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Need touring advice...involving in-laws

Old 12-16-06, 11:48 AM
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greenstork
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Need touring advice...involving in-laws

My wife and I are planning a bike tour of Denmark. I'm relatively new to touring but an avid biker (I commute every day and ride on the weekends occasionally). My wife has little bicycle experience but she's in good shape and is planning to prepare for the trip by spending a good bit of time on her bike. This is by no means an ambitious trip. We picked Denmark because it is probably one of the easiest countries in the world in which to bike tour. We're not planning to rack the miles. In fact, we're planning to take our sweet time rambling from town to town. We were originally planning to find an inn or B&B on some nights and camp on others (not sure if this is realistic, I've just begun to research).

Now for the fun part. My wife tells her parents about the trip this morning and now they're interested in joining us. Don't get the wrong idea, I absolutely love my in-laws, but they have no bicycle experience, let alone touring experience. Her dad is definitely overweight, but he has an absolute zest for life and travel. I know he'd love to join but I'm worried about his physical limitations. Her mom is fit, albeit not in biking shape, but she's very fond of creature comforts.

I don't want to discourage them from coming if they can take the necessary steps to prepare for a trip of this nature. Unless you feel very strongly, please avoid any comments about how this trip is overly ambitious. Instead, please tell me what advice I can offer them on how to prepare? How much time do they really need to spend on the bike ahead of time? What other training would be helpful (I would imagine some core strengthening is in order)? Is it possible to tour Denmark in short, ~20-mile a day stretches? Will we always be able to find a cozy place to sleep or would that require us to keep on a very tight schedule?

If I'm telling them what I believe is absolutely necessary to prepare for this trip and it's over their head, they're just going to back out gracefully. I'd rather not tell them this trip is too difficult for them, from the start, if they're willing to prepare themselves. I'd love to have them along.

I feel pretty comfortable with gearing everyone up for the trip. I have a touring bike but I'll have to outfit my in-laws in Denmark, and I understand there are quite a few services that do this. My wife will be purchasing a bike this year. I could use advice on that, but that's a topic for another thread.

Thanks in advance for the advice and ideas!

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Old 12-16-06, 01:27 PM
  #2  
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It's a hard problem because a lot of people don't want to ride 20 miles for no reason, but on a tour it's not all that difficult to do 60. Any person who is in good health should be able to handle 20 miles on foot, let alone a bike, and if you are basically credit card touring... The problem is proving it without your ending up the bad guy. Would they be willing to enter a local bikeathon, where they have a reasonable inducement to follow through with the biking.

You could be, say, 25, and your in-laws could be say 47. Father-in-law could be perhaps 30 pounds overweight. Say! That sound like me, and I have no problem with loaded touring anywhere in the world, no practice required, no training, and I do nothing but sit in a chair all year long.

It's worth remembering that Olympic athletes didn't even weight train till the '36 Olympics. It was considered noteworthy to mention in the early 70s that the guys pushing the free climbing revolution in Yosemite actually did a little circuit training in the winter to keep up their fitness. Also in the 70s we had one of the great Himalayan climbers of his generation Don Willans being checked out in a pub, where he was found to be a fat drunk (nothing new there) but could he make it on the summit push to Anapurna, one of the great 8000 meter problems of the day? After 17 pints of beer they staggered out of the pub and off in the middle of the night to do some local desperate climb, the rest is history. To quote from the British song of a prior decade that emphasized natural ability over hard work:


"And all the world over, each nation's the same
They've simply no notion of playing the game
They argue with umpires, they cheer when they've won
And they practice beforehand which ruins the fun!

The English, the English, the English are best
So up with the English and down with the rest."


Then along come a lot of stupid movies in the 70s and early 80s, like Rocky, Personal Best, that one with Jamie Lee Curtis, and everyone is exercising. Now we have this myth that in order to do a good day's work you have to be training all the time. A lot of people are outraining Olympians of earleir generations etc... today just because exercise has become popular. So I wouldn't put too much emphasis on back breaking training, unless you want to blow them off. All that is required for a safe and comfortable trip is to cycle within their abilities. The real issue is how much of the gap between their abilities and yours can be closed, and is it politic to try.

