a Rovaniemi150 track section as:

JUHLIN’S FAVOURITE HELL SECTION

At the moment there are only 2 athletes which had been finished 3 times the Rovaniemi150. So let’s see who’s gonna be the next to finish 5 times as Oskar did.