One of the first things you notice about Copenhagen (apart from the gorgeous Danes), are the bikes – they’re everywhere! It’s like bloody Beijing, but orderly, with narrower streets …and less tanks, or mebbe Amsterdam, but cleaner and with less trams, though probably the same amount of prostitutes.
The velocipedes dominate the urban landscape
- Now I’m not going to fill this post with brightly coloured pictures of
Nyhavn and the Little Mermaid, this isn’t a tourist brochure. The wonderful things about Wonderful Copenhagen are all understated, true to the Scandinavian style: It’s the speak-easys, the socialism and inclusivity, equality, the incredibly messy bed-hair that looks great on the women and the “I’ve just spent the last 4hrs styling this bad boy” for the men, of course the hygge, and the general decency, incredible honesty, and happiness of the Danes (despite their ghod-awful weather), that’s what really gets you. That and the bikes of course, which are far from understated but still awesome. The velocipedes dominate the urban landscape and I’ve gotta say the Danes really take their 2-wheeled commute very seriously: installing traffic lights just for cyclists and 2-3 lane bicycle highways all over their famously flat country. Bins are even helpfully angled to accommodate the unwanted rubbish from passing cyclists. Encouraging signs that pat you on the back for being so thoughtful as to ride your bike, are found at almost every inner-city light cross. “Hej cyclist! Hvil foden her – og tak fordi du cykler” // “Hey bike rider! Rest your foot here – and thank you for cycling” 😀 So sweet, so encouraging, so Danish!
For a self-confessed velocophile (yeah I just went there), this is heaven. But not so for an autovelocopedist (wha? – That is to say I also have quite a soft spot for motorbikes), then I’m afraid you’re shit outta luck. Denmark is a sort of motorcyclist’s personal hell. Now this sounds harsh, but it’s not an exaggeration: It rains… an awful lot (right up until it snows in fact), it can be as windy as hell, and you remember how I mentioned those lovely flat highways for cyclists? Well the flat landscape is about as boring as my idea of a religious heaven – no ups, no downs and certainly no twisties*
Denmark is, however, home to the Wrenchmonkees, and that alone is very freakin’ cool and almost makes up for it. So if you’re into post-apocalyptic, urban stripped-back motorious beauties, then they are your gods. Speaking of which, Motorious, is another port of call for the vintage motorbike enthusiast, and not just for those who are facially hirsute!
The only thing worse than a rickshaw on the bicycle paths is that fat man on a scooter.
- Every type of bicycle you could possibly imagine is here – this is where bikes go
when they die (and probably come from when they’re born come to think of it). If Vietnam is the Queen of ‘How Much Shit Can One Load on a Scooter’ then Copenhagen surely is the King when it comes to bicycles. Generally the only thing you will see on a scooter here is a fat man.
- I’m not kidding, it seems to be some weird unwritten rule that if it’s a crappy scooter then it’s going to be a fat man on it. If it’s a brand new Vespa on the other hand, then of course we have the exception of a young man in a designer suit, probably on his way to work in a branding company. The rule, strangely enough, still applies to old clapped-out Vespas. I guess that’s when they just become scooters again and not objects of design and desire.
It’s a veritable smørgåsbord of bikes on the streets of CPH. Old skool motorbikes are de rigour now, thanks to the exorbitantly high taxes on new vehicles imported into the country. Mostly from the 50’s – 90’s, lovely old BMWs and Honda Super 4s. Of course there’s also an understandably heavy bias on Nimbus‘, them being Danish and all. In terms of the pedalled variety, you name and it’s here: the fixiest fixies you’ll ever behold, Scandi bikes, hardcore mountains bikes (no need to mention the lack of mountains, they’re very proud of their 375m hill), tourers, eco-velocipedes, tandems, kiddy tandems mobility bikes and scooters, commuters, BMXs, suspension saddles, and laid back paddles, 3 bikes welded atop one another (hey why not), choppers, cruisers, grocery bikes, love bikes, infernal rickshaws, and a large selection of transporters all based on the Christiania barrow bike.
Christiania was the birthplace of the infamous Christiana Cycle and for that we are thankful. You see them everywhere, filled with children, dogs, entire families, drunken friends, shopping, the contents of a house, oh and upright basses, lots of upright basses. Seems to be a popular instrument – that or mebbe there are small bands of bassists riding the streets of Copenhagen messin’ with my head..
- While I’m not ready to give my right arm, I would happily break a mate’s arm for one of these beauties,
unfortunately I have no mates willing to do without their right arm for my happiness, and I don’t have the spare cash lying around to buy me one, (a bike that is, not a mate). For more on these beauties, read “The Elusive POD, aka balancing as much as you can on 2 wheels (mebbe 3)”^.
- *For twisties see my post on “The Land that was Made for Motorbikling” (coming soon).