I think a far more likely comfort scenario is that in order to be comfortable they will need their own bikes. That way they can sort out whether they get blistered trying to cycle for several hours in cotton undies. Whether their shoes and pedals hurt their feet. Whether they can sit for hours on the saddle they have. If they are the kind of parents who love being extravagant I would get them to buy a pair of Bike Fridays. Saddle sores, the wrong clothes and shoe are far more likely to cause them real distress than a little light exercise. It's like my opening example, anyone can walk 20 miles, but most people will end up wishing they had done something about their shoes, or treated their blisters earlier.

When you get there, plan a circuit of one easy day, then a rest day where you and your wife can get some private time doing a nice long loop, while the in-laws recover, then the next day everyone should feel great, and you should do a good days work, then by the forth day everyone should be having a good time.

Depending on their age there are a variety of generational things they may or not enjoy. Do they like dressing like lycra clad clowns? It might take some looking to find a pair of trekking pants with built in seats, that fit. They are out there but can you get these people to spend the time and money before you hit Denmark? How does mom feel about crushing the doo in a hyper graphic bike helmet. Cycling hygiene. I think it is often getting these kinds of details right that is responsible for overall comfort moreso than overall grunt ability. Riding in the rain?

I have a feeling Denmark can be tough what with flat terrain and wind. I have only been in Copenhagen. But those flat countries are not always a bargain. So again, cycling to a cadence, using gears and bike handling in general.

By the way, I used to have a wonderful relationship with my in-laws...

Last edited by NoReg; 12-16-06 at 01:39 PM.
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Old 12-16-06, 04:20 PM
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Denmark is probably better suited to short daily distance touring than most places. While some parts of Denmark are virtually flat (such as much of Sjaelland), other parts have rolling hills. Don't miss the pretty little island of Aero. Fyn was nice, too. Much of my riding was on Jutland, from Arhus down to the SW coast, including the hilliest part of the country. Very pleasant. Nearly all of my lodging was in youth hostels. Both hostels and campgrounds in Denmark are extremely family friendly. Also, be aware that Denmark can be very wet, though since you live in Seattle...

As for your in-laws, I would hope that before they start the tour (or buy their plane tickets), they'd be able to ride 25 miles (without panniers) without major difficulty or pain. But they should also be comfortable riding with panniers before they go. It's a real shock for some folks to discover the difference between loaded and unloaded riding. Even if they live, like you, in Seattle, how do they feel about biking in the rain?
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Old 12-16-06, 04:47 PM
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If you truly want your in-laws around, why not plan on renting a car while there so your in-laws could switch out riding and providing sag support. That way you can cover more miles and your in-laws don't have to feel like a burden. Even then, it gives them flexibility so that if they don't feel like riding one day, they can explore a little more.
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Old 12-17-06, 01:07 PM
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I wouldn't go touring with my wife, let alone my in-laws.

When I tour, I take my own time, do my own thing. My wife likes shopping. I only shop for essentials. When I tour I buy food, that is an essential.

Imagine the accommodation hassles!

Have you ever tried to stay together with someone when biking? Everyone goes their own pace. Your wife may almost be able to keep up with you. You Father-in-Law almost certainly will not. You will spend all your time back pedalling waiting for a bunch of punters to catch up.

Ditch them all, and next time tell them about your tour after you've returned.
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Old 12-17-06, 01:51 PM
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I'm seeing two totally separate issues here. At the risk of being blunt....

Issue 1: Do you specifically want to this tour with just your wife, and not the in-laws? If so, the best thing is to be honest with everyone about it, and politely say to your inlaws "we love you guys and we should do a bike tour in the future, but I'd like to keep this trip for me and my main squeeze...."

Worst case scenario, you take them on this tour and do a different one with the wife. Just don't tell the inlaws about it in advance.


Issue 2: If you are happy to have them join you, can they do it?

If it's a short trip, then yes, they can do it. Just tell them to ride before they go, e.g. have them spend a weekend where they cycle 20-30 flat miles per day.

I've seen many folks in their 50's and up do more challenging tours than Denmark -- I ran into a pack of Aussie retirees who were riding around Ireland, most of whom were active but not really cyclists.

