I thought I'd post some random thoughts on our 2 month trip to Denmark and Germany (mostly) before I forget.
This was our first extended trip and first time to Europe. We got one-way tickets and had no plan since we knew our plan would go to hell once we got there. We talked to people on the way to find out what's cool to see and changed our route whenever we felt like it since we had no set route or schedule. I didn't even know where we'd fly out so we had no return tickets. In retrospect, I would have flown into a more central European location, perhaps Germany, then taken trains to where we wanted to actually start the trip (Copenhagen) since the trains are so easy. And at the end of our trip just taken another train back to the city and jumped on the plane. Easy peasy. That would have allowed me to save some money with a round-trip ticket, but the flexibility we had was really really nice. I got a return ticket 3 weeks before we left and it was pretty expensive, but oh well. Lesson learned.
I took my old Softride Traveler with RSX brifters (posted about them previously, being "stuck" and not shifting after some time in storage). The bike performed excellently, no problems at all. It was the comfiest ride you can imagine which turned out to be REALLY freakin nice over all the cobblestones we wound up on.
My son had a brand new Novara Randonee which also was perfect, but wound up being stolen in London, sigh. We took a thick cable lock as a compromise between a set of heavy u-locks and nothing, and I think it was enough deterrant everywhere except a city known for massive bike theft. The cable was cut and the Radonee was gone, but they didn't jack my Softride for some reason. Probably way too unique and rare of a bike to sell on craigslist, I'm guessing. They don't sell Novara's in the UK as far as I know so it might be hard to sell online without us spotting it, that's for sure. It was such an ideal bike that we're going to just go buy another one to replace it since it's perfect for a city bike too.
We took a gas stove to cook with while camping but never used it. Camping in Europe was something I knew nothing about and it was very different from camping in the USA. We just never bothered to cook our own food when every single campsite had either a restaraunt right in the camp or food we could ride to within a few minutes. So I wouldn't recommend even bringing a stove. Carry some emergency bars if you ever get stuck in a camp with no access to food, if you're worried about that. We brought a bunch of powerbars and they were great for those occasional long days with nowhere to stop for lunch.
The showercap I took from our first hotel was perfect for keeping our leather Brooks saddles dry. Cheap, light, and free. Brooks saddles rock, I'm glad I bought one for this trip. Within a few weeks of riding it was finally broken in (and my butt as well) and it was real comfy. I still needed a good supply of butt cream to keep the blisters away but after 3-4 weeks of hard riding my butt was iron and didn't have any blister problems after that.
I bought two Mountain Hardware Ghisallo tents and those turned out to be excellent if you don't mind minimal space for sleeping - it's a tight squeeze but I didn't care, I'd lay down and zonk right out after a hard day's riding. Being able to put the bike IN the tent was a perfect solution to theft and rain and the tents were high quality and held up great in heavy rain too.
We flew our bikes over by simply bagging them in a clear mattress bag that I picked up at a local mattress store. In retrospect that was something I won't do again. Iceland air banged the bikes up in transit. Both our back wheels where badly out of true (and mine was brand spankin' new 36 spoke Velocity deep dish I got just before I left, ugh) and one of the bikes had badly torn handlebar tape and a brifter was smooshed around sideways on the handlebar, which was easy to fix. No permanent damage, thank goodness. My Softride came through ok other than the rear wheel. We field-trued the wheels at the airport and they were fine the rest of the trip. On the return trip I boxed my bike at the airport which was an enormous pain in the butt but it survived just fine We also flew with the bike free on Continetnal out of Heathrow London, which baffled me. I thought it was $100 charge, but we had no other bags to check, I think they just made a mistake but I didn't complain
While we were in Amsterdam we decided to ship all our stuff home instead of taking it on the plane. That turned out to be outrageously expensive, since apparently they decided to close ALL the government post offices since they were not making money, and we had to find a local store that would ship them back. It was definitely more expensive to ship 4 big boxes home than to take them on the plane. One box out of 4 shipped has arrived, I sure hope the other 3 show up today. But on the other hand it was an enormous convenience to not have all those bags at the airport, and getting the bike to Heathrow in London on the tube was a near disaster. Only some trains allow you to take bikes and I was badly misinformed by one of the tube station managers about that, so be careful trying to get to Heathrow.
Most of the big cities we visited were so easy to navigate by bicycle, but we mostly just used public transport since it was uniformly excellent in Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, and London. Riding a bike in London is NOT something I'd recommend especially with the driving on the left thing. We did it and it wasn't too bad really, but jeez it was hair-raising at times since everyone is always in a huge hurry and cars don't mind squeezing *right* up to you in traffic. Bike lanes? haha, no, nothing like Copenhagen or Amsterdam, for example, where it's completely safe and easy to ride in the busiest parts of the city during rush hour.
