It has been a tradition for the last few years that we celebrate Christmas on the Danish island Rømø, in the second home of my parents. It has not been a tradition though, that I jump my bicycle to get there. It was indeed the very first time.
Instead of just going straight West from Copenhagen, crossing Funen and Jutland on the way, I wanted to start in the northern part of Jutland and then go South along the Westcoast until reaching the road across the Wadden Sea to Rømø. That way I would cover a part of the North Sea Cycle Route I had not cycled before. My head quickly adapted to the idea and very soon I began speaking loud about my plans for Christmas. I was going to cycle home for Christmas.
Just do it
There where, however, some considerations.
First, it could get cold. Well, with a good layer of wool that should not be a problem. Second, the daylight at this time of the year in Denmark is very limited, lasting only from 9 AM. to 3.30 PM. Okay, I would have to use my old winter bike with a dynamo lightning system and put on a hi-vi jacket. Third, and in my mind the biggest obstacle, the trains would probably not have any room for bicycles when half of the Danes would be visiting the other half for Christmas celebrations. With pessimism I called DSB – the Danish train operator, and a friendly lady gave me reservations for both my bike and me. Forth, it would be way out of season and I did not want to wild camp – would I find any accommodation? The options were limited, but I managed to find two hostels still open for reservations.
In the morning of December 20th I made myself comfortable for the 5 hour train trip to Aalborg, from where I would start the bike tour. I planed on cycling for two and a half days. The total length of the trip would be nearly 400 km.
Drinking cold water
I cycled out of Aalborg under a perfect blue sky.
The temperature was around 7 degrees Celsius. The first half day was planed as a moderate warm up day with only 50-60 km of cycling. I was excited how it would be to cycle in the dark, especially how difficult it would be to find the right way. For that purpose I had mounted a headlamp on my helmet. Together with my LED front light and my two tail lights, one dynamo driven, the other running on batteries, it was a humble arrangement for illuminating the nearly complete darkness of the Danish countryside.
But it worked very well. What did not work that well was my intake of water. I made the mistake of not drinking because I did not fell any thirst. After around 40 km I felt dizzy and tired. I got off the bike seriously in doubt that I would make it to the hostel, which was less than 20 km away. But what was the alternative? To wait for the bus? There were no buses. To call a taxi? No, it would probably take hours, and I was already freezing. Instead I floored the remains of my water bottle and got back on the bike. Somehow I made it to Fjerritslev, where I treated myself with a big dish of kebab and a giant coke.
The endless road
In the early dark morning of day two I had a quick breakfast at the local bakery. The woman in the bakery did not know the town I was heading to, Fjaltring. I took it as a proof of covering a decent amount of kilometres. According to my measurements it would be around 130 km. The first half would be in a South-Western direction, the second part straight South. The weather forecast made me worry a bit. It predicted strong winds of 8-10 meters per second from South-West, lasting the whole day. And, by the way, the next day too.
I covered 50 km in the first 3 hours, not using the big chainring one single time. I had lunch completely alone at a nice spot in the National Park Thy and envisioned that I could use the larger gears as soon as I would turn in a more Southern direction. I was wrong.
The constant headwind made it impossible to cycle more than 15-16 km/h. I felt slow on my lightly packed bike, but I still had the feeling I was moving somewhere. On some stretches the trees created a full wind screen and for a short while I could stop pedalling without making the bike stop. What was even better than the interruption of circulating pedals was the silence. Suddenly, I could hear my self think again. I enjoined the brief reminiscence of how great cycling is, before stamping down in the pedals again.
The last hour before sunset I cycled down the languet Agger Tange. The road is 9 km long and totally exposed to wind. The headwind made it hard to go more than 12 km/h. It gave me plenty of time to enjoy the constant view of the endless road ahead, though I mostly just looked down.
I made it to the end from where I took the ferry across Limfjorden to Thyborøn. From the harbour town I called the next hostel to inform about my late arrival. The friendly hostelhost adviced me to eat before arriving in Fjaltring as the only shop would close at 6 PM. On the ferry I had seen a train line going more or less in my direction. The wind had worn me out, so I decided to swing by the train station to check the timetable. To my luck the next and the last train for the day would leave in less than an hour. Just enough time to have a bite of food.
After the short train ride, which costed me 20 kroner (bikes are free), I cycled the last 10 km in complete darkness to the hostel.
The friendly hostelhost greeted me with a nice little treat.
Overturned garden gnomes
The third and last day of my Christmas journey was also the longest. At least according to my plan. I had measured it to be somewhere around 180 km. The direction would be straight South. The wind had been pretty strong all through the night, and its source of air did not seem to run out on this side of Christmas eve. There was plenty of wind for one more day and all of it seemed to come from the South. Rømø was further away than the map showed.
At breakfast I looked into some short cut possibilities. As I was going to cycle in more densely populated areas with bigger towns, there was a better offer of public transport than had been the case in the Northern part. I had several options of jumping a train as I got longer South. So that was the plan. To cycle as long as I could and then find a train to take me the rest of the way. That I would give up after only 100 km did not cross my mind.
It happened somewhere between Hvide Sande and Nymindegab on route 181, a 23 km long, straight road with high dunes on one side and Ringkøbing Fjord on the other side. Around noon the headwind had joined up with its dear friend rain. The constant blow of wind mixed with thousands of small jabs from horizontal raindrops slowed me down to 10 km/h. After two and a half hour I arrived in Nymindegab. Even though I was waterproof dressed from head to toe, the rain had managed to penetrate. My hands and feet felt numb.
I had spent nearly 7 hours to cycle 90 km. It was beginning to darken. I had lost my guts. On the map I had seen a railway line from Nymindegab. I decided that it would be the end of the tour. Only I did not find any station. To my luck the next bigger town, Nørre Nebel, was only 7 km away and in a Southeastern direction. For the first time of the day I did not cycle in direct headwind.
The time table at the train station said that the next train would leave in one and a half hour time. In a small waiting room I changed to dry clothing and went on hunt for a cop of coffee. That was the end of the tour, and I knew it. The train would drop me off in Skærbæk, only 15 km from Rømø. But it would be 15 km over a dam with absolutely no protection from the wind. I called my father and asked if he would pick me up at the station. He would.
I used my Specialized Rockhopper comp from 2000, which I have built, rebuilt and modified dozens of times. Today it is my winter and heavy touring bike.
I cycled 300 km on 2 and a half day. The temperature was around 10 degrees Celsius and the sun was up for 6 and a half hours each day.
Next time I will cycle the route in the other direction, from South to North, coinciding with the official recommendation. And probably pick a different time of the year… Well, I am actually not so sure about that. Winter touring has the same benefits as off-season travelling: it easier to get a room and you get a view behind the scenes of the summer destinations. You just need to keep your feet warm!
I stayed in two Danhostels. They can be found and booked on www.danhostel.dk
The time table of the ferry between Agger Tange and Thyborøn can be found on www.thyboronagger.dk
The time table of the train service from Thyborøn can be found on www.lemvigbanen.dk
The Westcoast or North Sea Cycle Route which I followed on large parts of my route can be found here www.northsea-cycle.com
For customized route planing I used www.naviki.org