Cycling Denmark – Impressions July 20 – 28th

This week we cycled in Denmark. Flat, with a consistently strong wind, it’s easy to ride here. Almost everyone speaks English, the Wienerbrod is amazing, and people smoke and drink like nothing I’ve ever seen. They still smoke in pubs here. They chain smoke. They drink before 11am. The change in lifestyle is large compared to Sweden, where everything seems to be health focused. I had hoped to party like Berlin on the beaches here, but we’ve found them to be full of German families heading north for their summer vacation. The wild camping and hostels haven’t been conducive to meeting people. We’ve seen a lot of other cyclists, the familiarity of Ortlieb panniers reflecting their empty superman logos along the paths. Parents, easing their children into the world of cycling, mini paniers, mini responsibilities. Inspiring. There is a national cycle system. Not just one route, but a whole series of them, promoting the cycling culture. Along these routes, hundreds of “legit” wild camping sites promote the nature and healthy lifestyles. Technically, wild camping here is verbodden, although it’s not hard to find a hidden spot.

Over all impressions about the Danish countryside:

  • Wind, a lot of it. Every day. You’re either with it, or against it, there is no in between. Having it with you wins the war.
  • Pigs, the Danish have a lot of them. Along the strong winds, they powerfully perfume the countryside. There is a reason a pack of bacon is only 3 dollars.
  • Flat, not a single hill greater then 10M. It’s nice, if the wind isn’t against you.
  • Wind power. I’ve never seen so much wind power before. Now it makes sense why 20% of the country is powered by wind. It only takes a glance to look outside and see if you’re going to have a terrible day or a great day with the wind.
  • The Danish have a Queen too. Sometimes she visits the countryside. We stalked her motorcade down the highway.

The second goal of this blog is to keep accurate details of the means to cycle through these countries. I’ve been inspired and aided by the travellingtwo.com, who are among a few people who have written something to help other cycle tourists plan for a trip like this. The big questions, such as what does it cost to camp/hostel? What are the roads like? How much will food cost in these countries? All have more weight when you’ve quit your job and decided to cycle parts of the globe.

We arrived in Federiskhavn by ferry from Gotenburg, Sweden. We cycled north to Skagen (the north most tip of Denmark), as it’s reputed to be a must see……ahhh the confluence of two oceans, and throngs of Germans. It was easy riding, we were able to follow the cycle path up the main road. As it was 1900H by the time we arrived, and found that once we had eaten and mucked about town, all of the campsites were full. There was a motorcycle fest in town, but I don’t think we would have had a quiet night of sleep. Cycling 6K south of town, Isaac spotted a wild camping site in the trees along the path. This was our introduction to Danish wild camping.

"Wild Camping"

This campsite turned out to be one of the hundreds of free wild campsites throughout Denmark. I’m impressed with them, most of them seem to have running potable water, and shelters. Looking at the warmshowers map of hosts, there are almost no hosts in Denmark, and it turns out that these hosts are instead found in the wild campsite book. With this system, the Danes can find you a host that will have a shower and a place for you to stay. The book is called Overnatning i det fri, and cost 129 DKR. We found out about it from a Danish couple the second day here, although it wasn’t easily found. Tourist info and bookstores in Skagen didn’t have it, but we eventually found it in another tourist information kiosk in Holstebro. It includes a list of several hundred wild campsites, and several hundred more campsites that are hosted. Some of the Danish have set up mini wild campsites in their back yards. We ended up using these sites about half the time we were in Denmark, as they are conveniently placed along the cycle paths and are cheap or free.

The intent in following the west coast of Denmark at this time was that we could follow the #1 national cycle route, also dubbed the north sea route. Seen as Denmark is such a cycle friendly country, I hadn’t presumed this to be a problem. However, the path diligently zig zags the country adding significant distance. Some of it is not paved, being either a vehicle trail, or a hiking trail. At one point near Lokken, we thought how marvellous it would be to cycle along the sea. It turns out that the trail was simply the sand on the beach. Obviously this wasn’t planning with bicycle touring in mind, a bike weighted with 50kg of gear will simply sink into the sand. Not to mention, the sand will get into the drivechain, and subsequently wear everything out. At this point, we abandoned the cycle route in favor of covering more distance. In the days we followed the route, we’d only manage to cover 60km, when in fact we’d ridden more like 90km. When we finally abandoned the path, we’d managed to put down over 100km for a couple consecutive days. On the 6th day of cycling, we finally made it to Esbjerb, and decided to stay at a hostel. A bit steep, but we did manage to get a substantial breakfast, and a much needed 12 hour nap. After all, we’d still managed to put down nearly 600Km this week cycling.

Travel notes for Denmark:
Wild camping book (Overnatning i det fri ) can be purchased at some information stores (although not all) for 129DKR. They list wild campsites (free!) and amenities, including if the site includes running water, washrooms, and shelters. Some sites are hosted by people who will charge 30DKR a night. There is also a cycle map you can find at www.scanmaps.dk/cykelkort. I would suggest using some of the cycle paths, and some of the secondary roads, rather than just the cycle path itself.
The wind prevails from the west, although it can daily move from the southwest to the northwest. This makes all of the difference.
Expect to pay about 100DKR if you’re camping at a pay for campsite. I complained about the price at the time, however in retrospect they are quite cheap considering the showers are free. If you’re going to camp throughout Scandinavia, consider buying a membership for 100DKR. (I wouldn’t, you can camp for free in Sweden and Norway will Allemundsunde).
Danhostel (Hostel International) tends to cost 310 – 330 DKR a night if you’re in a double room. Dorms were about 180DKR, however since we’re here in the high season, it’s quite difficult to get that.
Not all parts of the national cycle route (#1) are paved. Some of it goes along the beach, or is unpaved. It also zig zags across the countryside, eating up your valuable time and energy.
Most meals will typically cost 80-160 DKR if you’re keeping it on the cheap side. We found that even eating at the grocery store wasn’t all that much cheaper.
Beer is much cheaper than Sweden and Norway, costing around 15DKR.

The rest of my pictures have been put up here.

Peace love and bicycle grease 😉

-jeremie