In early July, a friend and I decided to ride the Danish stage of the Berlin to Copenhagen cycle route. With our single-speed road bikes, fully-packed pannier bags and an actual physical map with a sketched out route, we set off on the one-week ride from Gedser to Copenhagen.
We didn’t need the map
It’s a well signposted and maintained route that passes through through sleepy towns, green countryside and dense forest, with the occasional opportunity to cool off at a beach along the way. It was about 340km in total - our longest ride so far - but because we split it up into more manageable chunks of 40–70km per day, it wasn’t too intense. We were never on the bikes for more than 3–4 hours everyday, giving us time to explore and find a place to sleep for the night.
If you’re interested in doing a longer cycling trip too, here are some of the things we found out along the way so you can learn from our mistakes:
Don’t ride on the Autobahn
In Australia (for anyone who is crazy enough to do it) it’s legal to ride your bicycle on some freeways and major highways, but it probably goes without saying that on the Autobahn this is verboten. Although we didn’t plan on it, we somehow ended up there and it wasn’t long until the police showed up.
You must wear full lycra
No, you don’t have to go full lycra. But a good pair of padded gloves and riding shorts will make your ride that much more comfortable. Maybe next time we’ll try the lycra.
Be prepared for the wet weather
Waterproof jackets, pants and bags - Anything you can bring to keep dry in the rain is worth it. You don’t want the few changes of clothes you brought with you to be soaking wet.
Even though I didn’t go for the full-sized pannier bags and I cut down on everything I packed, the extra weight was still noticeable especially when riding in a strong headwind. It seems obvious, but try to only pack the essentials.
Test ride your fully packed bike
Before attempting to cycle through city traffic or gun it down a hill for the first time, its a good idea to ride your bike around the block first with everything on it. The difference in handling is pretty big and you can easily end up stacking it early on if you’re not used to it.
Make use of the free shelters and camping areas
If you plan on camping, look out for Denmark’s many ‘primitive campsites’, some of which have wooden shelters that you can use for free. These are good when it’s too hot or raining too heavily to sleep in the tent.
Don’t rough it all the time
Living on a bicycle is a great experience, but it’s also nice to take a break from it. After long stretches of riding, a cool shower and a comfortable bed is the best thing in the world. You’ll feel recharged and ready to go the next day.
Take the right bike
For most of the route, our single-speed bikes were fine. It’s a flat ride, except for the Stege-Møn-Stege stage. Here we could have used tyres with more tread and a few more gears, but you can skip these harder parts if you like.
I also quickly noticed that my bike has wheels that are not a standard size, so buying new tyres along the way was out of the question. Check that you can easily buy replacement parts for your bike if you might need them.
Bring tools and spares
I got a puncture pretty early on and ended up using every type of repair tool and every spare that I brought with me. While stuck on the side of a busy road I used temporary tube repair spray, when I had time to change a tube I went through two spares and when I finally figured out how tyres and tubes work I used a tyre patching kit.
To find out more about the Berlin to Copenhagen cycle route, head over here for details about each stage, optional routes and more general information.