11 May, 2015

The Future Lies in Bike Travel (Copenhagen, DK)

Residential Building
I saw the future, and it was filled with bike lanes, free education, and free healthcare. It was also filled with cigarette smoke and broken glass, but you can’t have everything, right? This past weekend, the Mrs. and I took a transcendent trip to the cycling city of Copenhagen.

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In Copenhagen, half of the population commutes by bike, and even 63% of the Danish parliament cycles to work. In fact, there are more bicycles in Copenhagen than there are people. Much like it is in Amsterdam, parked bicycles cluster up, clinging to poles and fences, overflowing out of designated bike parking. It really is an incredible sight for people who’ve never seen so many bicycles in one place. 
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Forgetting where you park your bike here is like forgetting where you parked your car at the mall, except every car is roughly the same make and model and there’s no key fob to press that will make your bike beep back at you.

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We had scheduled a bike tour of the city with a Danish man by the name of “Bike Mike”. Mike’s a one-man operation, taking tourists around the city to see both the expected tourist spots and also the places he deems important himself, which is to say, important to Denmark. He is fiercely nationalistic-- and quite a character.

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Mike took us around to several of the local government buildings, all of which were impressive in their architecture. Many sculptures adorn the city, from famous philosophers and government figures, to Greek gods and little mermaids. We probably saw a dozen on the tour without really going out of our way to see them.

bike tour opera house
Although Mike preferred to ride through non-standard (and non-recognized) thoroughfares, we also had the opportunity to utilize some of Copenhagen’s world-famous cycling infrastructure. Copenhagen has been expanding it’s non-car roads for several years now and continues to push vehicular traffic outside the city, giving those roads back to pedestrians and cyclists. Towards the end of the tour, we approached a bridge that I instantly recognized, in spite of having never been on it in person: the Cykelslangen, or “Bike Snake.” Connecting two separate parts of the city as it spans over the water, I was very excited to ride on it.



There is a very delicate balance between the historic and the contemporary here; what is classic and what is modern both occupy the same spaces, yet it seems to work. The bicycles people ride on the streets exhibit this same principle. The basket-clad utility bike, in service for almost as long as bicycles have been around, is rode alongside the newest, technologically advanced bikes. The most striking example is the city’s very own bikeshare program, which are known as GoBikes.
Like New York’s Citibikes, London’s Boris Bikes, or any other city with a bike share program, the Copenhagen GoBikes are located in various spots around the city, available to check out from their kiosks. These, I should note, are mammoths compared to any of those, however. They have solid, puncture-proof tires, GPS and turn-by-turn navigation on an integrated touch-screen, and electric-assisted pedaling (which you need, considering how much each one weighs.)
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As gimicky as most of the locals seem to find them (how successful an idea is bike share in a city where everyone already owns a bike?), I really wanted to test one out. Unfortunately, they were near impossible to find for some reason, and as universal as they are engineered to be, were too big for the Mrs. to pedal comfortably, even with the seat lowered all the way down. (She’s really not even that short!) So it was a very abbreviated hands-on with the GoBike system. Thankfully, if you’re visiting Copenhagen and you need a bicycle, there are many local bike shops and hotels that will let you rent a normal bicycle by the day.

wet bike
We ended our trip with a visit to Tuvoli Gardens, the second-oldest amusement park in the world, for some music and ice cream. Altogether, I enjoyed Copenhagen very much; I would recommend it to anyone looking to visit somewhere incredibly bike-friendly. There’s so much more to see than we were able to squeeze into a single weekend there, and there's so much more to say than I can fit into a single blog post. If you do go, and Bike Mike isn’t away on an adventure somewhere, definitely book a city tour with him at http://bikecopenhagenwithmike.dk.

- Bicyclist Abroad

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25 April, 2015

Weak In The Knees


I had finished a rather lengthy ride in some pretty brutal wind, got off the bike, and carried on with business as usual. The next morning, I couldn’t bend my leg without feeling some rather intense pain. Stairs were a problem. Kneeling to tie my shoes was not fun. I couldn’t understand what I had done that was causing me so much discomfort. It’s not like I haven’t ridden a bike long-distance before.

After a couple days of the pain persisting, I thought I’d attempt to get on my bicycle. Surprisingly, the range of motion while pedaling did not affect me in the slightest. Dismounting and everything else however, yup—still hurts.

A full week elapsed with no lessening of the pain, so I decided that I’d see a doctor about it. Then, mysteriously, the pain went away. I had no problem bending my leg, which was great, if not a little awkward to explain to the doctor. I expected him to tell me it was all in my head or to stretch more and send me home. But instead, he prescribed me a few sessions of physical therapy. “Hmm.” I thought to myself. “Not really what I had in mind.”

But I indulged the doc and went to physical therapy. The prognosis was something about the kneecap not being well enough supported, and thusly causing discomfort as it jostled all around in there. To put it one way, I was writing checks my knees couldn’t cash.

Thankfully, the physical therapist suggested that in addition to some light leg work to strengthen the area, I should also look into riding a bike. “Convenient”, I say. “I rode one to this appointment!”

And now all is well again. The moral of the story is, if you’re like me and your primary source of fitness is riding a bike, make sure to throw some squats or lunges in for good measure.* Your knees may thank you.

The End.

- Bicyclist Abroad


* I am not a medical professional and my advice should not be taken as such. Please consult your own primary care physician.BA Post Footer

09 April, 2015

Reluctant Pedestrians (Münster, DE)

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Münster is a city in North Rhein-Westphalia, and is known as Germany’s bicycle capitol. The Mrs. and I had planned to spend the weekend there, checking out the city and touring on our bikes to a couple of the castles in the surrounding region. In fact, around the city is one of the ADFC’s cycling routes known as the “100 Castles Route”, which is divided into four quadrants with Münster in the middle. What an excellent cycling destination.

Except, it didn’t work out that way. Sometime ago my knee began to give me trouble that I’m not sure was due to riding, but was certainly exacerbated by it. The Mrs. had her own affliction as well, having played volleyball a little too vigorously a few days prior and injuring herself in the process. So neither of us were able to commit to a weekend of riding, but our reservations were still in place, so we went to Münster anyway. At least neither of us felt like we were holding the other one back.

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Being in the bike capital of anywhere and not being on a bicycle is much like being the designated driver at the pub: you can’t help but feel like everyone else is having a much better time than you are. I’m familiar with this feeling however, as the first time I visited Portland, Oregon and Amsterdam, I was also without a bike. So I relegated myself to just looking at them as we walked by.



Münster, like many bicycle-heavy cities in Europe, seems to be reaching what I call the “bicycle saturation point”. This is when every possible object you can lock a bicycle to, whether designed for such or not (most cases not) is occupied by a bicycle. As a reference, Amsterdam has exceeded this point, and that’s why they dredge bikes up out of their canals every year.


The Mrs. and I walked around checking out the shops, cafes and cathedrals, stopping for a flammkuchen. We visited the Pablo Picasso museum. We ate at a Mexican restaurant.


It was all very pleasant, but in a place where a bike-lane promenade encircles the city, I still couldn’t help but feel like it would be best experienced on a bike. So, we decided we would have to come back when we were not in such states of disrepair.

For more information on Münster (in English), you can visit the city’s official website here: http://www.muenster.de/en/cycling_capital.php

- Bicyclist Abroad


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