Denmark, where the wind is our mountains.
Denmark, along with Holland, is probably the country you hear about first when you start to talk about cycling. If you are thinking about doing a cycle tour or going somewhere to test out your cycling legs, you can’t go wrong with Denmark: plenty of cycle lanes, beautiful countryside and very friendly people.
The very best part is that it is not very hilly, though there are some short sharp ones. It’s a countryside of rolling hills, plenty of farmland, so late spring is the time to come and see the colours. There are plenty of beaches to look at the water, which is at its warmest in August. A fresh dip in cool water will definitely do you and your legs good after a long day in the saddle.
Weather is weather, so expect anything weather can throw at you. The best time to cycle in Denmark is from late May to late August. The summers don’t get too boiling hot, so most of the time it is just perfect cycling weather. The rule of thumb is a westerly wind, though we got thrown a curve ball and had to endure 25 miles right into the wind coming from the north, on our last tour. This was rather hard on the very flat southern bits of Denmark, with no shelter at all.
Eating out is expensive in Denmark, but you should not miss the opportunity to try the Danish cuisine. Most restaurants will have an offer on so just find the right time. Just one thing: they do veggie food but it is not so common as Denmark is a meat/fish eating country. Above all do not forget to try the Danish Hotdog, “rested med det hele” and the ice cream “Gammel Davs” with cream, guf and jam on top. Oh yes, the Danish bread is also something you should try along with everything else in the local bakery, get there early and the fresh Danish pastries come right out of the oven, yummy!
Cycle lanes and infrastructure
Cycling there is bliss, other road users know what a cyclist is. In bigger cities you will have a whole cycle lane infrastructure so you are often away from other road users. Traffic lights also take cyclists into consideration: lights will go green to the pedestrians first, then cyclists and then the other road users. All towns/cities are small enough to see by bicycle. A quick tour of the major sites in Copenhagen can be done in a few hours and that even gives you time for a drink in Nyhavn.
The national cycling route covers Denmark very well, and with the local routes you can get everywhere. Compared to the UK’s cycle route signage the Danish route markings are brilliant. Signs at junctions, at places where you can see them and the distances to the next town. Ok, there might the odd one out, but you know where you are going at all times. The cycle route that takes you to “end of the world”, well the very tip of Denmark north of Skagen, ended rather refreshingly in a bicycle parking area not the normal car park or dead end.
Public transport, buses in bigger cities will get you around nice and quick, but do not take bicycles, but then again you can cycle the route faster. Inter city trains will take bicycles, just remember to book then on when getting your tickets. For some reason the brilliant cycle infrastructure stops dead at the train station, as getting fully loaded bicycle onto a train is a bit of a bugger, three very steep and high steps onto the train. That said, the local trains S-tog and Metro in Copenhagen are the opposite, you can walk/roll right onto the trains with your bike and you do not have to pay extra. Remember that going from Fyn to Sjælland you have to take the train you can’t cycle, same goes over the bridge to Sweden.
Ferries are all over Denmark, since there are over 300 islands in Denmark. There is pretty much always room for a bicycle or two. If not all of our connections ran a hourly connection so not a long wait. Just cross your fingers that you are not sharing your journey with a lorry full of pigs. :)
Camping and campsites
Unlike Sweden and Norway, Denmark does not have the “Allemannsretten”, freedom to roam, so wild camp with caution. Though I think if you ask a farmer if you can camp, there is a very good chance that he will not turn you down, might even show you the way to better place. That said, from memory the Danish campsites are just top notch, though it has been many moons since I have camped at these sites in Denmark.
However, these “normal” campsites have become rather expensive and because of that the book “Overnatning i det fri” came to be. The book will show you around 1000 campsites in Denmark where you can camp, paying a price ranging from gratis to a maximum of £2 per night. You will not have the same luxurious facilities as a commercial campsite, but you’ll have a nice place to pitch your tent with running water nearby. Sometimes a hot shower and cooking facilities are available. Pretty much just what you need while cycle touring in Denmark.
What to see and do
Where to visit and do, hmm that depends on what you like. I would say stay away from Copenhagen and other big cities, but that is just our preference: we like to be away from it all in the countryside. Southern Fyn and the smaller island shouldn’t be missed out. Pretty much all of Jutland is a great place to get lost, all of the west coast is part of the North Sea Cycle route. The lake district near Silkeborg is rather lumpy but the nature is beautiful. Skagen shouldn’t be missed either since that is very top of Denmark, just watch out the waves comes from two sides. On the border between Denmark and Germany there is a cycle route that takes in a stunning bit of Denmark and some history.
Of course do not forget the Vikings, probably along with Lego, Danish designers and the little mermaid: the things that make Denmark famous.
I could go on and on about Denmark, since I’m Danish, but do not miss out that little corner of the world. Well worth a visit on your bicycle for a few weeks. You’ll learn to enjoy the wind.
Click these links to read about our 7 days in Denmark May 2009 :
trains planes and automobiles and sol strand og vand and a trip down memory lane and Here be dragons chapter III and wind mills and bbq and million dollars ride
irl @ cph/ and a swinging rest ride/ and click here to see all the photos
Click this link to read about my first cycle tour in Denmark and also my very first experience of cycle touring in 2007 : The hotdog tour and clicky for all the photos taken both by Paul and me.