If it's a flat trip, bringing stuff won't slow you down as much as you think -- all it will do is change the handling on the bike. Also if you're staying in hotels and eating in restaurants, that will take care of most of the "creature comfort" part. Accomodation won't be a hassle, especially if you book the hotels in advance.

By the way, I'd vote for Belgium (Flanders) and Holland, which are flat as a board, beautiful countryside, excellent food, are very pro-bike, and have a lot of bike-only paved roads. Many of the cities where you can find hotels are 30 miles apart or so -- e.g. the trip from Ghent to Brugge is about 35 miles, mostly along canals. You can also do some loops, e.g. stay in Brugge and do cycling day-trips to Damme or other areas.
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Old 12-17-06, 03:03 PM
  #7  
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I've just got back from a ride through 14 countries and 5000 miles in Europe I have ridden through Denmark which is anything but flat everywhere, it's mainly rolling hills, but if you want a nice easy riding country then it has to be Holland, this country is custom made for riding a bike, it's perfect for you and the in-laws. If you want to know more please PM, I loved Holland for being so cycle freindly. I think your in-laws will love you even more when the biggest hill is a bridge over a canal.
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Old 12-19-06, 04:43 AM
  #8  
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Yes, you need to tell the in-laws now that they need to be able to ride 30+ miles per day now, and not be completely exhausted by it.

Be honest with them. You (may) want them to come, but if they are going to be preventing you and your wife from enjoying your trip or stopping you from getting to everything you want to get to, then you and your wife may feel a bit resentful that your vacation has been ruined.

They need to do some practice rides starting ASAP so you all know what to expect. If they know they can do it well, then you can begin palnning the trip. If they discover that they can't manage it, then you need to know that sooner rather than later.
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Old 12-19-06, 04:53 AM
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And this touring map book is perfect for doing Denmark:

https://esterbauer.com/buecher/html/ostsee3_frameset.htm

I've got it and it's great. Shows where accomodations, restaurants, and other biking necessities are.
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Old 12-19-06, 05:42 AM
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This site is also dead useful for biking in Denmark:

https://www.cycletourer.co.uk/cycletouring/denmark.shtml
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Old 12-19-06, 07:12 AM
  #11  
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I don't think this would be bad at all. There are plenty of places to go where you can ride in the morning, do some sight-seeing, ride some more, etc.

Combine that with the train, and you're set. You and your wife ride bikes, and the in-laws take the train where they can/want and bike the rest. This would require some creative planning, however, because, while it's easy to take a bike on the train, the train only goes to certain places (they like to keep them on those iron rail thingies .

So, for example, someone mentioned Ærø as a nice destination. Your in-laws could take the train to Svendborg and sip cappucini in the lovely town while you cycle down Fyn, and then you can all take the ferry to Ærø and do some riding together. Taking bikes on the train is a piece of cake -- just a few extra kroner per trip. Just make sure you have cell-phones so you can call each other when the inevitible change of plans happens ("Oh, you meant the Viby on Fyn! We're at the one on Sjælland!")

https://www.trafikken.dk/wimpdoc.asp?...nt&objno=78593 has information on cycling in English, including maps and contacts.

Finally, if you want some suggestions for places to go:

On Sjælland: Lot's to do in Copenhagen, of course. Outside of Copenhagen, there's a good Viking museum in Roskilde, which is on the train line. I haven't spent much time there, so that's the extent of my knowledge.

On Fyn: Hindsholm (the north-eastern peninsula) is lovely. Quaint. Train goes to Nyborg and Odense. On Fyn, don't miss Egeskov, the nicest 'castle' around (train service to nearby Stenstrup). I hear Ærø is fantastic -- yet to go there myself. Langeland is nice (train service to Svendborg), but much like Hindsholm. Odense is a nice city, with lots of things related to HC Andersen.

You could do a nice loop from Ærø over to south Jylland (Sønderborg is nice, but they talk funny there and up and around to Fredericia. From there it's either the train back to Fyn/Sjælland, or go up to Århus, etc.

