Vapaus Brand Ambassador and mountain climber, Lotta Hintsa, has always been a cyclist. Nowadays, she gets on her bike as part of a rigorous training programme but she thinks cycling is something everyone should do, as every trip on two wheels not only boosts people’s well-being but also contributes to protecting the environment.
Lotta Hintsa, the Vapaus Brand Ambassador, doesn't remember exactly how she learnt to ride a bike. It probably happened by itself when she was about 4 or 5 years old and wanted to rush after her big sister. Being one year older, her sister was already a capable and enthusiastic cyclist.
"Quick, take off my training wheels so I can catch up with my big sister!"
Since then, cycling has been a natural part of her life.
"My childhood in Espoo offered a safe place for cycling. Together with my friends and siblings, I explored both dirt roads and the edges of the forest. Later on, cycling became a convenient way to get to school, to friends’ houses and to my hobbies," she says.
"I had many hobbies, including gymnastics, dancing, cheerleading and playing the flute. There were four children in our family, so my parents didn’t have time to drive us all to places by car. Besides, going by bike was often faster than a car, as there were fewer traffic lights."
Hintsa became known to the public after winning the Miss Finland title in 2013. Today, she is primarily famous for being an adventurer and mountain climber.
"Lotta Hintsa is curious, adventurous and determined, and she is a great fit for the journey of Vapaus. We share the same values and we both have a strong desire to positively influence the overall well-being of ourselves, others and the environment," says Lotta Vänskä, who is responsible for growth marketing at Vapaus.
"Together, we want to encourage individuals and entire communities to make more sustainable choices in their daily lives when it comes to getting around – make a difference one bike ride at a time," she continues.
In summer 2021, Hintsa and her climbing partner, Don Bowie, attempted to reach the top of Broad Peak in Pakistan, which has an elevation of over 8,000 metres. People were excited to follow their journey. Among other things, she interrupted the trip at one point to rescue a sick mountain guide, and the final attempt to climb the last leg was abandoned due to a high avalanche risk.
Now the difficulties in Pakistan are behind her, Hintsa is already focusing on her next challenges (one of them has to do with cycling, but she isn’t willing to shed more light on it just yet). Between the trips, the mountain climber focuses on a very rigorous training programme aimed at achieving the highest level of physical endurance.
"When you're training around 30 hours per week, it’s impossible to stick to just one sport. So, I spend about half of my workout hours cycling. It's such a great form of exercise! The risk of strain injuries is so low, as opposed to running, for example,” says Hintsa.
"In goal-oriented training, it is also important to measure and collect data, which is particularly useful in cycling. For example, you can use the pedals to measure power, which tells you much more about your workout than your heart rate.”
From the various meters installed on her bike, Hintsa’s coach can receive accurate information about her condition and well-being, so the next day's workout can be designed in just the right way.
Besides it being effective training, Hintsa finds cycling interesting because it allows you to explore your environment – and you can quickly and easily get further by bike than on foot.
With a smile on her face, she remembers how 3 kilometres felt like an extremely long distance to cycle as a child, and a 65-kilometre bike ride to a Midsummer event as a teenager felt like a huge achievement.
"Now, a normal bike ride for me is somewhere between 100 and 150 kilometres. At the same time, cycling allows me to visit different places. For example, I have cycled from Helsinki to visit my grandmother in Lahti, stayed there overnight and then returned the next day,"
Few people exercise as much as Hintsa, but she highlights that the same benefits still apply to everyone.
"It’s really invigorating, riding a bike and feeling the wind on your face. Not only is cycling a great form of exercise, it’s also good for your mind," she says.
"Just choose a nice café within a convenient distance, cycle there, sit down, have a coffee and cycle back. It doesn’t have to be a workout, just enjoy the ride. Maybe you can even achieve a state of flow."
Vapaus provides businesses with a benefit bike service. A tax-free benefit bike can be used for commuting to work, other trips, intense training – like what Hintsa does – or just for light, everyday cycling as a hobby.
As a Vapaus Brand Ambassador, Hintsa wants to highlight the many positive aspects of cycling. For her, cycling is important not only for exercise, getting outdoors and adventuring but also as a key part of an environmentally friendly lifestyle. She points out that every car ride, whether for commuting or any other purpose, that is replaced by riding a bike is good for tackling climate change.
"By cycling, you do good not just to yourself but also for the whole planet."
Lotta Hintsa is encouraging people to try adding cycling to their everyday lives:
"It is always difficult to change your routines. When travelling by bike, you may need to think carefully about how to carry your belongings with you, and it may feel challenging to shower at work. But once you take the time to find solutions to these little issues – for instance by buying a handy bike bag to carry clean clothes and a towel with you – it's easier to create new, healthier and more ecological routines that make you feel good."
Fortunately, the results of Vapaus’s benefit bike survey indicate that many people have already changed their habits: 92% of respondents have started cycling more after getting a benefit bike and more than 50% have replaced car journeys with cycling.
"Our benefit bike survey shows that for some people, getting a bike with electric assistance has been the key facilitator of permanent change. You may not even have to get sweaty when battling against the wind unless you ride your electric bike on a really steep route. But your mind will feel refreshed when you get your body moving in the fresh air," says Vänskä from Vapaus.
There is one thing about benefit bikes that confuses Hintsa. She is self-employed, at least for the time being. However, tax benefits have not been granted to self-employed individuals with a business ID. Then again, self-employed individuals do not receive a car benefit either, but business-related vehicle expenses can still be deducted from their personal taxation as an additional deduction.
There are about 230,000 self-employed individuals with a business ID (according to the statistics for January 2021) registered in the Finnish Trade Register, so if they were also given a tax-free bicycle benefit, it would definitely contribute towards the Finnish Government's goal of making Finland carbon neutral by 2035.
"I don’t understand why a tax-free benefit bike is not available to everyone, regardless of the company form. I hope that this will soon change as policymakers review the health and environmental advantages of benefit bikes."
Only 22% of employees are familiar with the employee bicycle benefit, but 63% find it interesting. Read more about the research results from Vapaus and Oomi Fillari!
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