Pedal On: Copenhagen on Two Wheels

There is something about riding a bicycle that is synonymous with freedom – something that allows us to temporarily arrest our fears, worries, inhibitions and return to our blithe younger selves, where languid summer days and still nights meld into one.  That feeling of liberation and adventure reemerged last August while I was exploring the European city, often emphatically referred to as the “coolest kid on the Nordic block”- Copenhagen.

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Heralded as one of the most bike friendly metropolises in the world, Copenhagen is one of those cities where you will feel obliged to join “the movement”- the throngs of eco-conscious individuals opting to commute to work, school, mixers, and dinner parties on two wheels.

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With a smattering 390 km (242 miles) of bike paths, cycling offers its riders, a gentler, non-evasive way to explore a side of the city that they would not see otherwise.  In fact, the American novelist, Ernest Hemingway, wrote, “It is by riding a bicycle, you learn the contours of a country best…and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through, as you gain by riding a bicycle”.

So if you are looking to embark on a culturally immersive biking experience, such as the one Hemingway intimates, then I suggest that you seek out Michael Sommerville, the one-man operation behind one of the finest bike tour outfitters in the city. Bike Copenhagen with Mike, was founded in 2007 by Sommerville, a cancer survivor and a supremely knowledgeable local.

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Sommerville who has given himself the moniker, “Bike Mike”, is infectiously passionate about his homeland and embraces an experiential approach to life. His objective being-to facilitate new awareness and understandings for his guests. In fact, he staunchly advises his fellow brethren, “Step outside your comfort zone and search for new experiences”.

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Despite being a self-proclaimed adventure junkie, Mike ensures that all of his guests, be they active or leisure cyclists, have a memorable and safe ride. Upon arrival to the bike shop at 47 Sankt Peders Straede in the Latin Quarter district of Copenhagen, you will be assembled and debriefed on biking protocols in the city–signaling with hands and arms to turn and stop and the proper use of the bell. With close to 50% of the population commuting everyday, the bike paths can become challenging to navigate and a small mishap could result in your vacation being marred by a trip to the hospital.

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After adjusting your bike settings and saddling up (helmets are provided), you will be ready to grab life by the bars. First stop; a square in the city known as “lover’s square”, where street musicians strum melodies of forgotten and forbidden love.  After being serenaded in “lover’s square”, you will descend upon an open-air market, where locals showcase their artistry and sell their handicrafts. From the marketplace, you will make a pit stop at the Design Museum before heading over to the square of Amalienborg Palace, home of the Royal Danish family. From the palace, you will traverse the many harbor bridges, visiting the outposts (The Danish Parliament, The Danish Opera House, Noma, Castle Island) that have gained Copenhagen the illustriousness of being called, the “best city in the world for design” and one of the world’s most livable cities.

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One of the definitive highlights on this tour, is visiting Nyhavn (or new harbor), the waterfront district where Danish writer, Hans Christian Andersen penned a series of fairy tales, travelogues and poems. Between the varicolored facades and the vibrant ambiance, you gain some insight as to why Andersen chose to make the waterfront his home between 1845-1864 and then again from 1871-1874.

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As the Hans Christian Andersen insignia is ubitiquous in Copenhagen, it is only befitting that the last stop on the tour is the Langelinie Promenade, where the iconic symbol of one of the world’s most beloved fairytale sits- the Little Mermaid. Perched on the rocks, close to shore, she gazes out to the sea, perhaps in deep introspection, reflecting on her life as a sea-faring creature.

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Despite a fully charged agenda (over ten stops total), there was a keen sense of time standing still, imploring you to slow down and savor the sensory richness of the city of Copenhagen. The tour unfolded like a fairytale, begging its riders to plunge beneath the city’s tapestry to uncover its hidden gems.

Coupled with robust storytelling and a gregarious personality, “Bike Mike” succinctly captures the history of Copenhagen, taking you through centuries of culture, art and architecture in less than three hours. With the 2017 biking season having commenced a little more than a month ago, I am confident that Mike will be guiding many more “freedom seekers” like me down the byway rather than “the beaten path”.

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