The Truth About Cycling in Aarhus
So, you want to be like the Danes and bike everywhere? Here a few helpful tips to making the most of the Danish cycling culture.
When I was preparing to move to Denmark, one of the things I was most excited about was having a bicycle as my main mode of transportation. Coming from the US, I was run down by the cost of owning a car - having to constantly buy gas, never-ending repairs, and the general upkeep required of such an expensive piece of equipment. A bicycle, on the other hand, would be simpler. Simpler repairs, no fuel required, and overall, a much smaller financial investment.
As true as that is, however, there are many things I didn’t know prior to buying my bicycle and I’m here to share my ever-growing wisdom with you.
Tip No. 1 – Be mentally prepared for the hills
First things first, let’s talk about the most obvious, arguably most painful part about learning how to bike in Aarhus – the hills. Oh yes, that’s right. Aarhus has hills. But Denmark is completely flat, no? I mean, its highest point is only 171 meters. True! Yet, there’s this secret Denmark keeps from outsiders, and that secret is called Aarhus, and I’m here to expose it.
When I first arrived here, one of the hottest topics among us new internationals were the dreaded hills we were all struggling to bike up. The way the city is set up, most international students live north or south of the city center, Aarhus C, and as you get further outside it you subsequently go up in elevation. So, for instance, to get to class, I get to bike downhill, but then I eventually must go back up to get home. HOWEVER, I will say that my body has gotten much stronger since I first started biking here and the hills are not nearly as tough as they used to be for me. So, you do get used to them, it’s just a fact I wish I had been warned of.
Tip No. 2 – Be prepared for any type of weather
The weather is another fun thing we cyclists get to play with every day. Some days, the sun is shining or there’s a light drizzle of rain and you feel completely at peace and cycling becomes therapeutic. Other days, however, the sea breeze turns into a harsh wind, and you’re exhausted from biking downhill. Those are the days where I remind myself that (a) the fresh air is good for me, (b) this is why I don’t need a gym membership, and (c) I’m much more appreciative of the nicer days. I’ve found that I’d prefer a heavy rain with little wind than a clear sky riddled with constant gusts of wind trying to blow me over. You may think, “both options sound pretty rough,” but I would argue the opposite. The wind can feel cruel at times, but it’s making you immensely stronger and I LOVE that feeling. And the rain can make it tough to see sometimes, but as long as you have the proper raingear, the water becomes a non-issue – It’s AMAZING!
Tip No. 3 – Remember, cycling = FREEDOM
One of my favorite things about owning a bicycle is the fact that I can go anywhere at anytime and I don’t have to rely on anyone but myself. Taking the bus or tram can be nice for obvious reasons – it demands nothing of you physically and you’re protected from the elements. However, you have no say what time the bus is going to arrive at your stop or how quickly it’ll navigate through traffic towards your destination. If you miss your bus, you’ll most likely be late for where you’re going. For me, I would much rather have complete control of my timeline and endure whatever weather is outside than risk stressing because the public transport is off schedule. Additionally, if you spontaneously need to get somewhere soon, having a bike allows you to just get on and go, whereas you’ll have to wait for the bus which may cost you more time. The bus also costs money, which can be tough when you’re living on a student budget. A bike will eventually pay off and you can also sell it when you’re ready for something new or you leave the country. However, I understand that the culture here is more relaxed and most times you can be flexible with your schedule, so you choose whichever mode of transport is best for your lifestyle.
Tip No. 4 – WEAR A HELMET
Now this may be my inner “mom” coming out, but when you buy a bicycle, please also buy a helmet… and then wear that helmet. There are many people, students especially, who bike without helmets and in my opinion, I don’t think the risk of injury is worth the fashion statement. Within the first month of my biking in Aarhus, some guy on an e-scooter coming towards me weaved into my lane, thinking he could get out of my way in time, and ended up crashing into the front of my bike, causing me to fly off it and busting my tire. Luckily, I had a helmet on, because my head, along with the rest of my body, hit the ground. This isn’t meant to scare you away from biking, because accidents RARELY happen here, but I’m proof that they do and wouldn’t you rather your hair get a little messy than your head hit the ground? Just some food for thought.
Okay, now that I’ve scared you away from biking… I’m just kidding. I hope this post has opened your eyes to the truths about biking in Aarhus and that you may still be interested in taking up the cyclist lifestyle like me. Just remember, there are pros and cons to everything and you just have to decide what’s most important to you and go with that! Either way, I’m sure you’ll have a great time exploring the city.