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Breaking Away in Denmark

Flat as a smørrebrød sandwich and pretty as a picture, Denmark was made for bicycling. Sue Halpern saddles up and takes off with the wind at her back

It’s a few nights shy of the summer solstice when I decide that carbo-loading before strenuous exercise is overrated. I’m in a party tent at the end of the harbor on Mors, an island in the Limfjord region of Denmark, surrounded by reveling Danes paying homage in song to a sea captain who went down with his ship. On a table lit by candelabra that runs half the width of the room are platters of smoked salmon, fresh salmon, smoked whitefish, gravlax, boiled shrimp, sushi, cod, shrimp salad, fish soup, oysters, fish cakes, and mussels. There are loaves of bread and pails of roasted potatoes, too, but when the signal is given and the lucky 550 of us who have scored tickets to the annual Mors Skaldyrsfestival queue up, these are largely left behind in favor of the bounty from the sea. Though my husband, teenage daughter, and I are leaving the next morning on a nine-day bike trip that will take us about 135 miles to the city of Skagen, at the northernmost tip of the country, and then more than 60 miles around Bornholm, Denmark’s southeasterly island outpost, we follow the lead of our tablemates and pile high the omega-3s.

Eating with a certain degree of abandon is one of the pleasures of traveling by bike. You get to glide by the petrol station and fill up at the pastry shop or the ice-cream parlor or the raw bar. In France’s Loire Valley, where our family biked the previous summer, our rides through lush vineyards were fueled by warm, crusty bread larded with local artisanal goat cheese, plum preserves, and honey. In Belgium, before that, we rewarded each day’s outing with fresh-made truffles, slabs of dark chocolate, and pints of lambic and Duvel. Call it controlled gluttony, call it indulgence—on a bike you tend to eat heartily, close to the land, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve come to favor the discomforts of riding (the sore muscles, the slow pace) over the more obvious comforts of driving.

Bike riding is also a conversation starter. “Have more to eat,” the woman on the bench next to me at the Skaldyrsfestival insists when she learns we’re setting off on two wheels the next day. Then the others sitting near us want to know our route. Then the mayor comes by, and they tell him all about our trip, and he shakes our hands mightily and claps us on the back and encourages us to make yet another pass at the buffet. Then the husband of the woman sitting next to me invites us to quit our hotel and spend the night at their house, and gives us their phone number in case we run into any trouble along the way. Less than twenty-four hours after arriving on Mors, we pull away from the cobblestoned town square fronted by Tudor-style timber frame buildings with a new set of friends.

Still, we are alone. It is just the three of us and our rental bikes, maps, and gear. Unlike a traditional bike tour, which has a trip leader, a group of riders, and a set itinerary that typically prescribes where and when youll stop for meals, where you’ll stay, and what you’ll see and do, ours is self-guided. Our time is our own. Our route is our own. And our screwups—such as riding south out of Mors for five miles instead of west, and then watching the wind catch our map of the town and carry it out to sea—are our own, too.

For Complete Article: Conde Nast Traveler

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