How to bike/couchsurf Copenhagen-Berlin

I’ve written a few pages about what I brought and such, however I think the most important point is that you just do it. The most difficult thing to come by is probably time, and how you come by that is something I cannot divine.

Once you decide to do it, the rest is easy. One of the things inspired me was this article, in addition to the encouragement of a particular German girl I met when I was in Sweden. Nevertheless, for anyone who is interested I’ve detailed some aspects of the tour.

I arrived in Copenhagen on June 29th with one bag weighing 19.7kg

My pack

  • 2 wool shirts, 2 polyester shirts, 1 under armor shirt
  • 1 jacket shell (water/wind resistant)
  • Jeans
  • 3 pairs of underwear (anti-bacterial/odor resistant), 1 pair long underwear
  • 4 pairs of wool socks (3 pairs of ankle socks, 1 pair hiking socks)
  • Shower bag with shaving cream, toothpaste, toothbrush, baby wipes, epipen (walnut allergy), inhaler, sunscreen, and contact lenses + solution
  • Bike pump, bike shorts, bike gloves
  • Emergency blanket/emergency poncho
  • Linen towel
  • Rope
  • Chromebook (laptop)+ charger, phone charger, backup phone battery
  • Notebook + pen
  • Drawstring bag
  • Water bottle
  • Food + tea

Getting the bike

The next day, I found a bike with a rear-rack and rear-lock for $314 on the Danish equivalent of Craigslist (dba). I also bought a pump (the one I brought didn’t fit), wire lock, spare tires, patch kit, 3-way hex wrench, and later panniers. All together it cost me about $450.

Leaving from Copenhagen was good because there are a lot of used bikes for sale, I chose an immediately recognizable brand for the bike so that it would be easier to sell later though it later occurred to me that this would also make it more appealing to steal.

Pre-rear rack + rear-lock
After riding back to Maja’s apartment
How my bags looked before I left

I had to tie my bag on to my bike to begin. My first stop, however, was to buy proper panniers.

It wasn’t long before this happened. Needless to say, it wasn’t the nicest way to ride

My bag still had to be tied on, but it was much nicer with most of my gear now in the panniers.

The panniers come with a bag that goes on top, however since I had my own bag I did not use it.

Luggage

Eventually I bought some bungee cords (from Netto, which always has a random assortment of stuff) which saved me a decent amount of time attaching my backpack.

The bags were somewhat heavy, but they were not as bad as I thought they would be. The most annoying thing was that my bike would tip over very easily, and could not be supported by the kick stand. Picking the bike back up again required a significant deal of effort, and usually had to be done because I was too tired to hold the bike properly in the first place. As a result, this caused me a significant amount of frustration.

I ended up with more than I wanted to bring. If I had planned to send some of my stuff ahead of me to Berlin I think I could have done without the jeans, towel, and backpack (my panniers have their own backpack which goes on top), which would have saved a bit of space/weight. I do wish, however, that I had bought a bottle holder.

Despite over packing, when I compared my results to others on the route I felt that I had done okay. I saw plenty of bikes with a whole setup of rear and front panniers, handlebar bags, frame bags, and bags stacked on the rear rack. I never envied these cyclists.

Preparation

I spent a good amount of time riding my bike around in Copenhagen before beginning the tour, and this ended up being quite a good idea. I learned how to deal with a poorly timed flat tire, got the bike setup decently, and got excited to bike further. I left with the comfortable feeling of knowing my bike reasonably well, despite having just purchased it.

To plan my route, I just downloaded gps files from bike-berlin-copenhagen.com. The route was sign-posted and generally not too hard to follow in Denmark, however once in Germany I found the signs more confusing.

Couchsurfing

When I left, I had only found couchsurfing for the first two nights. This was just a matter of e-mailing active hosts near the route. If you thought something in their profile was cool, it’s usually a good idea to mention it so that they know you’re human and that you spent a little time writing your message/reading their profile. I realized quickly that I had failed to consider that I would have to bike off of the route to get to my hosts, which often added 10–20km more to my route, in addition to adding a lot of complexity in terms of finding a decent route to take. Despite this, couchsurfing was arguably the best part of the tour, and I highly recommend it. For example, the second night of my tour I stayed with a retired chef where I was treated to steak and potatoes for dinner and bacon and eggs for breakfast. Every experience I’ve had couchsurfing has been awesome.

As a general recommendation for the German section, I would avoid most roads called “Dorfstrasse”. These roads often turn into dirt paths or cobblestones, both of which can be very annoying at the end of a 100km day of biking. A route twice as long on good pavement is significantly more comfortable than one full of bumps, sand, glass, stops, wind, etc.

Pace

I did the route in 9 days, which I do not think is particularly fast or slow. I would, were I to do it again, rather do it in double the time. I often felt I would have enjoyed staying with my hosts a second day in addition to having some time to recover and bike around the area without all my bags.

But

Ultimately remember to forget about all this nonsense and just go do it. The details are easy to work out once you’re there, and most things can be purchased along the way if necessary. People are pretty friendly and will point you in the right direction if you think you’re totally screwed one in some way or another.

Also, if you’re reading this because you want to do the route, feel free to send me a message!