I usually write these updates while I’m sitting next to the tent. Tonight I’ve found somewhere rather more beautiful and even more peaceful…
I’ll be honest. I’ve now returned to the campsite – only a couple of minutes from the beach – to write this. Too many flies and yes, I was terrified of dropping the iPhone into the Baltic Sea.
One of the things I was thinking about today as I cycled was a scale for the extent to which I wrap up in the morning before setting off. My scale has five points. 1 is the minimum: cycling shorts, Tshirt, sun protection lotion and sandles. 5 is the maximum: at least three layers under the waterproof rain jacket, full length trousers and waterproof trousers over the top, waterproof trainers and waterproof socks (perhaps both pairs), beanie, Buff and full length Sealskinz waterproof gloves. Think Captain Oates on a bike (without all that fur). I haven’t yet dressed for a 5 but I am prepared for the moment when it inevitably comes in Norway. For a few days in Spain and France I dressed at level 1 but mostly it’s been 2, 3 and 4. I’ll let you figure out the full definition for each of those yourself. Today I dressed for 3 but while Reggie was having his new tyres fitted (see previous post), I upgraded to a 3.5. This would have been a full 4 – and I did consider it – had I decided to put on the long trousers as in every other respect I was dressed most definitely at level 4. All this is important as, actually, I don’t mind the weather when it’s not great, as long as I am dressed to defend against it. The weather today wasn’t that different from cycling day 57 two days ago (yesterday was a ‘rest day’ – catch up!) but whereas then, I can’t say I enjoyed the cycle into the wind, today I was a bit ambivalent towards it. Snug and warm beneath my three layers (the top one being the windproof jacket which makes a heck of a difference – give the inventor an knighthood) I cycled along in a merry mood watching the fields fly by… All in all, one of the nicer cycling days; definitely in the top 10, perhaps even the top 5. And I was cycling predominantly into the wind.
The new tyres were an impulse buy in the short-term but I would have got them changed anyway in Copenhagen. I popped into the bike shop to ask about oil for the chain and asked, “just out of interest…” If they had any Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres in stock. The rest was history. I can certainly feel the difference as I ride however; even the cobbles somehow feel a little dampened by the new rubber. I am open to the suggestion that it’s entirely in my own mind but who cares? The ride quality is improved!
Route 8 – the one I’ve been following since arriving in Denmark – ended (or appeared to do so) at the end of Møns before I crossed the bridge to my final Danish island of Zealand. (Incidentally, ‘New Zealand’ – is there a connection? Did the Danes get there before the British? Answers on a postcard. Or in a comment might be easier.) So route 8 is gone. Without looking back in my notes about cycling in Denmark I can’t remember whether I was expecting it to or not. However, route 9 which has been signposted as running concurrent with route 8 for some time, did continue so I followed that instead.
Not long after arriving on Zealand I chatted with three German touring cyclists who were following the Berlin to Copenhagen route (which piggybacks upon route 9). They looked like a grandfather, father and grand daughter group and it was only really the woman who spoke English (the grandfather wasn’t impressed…). Father was on a ‘normal’ bike, the other two were on electric bikes. I’d never before come across anyone doing this and alas the best question – “how long do they keep running?” – I only thought of asking once I’d cycled on. Has anyone out there ever attempted to tour on an electric bike? How did you get on? They are becoming increasing common in urban areas on the continent (and when I met up with Kevin Mayne of the ECF earlier in the trip he explained how there were legal issues with the speeds that some of them could reach and whether they should be allowed on cycle paths in some countries) but for long-distance touring? Really? Again, thoughts welcome.
The original plan had been to cycle to a campsite next to the Præstø (thank goodness for the iPhone which makes writing that so simple!) Fjord but it would have been a short ride of only 60 km and it was still only 3pm so I ploughed on, still wrapped up against the wind and cold air to a site further along the coast just north of Faxe Ladeplads (who should have been a character in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, no?).
An interesting road guided me around the western side of the fjord – see the picture below – where one carriageway had been created in the middle of two cycling lanes. I have seen this before but here it worked so well. My belief is that the answer to the cars v. bikes problem is shared space and the stretch of road I cycled upon today is certainly part of the solution. Cars drivers drove more carefully and slower and cyclists could feel more secure in their own wide band of track which took precedence over cars. Simple yet effective. I’ll be writing to the minister of transport as soon as I get back to Britain in August.
Another interesting thing I found along that stretch of today’s cycle were two people thatching a roof. There are lots of thatched properties in Denmark, many more than back in the UK but this was the first time I’d seen anyone actually doing some thatching. Again, have a look at the picture. I spoke to the woman; her name was Petina and the following facts came out of our chat:
- It costs about 400,000 DK (£40,000) to thatch an average sized roof
- Only 3 or 4 new thatchers are trained each year in the country and it takes 4 years to learn the trade
- A thatched roof will last for between 35 and 40 years
- The reeds are untreated (against fire for example)
- The measuring stick is the thatchers most useful tool
- Most owners of thatched cottages prioritise a new roof (if needed) over a new kitchen
- Despite the number of thatched properties in Denmark, there isn’t that much work
- Petina us off on a trip to the UK soon to learn about how British thatchers do their job (shut down the coal mines, introduce a poll tax and ignore any opposition, no?)
So, there you go. You came here to read about cycling and you’ve learnt more about thatching.
The final bit of the cycle was back along the Baltic coastline. Beautiful beyond description (which makes life easier for me – just look at the pictures below)… It has been a good day. Tomorrow? Copenhagen? Perhaps. A detour to Roskilde to see the Viking boats? Not sure…
So, here’s your homework:
- Am I simply imagining the improved ride quality with the new tyres?
- Zealand and New Zealand. Is there a connection?
- Touring using an electric bike. Is it as silly as it sounds and will it go the way of long-distance touring in a Sinclair C5?
- Have I found the solution to the cars v. bicycle problem next to the Præste Fjord in Denmark?
- What can a Danish thatcher learn from a British one (I’ve done the obvious joke above…)?
- Should I go to Roskilde, and
- Did any of you actually get to the end of this?
I look forward to reading your replies!