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Bikers mark passing of leader of Cannonball MC gang
Hundreds of motorcyclists ride in column from Hyvinkää to Helsinki
By Jorma Erkkilä
A balmy, light summer evening and a man out for a spin on a powerful motorcycle - it's a common pairing on the Finnish highways.
On Friday evening of last week, there were nevertheless conspicuously more bikers than usual to be seen on the stretch of Highway 3 between Hyvinkää and Helsinki.
The southbound carriageways of the motorway were jammed as around 520 motorcycle club members came together for a memorial ride in honour of Jari Uotila, founder and President of the Cannonball MC, who died suddenly in May.
The biker convoy, with police motorbikes fore and aft, rode two abreast at a leisurely pace and took around three minutes to flow past.
It was among the largest ever seen on Finnish roads.
Hundreds of balding, slightly overweight men in leathers, with club colours on the back.
The convoy set off from Hyvinkää at 19:00 and arrived around an hour later at the Cannonball MC clubhouse in Helsinki's Alppila.
Things were complicated a little at the start, when four bikes hit the deck and caused something of a jam. Nobody was seriously injured in the spills.
"We invited all the members of Finnish motorcycle clubs to the event. There were also members of the international Hell's Angels and Bandidos clubs", reported Markku Olli, President of the Eastern Chapter of Cannonball MC.
"We did not request a response to the invitations, so we had no accurate picture beforehand of how many would be taking part. We nevertheless knew to expect that there would be a lot of bikers turning up."
Olli did not see scuffles between rival gangs as any threat to the commemorative ride.
"Fights between the clubs are already in the dim and distant past. The two international gangs may have some differences among themselves abroad, but they do not reach as far as Finland."
For the duration of the ride, other southbound traffic was stopped, and the bikes spread across both lanes in a seemingly endless double file.
Veku, from the Espoo-based Ironbar MC, took part in the ride with his fellow club-members because he saw it as part and parcel of biker-club culture.
"When an invitation like this comes, you take part, and that's that", was his view. He did not wish to have his full name in print.
Veku's mount was in all probability the largest on display, a massive Boss Hoss BB 502 with a 502-cubic-inch (8,230 cc) V8 Chevrolet engine.
The bike is customised with paintwork on a theme of The Unknown Soldier, the 1954 war novel by Väinö Linna, which has also been made (twice) into an iconic film.
"There are a few of these bikes on the road in Finland. You don't often run across one. You could buy a small apartment with the price", Veku divulged.
The bike itself weighs upwards of 600 kilos, and it requires a rider of more than 100kg to keep it rolling.
"I've never tried out how fast it would get up to on the road. Basically, you just wouldn't be able to stay in the saddle. It will probably do over 400 km/hour."
FACTFILE: National Bureau of Investigation regards Cannonball MC as a criminal organisation
Cannonball MC is a Finnish biker club, founded in 1991.
There are around 150 members. The club has chapters in Helsinki, Turku, Lohja, Hämeenlinna, Joensuu, Kotka, Ulvila, Jyväskylä, and Kouvola.
Despite the obvious harmony on display for the passing of its president, Cannonball MC has a shady reputation with the authorities. The National Bureau of Investigation, Finland's central criminal police arm, classifies the club as an organised criminal grouping, and the Turku Appeal Court has also seen Cannonball MC as a criminal organisation.
Some of the Cannonball representatives have rejected the idea that the club is a criminal gang.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 16.6.2012
JORMA ERKKILÄ / Helsingin Sanomat