We took a ferry down a river on the way to Amsterdam from Germany and that was a really fun thing to do. Everyone piles the bikes on the boat and we spent a beautiful leisurely day crusing down the river then continued on bike at our destination port. Search around and you can find info on bike+ferry options, highly recommended as a great break in the daily routine.
Our route: Flew into Copenhagen, rode down through the southern islands in Denmark all the way to Germany (Schleswig) then took trains to Hamburg then south to Munich to hang out. Taking the bikes on the German trains was a breeze once you got the hang of it. Great way to hop around if you want to skip a hilly section or whatnot. Then we took a final train to lake Constance real near the start of the Rhine, then we followed the Rhine trails all the way down almost to the end (we detoured Rotterdamn to head to Amsterdamn instead). What a GREAT ride, flat as a pancake, the river is just gorgeous, and lots of cool places and castles to see all along the way. And we spent some time on the Swiss and French sides of the river too which was different.
The signage on the Rhine route was generally ok, definitely NOT what I'd call good, we got off-track quite a few times due to bad/missing signage and there were some downright very frustrating times trying to get back on the trail. I would NEVER do this trip without google maps + GPS on my mobile phone, that was a life saver MULTIPLE times a day, at least on the Rhine. It was also essential for finding a place to sleep every night (with reviews to find good ones!) and places to eat. I bought a month-by-month data plan from AT&T that works just about anywhere before I left and it was worth every freakin' penny. In London it was also great for finding bus stops, we didn't need any kind of map in any of the big cities thanks to google maps. Finding routes to various places on the streets in Amsterdam was about impossible without google maps. Those canals make navigation a bit crazy!
Wind. We had headwinds - STRONG headwinds - almost every day heading west in Denmark. To the point where you are hunkered down as far as you can in the drops and pedaling hard as hell at 18 km/hr and just wishing it would let up. But it kept you nice and cool on the extremely hot days with no tree shade to ride in, which was good We started to hate the sight of those windmills. It meant wind and lots of it. This was one of the reasons we took a train south into Germany, we had headwinds heading south when we got into Germany and by then we were just sick of it! Along the Rhine we generally had either tailwinds or no wind, maybe one day of strong headwinds.
Our panniers were Ortliebs and it seemed like everyone else in Europe had the same ones. They were perfect. HIghly recommended - stick with the best.
I bought my son expensive Sidi Dominator shoes and they were excellent. I wore my old Dominators and they just about fell apart on this trip from old age but they held together and were very comfy. Don't skimp on footwear!!
If you are going on tour I HIGHLY recommend you WALK LIKE CRAZY at home to get your walking muscles in shape. I didn't walk much and wound up with a very sore and swollen ankle from all the extensive walking we did in some of the big cities early in the trip. Luckily it didn't stop me from pedaling really, but since I never could give my ankle any rest, it took weeks to heal. Medical issues can become real killers on a long trip so take care of yourself and don't ignore new pains. Lesson learned.
As mentioned before, we had one bike stolen. The small cities were generally really safe so we weren't obsessive about locking the bikes with every trip into a store, but we had that cable lock to discourage opportunistic theft for longer periods and that worked well. The big cities are a different matter. You either need to lock your bike in a secured public storage area, or ideally in the hostel/hotel's secure lot. Or ask them if you take it into your room. Sometimes they don'd care. The bike was stolen because the small hotel we were in in London had zero parking and we had to lock them to a railing out front across the hotel street. It was literally stolen right from outside our hotel window in the middle of the night. By then the riding portion of our trip was over so it didn't ruin the vacation at least. Not sure if our USAA insurance covers bikes stolen overseas, I need to check into that.
I think what I'd like to do next is possibly Spain, France and head south into Italy for our next trip. Not sure what the roads are like in France and the language issue will certainly be a pain. English was no problem in Denmark, Germany, and Netherlands, and it was actually really hard to understand people in London with that accent! But while we were in the French sections of the Rhine valley, we had quite a few cases where we had a real hard time communicating since the French apparently don't learn English like their more eastern neighbors do, I guess.
When you visit a restaraunt in a big city, ask them if they have English menus. If they do, jackpot, what you do next is use it like a rosetta stone to decipher the local language menu and learn the local language names of all the dishes so that you know what things are (fish, pork, potatoes, bread etc. etc.) next time you wind up somewhere with no english menus, like at every small town place we stopped. Generally only the big cities with heavy english tourists have english menus, so learn some new words while you can!
Two months was a really good length of time I think. Plenty of time so you can just relax and not rush anywhere and take rather large side trips anywhere you want if the mood strikes. I was sure ready to come home after two months though!! I wouldn't go for less than a month, a few weeks is just not enough time for a relaxing trip, I think.