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The Cyclist’s Dilemma

We faced a bit of cyclist’s dilemma upon arriving in Denmark. Having just disembarked the ferry from Helsingborg, Sweden, we were in a new country with a full dose of excitement. Our next destination was Copenhagen, one of the cities we had most anticipated visiting due to its status as bike capital of the world. Coming from Bike City, USA (that would be Portland, Oregon), we were eager to see the infrastructure in a city truly committed to navigating the streets on two wheels.

When we arrived, it was 4:00 in the afternoon and we had not yet eaten lunch, Dave’s quad had been bugging him after pushing hard the past couple days to arrive in Copenhagen earlier than planned, and we still had 50k left to travel.

While eating lunch on some steps adjacent to an office building, we discussed our options: Ride the remaining 50k into Copenhagen, with an anticipated arrival time of 10PM (but more likely even later) to our host’s apartment, or take the train and arrive within the hour.

Dave was worried about his quad worsening and affecting future riding, yet we felt like taking the train was cheating. We were cycle touring after all, we weren’t supposed to take the train.

After riding up and down a hill, and crossing the same street a few times after asking around where we could find the train station, we finally came across this hard-to-find station and inquired about the train. We learned that it was cheap, fast, had WiFi, and both bike and dog-friendly. We decided to take the train. We were tired of arriving to places late at night, exhausted and starving. We decided to give ourselves a break and accept that taking the train didn’t demote our status as cycle travelers.

This is one of the busiest bike routes in Copenhagen. The top number on the counter indicates the total number of daily cyclists, while the bottom counts the annual total.

We alighted, as instructed, at Nørrebro station, where we would make the short jaunt to the bar where our host worked. Since we traveled with our life on our bikes, navigating the train station required a bit of maneuvering. We found the elevator easily enough, but when Dave tried to wheel both his rig and Sora’s trailer inside, it was more than clear that both would not fit.

The elevator started to close on the trailer just as Dave realized that both he and Sora would not fit in the tiny rectangle. Maneuvering a bike with a trailer attached is similar to driving with a trailer attached to a car. It’s not easy and rather cumbersome, requiring many micro adjustments. Coupled with elevator doors continually opening and closing as you attempt this maneuver, the process can take awhile.

I watched and remained useless as I laughed hysterically holding my own bike upright. There was nowhere nearby to rest my bike, so I was of zero use to Dave. He detached Sora, loaded himself in the elevator and disappeared up into the abyss without communicating to me which button he pushed or what I was meant to do with our dog.

After pondering the situation, I decided to send Sora up in the elevator on her own and hope that Dave would be there to greet her on the other end. As I pushed the button to call the elevator, Dave appeared. I told him my plan and as he pushed again, an unknown buttom, I shouted to ask which one as the doors closed. He replied that there was only one button to push.

There were three, actually.

When the elevator returned, I began to load Sora, and considering the remaining space, decided to attempt to load my bike in as well. Having just witnessed Dave’s same trial and error with this, my logic wasn’t exactly wise. I nominated the woman standing closest to me to hold the doors open for me, while I tried to force myself and my bike into the tiny space. The elevator could fit maybe four cozy people in total.

The setting sun highlighted the buildings across one of Copenhagen's three lakes.
The setting sun highlighted the buildings across one of Copenhagen’s three lakes.

As happened with Dave, the elevator doors began to close and squish my wheels. I backed myself out and instructed my door woman to press the open button and just before clearing the doors, pushed what I believed to be the correct button, sending Sora into the unknown.

The elevator arrived to me empty, so I knew that Sora had either been received by Dave or had escaped her trailer and begun a life as a street dog. Either way, the elevator was now free for myself and my bike.

Upon exiting the elevator, I was immediately overwhelmed by the scene and reminded to my time living in New York. All around me was constant movement and noise. Buses stopping and moving on, picking up and dropping off passengers, who swiftly made their way across the square, hurrying to their next destination. Cyclists nimbly navigated their way around the buzz leaving their bikes among the hundreds parked in the square. I had never seen so many bikes in my life. People all around shouted, selling whatever goods it was they had to sell. As I took it all in, I noticed Dave fumbling with his bike and the trailer.

The only available space in the square to load his bike was between the glass walls of the elevator and a beggar seated on a milk crate with two wooden legs, one orange, the other green.

Again, I watched Dave struggle as I began to double over in laughter. The man on the milk crate obviously couldn’t move, though knew well he was in Dave’s way. I knew I could offer no assistance, but out of sympathy, I asked whether Dave needed help.

Obviously he needed my help. Yet, again, I had nowhere to set my bike, and laughing at the situation was really more my interest in the moment.

Copenhagen is one of the bike capitals of the world. Bikes dominated the streets and the sidewalks.
Copenhagen is one of the bike capitals of the world. Bikes dominated the streets and the sidewalks.

Once settled, we found a nearby McDonald’s which provided trusty free WiFi, and searched the location of our friend’s bar. Just around the corner, we slowly made our way amidst the hustle and bustle and narrow cobblestone streets filled with people. A friend of a friend from Seattle, we found Cindie behind the bar, and she welcomed us instantly into her world with a giant hug and a pint of her favorite beer, on the house.

As we enjoyed our frothy beverage outside, in a new city in a new country with our dog by our side, we finally accepted our decision to take the train.

Sure, we would rather have cycled the 50k into Copenhagen, but we made a calculated decision based on our morale, physical abilities, and desire to sleep inside, in a bed, and arrive before the late evening.

It’s easy to get caught up in the experiences of fellow cycle travelers. Often, we feel that we’re not traveling far enough or fast enough, or that we haven’t cycled long enough to take a break. We chastise ourselves for not riding the distance we had expected to travel over a given amount of time.

Over time, we’ve come to understand that it’s important to remember that we’re traveling our own journey. We will encounter unexpected delays like injuries, exhaustion, and weather, and just may not have the capacity to meet our expectations.

Changing course is part of the adventure and our true goal is to enjoy the experience. Our journey is what we make it and if we’re not having fun, then the experience is diminished. Giving ourselves permission to change our expectations is what keeps the adventure ongoing.

For us, in that instance, it was OK to take the train.

Jen Sotolongo

Hello! I'm Jen. I'm a writer, photographer, dog mom, and outdoor enthusiast. When I'm not writing about awesome ways to get outside with your dog, I'm probably out for a long trail run. I also fancy myself a pretty decent vegan cook, and am always happy to whip up a batch of cookies for friends. I am based in the Pacific Northwest and I never leave home without my dogs.

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