A Dane Abroad: The cycling’s never quite how you remembered it!

Years of absence from Denmark filled my head with dreamy images of biking: flowy dresses, the sun shining and ‘gentle breezes playing with my hair’ kind of stuff. But however cruisy the biking appears in Denmark, it takes practice and inside knowledge to join the two-wheeler club successfully.

Ready, not-so-steady, go
Unlike a country such as New Zealand, where biking is an exercise for people of the lycra-clad kind or someone with a death wish, in Denmark there are rules (it is Denmark after all) and the people follow them!

So while finding yourself at an intersection in Copenhagen amongst a herd of other bikers during rush hour can be anxiety-provoking, somehow the masses move along in unison like a swarm of bees just inches from each other without crashing. People use hand signals and stick to their assigned paths and somehow manage not to crash.

Gone with the wind
It struck me recently that Danish women seem to all have these very similar, casually-thrown-up hair-dos. It looks like they were blow-drying their hair on ‘high’ and then randomly started blowing in all directions. Of course, cycling’s to blame.
While swooshing through the landscape on your bike with your hair out may look very romantic, in reality it will look like you’ve been dragged through a bush backwards. So the casual up-do is all you can subsequently be bothered with.

All those open buttonless jackets and light flowy scarves I acquired during my sans-bike days are now about as useful as an ice cream parlour in Greenland. If it’s not tied down, zippable or buttonable, it will fly up/open/off on a bike and will generally do nothing for you if it is moderately cold – which it is for the majority of the time in Denmark.

Disarming then alarming
Remember this equation well: Wet saddle = wet bum. The old plastic bag-under-the-seat trick will become your best friend!

Finding your bike post-snowfall with a big pile on the seat is fun … at the beginning. Rookies laugh this off as being harmless as they casually flick the snow off with a mitt and bike off into the night. Until they realise that unless the aforementioned plastic bag trick is implemented, this will also lead to the said wet bum issue.

I had happily forgotten about the weird complications our extreme weather can bring. Such as overnight cold snaps causing bike wheel marks to freeze into train track-like death traps. Add 7am work starts, pitch darkness, gale force winds and icy snow flakes blowing into your eyes and you’ve got yourself a party. It makes you realise what drives people to the madness of buying those Arctic expedition jackets for the cost of an Arctic expedition.

They will grow to bug you
Bugs of various kinds fly into your face, eyes and mouth when you bike. Since being back in Denmark, I have been shocked at how often my face gets hit by a bumblebee when biking. It feels like someone throwing a walnut at your face. Not comfortable!

So, while biking in Denmark is a joy for many reasons, you’d be forgiven for harbouring a healthy portion of scepticism when picture perfect postcards lure you with images of people biking around laughing (mouth open!) in the sun (?) with loose clothing and lovely hair (impossible!) and no bugs in sight.

It just goes to prove that while every bicycle doesn’t have two wheels, every story has two sides!