If you want more suggestions, I'll be happy to make them.
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Old 12-19-06, 11:59 AM
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Ride a separate tour from your inlaws, with ocassional meetings, so you dont have to try and keep pace with each other. Use cell phones to keep in touch and to make adjustments to plans. Netherlands is good for mixed rail/bike touring.
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Old 12-19-06, 02:37 PM
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I would recommend that you consider other details before going on this trip. Have your wife and in-laws ever been to Europe? How do they handle the rain or other non-sunny weather? How do they handle different food--does their digestion systems go bonkers and they become invalids at the slightest change in their digestive system? What about saddle sores? Do they know what that's like?

For a physcial goal, I would highly recommend that your wife and your in-laws be able to ride 30 miles, fully loaded, in 4-5 hours, at least 3 days straight, and still be energetic after the 3rd day, no later than 1 month before the trip, preferably sooner, and much preferably before they buy airline tickets. And, reserve the right to refuse them on the trip if they aren't ready by the deadline. Be firm.

I say this from experience.

I took a friend of mine on a trip this past summer. She was probably about the level of your wife, fit, but, not from riding bike, at the time when she asked me if she could join me, which was about a month before the trip. My friend hadn't been on a bike for about 5 or 6 years, but, back when she was riding, she had a touring bike and panniers and commuted to work. I figured that the combination of her biking experience and being fit (fitter than myself) would be sufficient if she rode a little, even just 10 miles a day, before the trip.

It didn't work, mostly because she refused (unbeknownst to me) to ride before the trip. She has a resistence-training program at the gym, and, continued that exercise so she could try to lose more weight before the trip, instead of biking. (I didn't know this until we had arrived in Europe). We did one practise ride together (about 10 miles), she did another shorter one alone, and that was it. (grrrrr).

She hit her knee while trying to manuever her fully-loaded bike while walking, the first day. This greatly affected her ability to walk, as well as ride. Then, a couple days after hitting her knee, she crashed (slow speed, but on a slight downhill on an underpass), in part because the people trying to pass her made her nervous--she was too unsteady and freaked out with everything that was going on. She refused to go to a doctor, I think because she had never been to Europe and didn't think much of the medical system/their doctors. (more grrrrrr).

She was not ready for this trip, physically or culturally or psychologically.
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Old 12-19-06, 04:05 PM
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You´ll be just fine! Sure there are some rolling hills, but denmark is still flat as a pancake comparatively. the highest "mountain" in Denmark is about 450 feet tall, if that gives you an idea..I don´t think you´ll have any problem finding nice accomodations in comfortable intervals. the country side is littered with little inn´s and b&b´s.
If you do have the chance to go there, the northern part is spectacular with Skagen as an absolute highlight.
As for the danish infrastructure, diets, medical systems etc I think you´ll find that everything works very smoothly, as in all nordic countries. Much more so than most parts of the US.
Basically, go for it. Like a previous poster said, if your inlaws get fed up with the whole touring thing there is nothing stopping them from following you by train or rental car. Have a wonderful trip!
/Erik
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Old 12-19-06, 10:14 PM
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These are all excellent suggestions. Thank you all for taking the time to respond.

Peterpan1 You raise an excellent point about comfort and that is my biggest concern. It's not so much that they wouldn't physically be able to bike 30 miles, it's more important that they can be comfortable biking 20-30 miles day after day, dressed in bike clothes, potentially riding in the rain. I want to sit down with them and lay out the worst we could expect to encounter, in terms of weather, mechanical difficulties, and physical exertion. If they're willing to prepare for the worst and still enthusiastic about coming along, I think we're going to have a wonderful trip.

Stokell: I don't mind riding at a slower pace to keep up with my wife or inlaws. As long as everyone is happy about traveling and biking, what pace we travel is of no consequence to me.

Bacciagalupe: It's really issue #2. I do want to travel with my inlaws, as long as they're prepared for the trip. They're not the type of people who get in the way of my wife and I having fun. In fact, my father-in-law is such an avid travel and history buff, that he brings a lot stories and anecdotes to any trip. From your comments, I'm fairly confident that I'm going to need to book reservations at hotels in advance, which will restrict us to a rather tight time schedule. Not the worst thing to happen, but I will miss being spontaneous. I'll bounce the idea of Belgium and Holland off of my wife. We've traveled throughout both countries by rail, and would love to go back again. Ah...so many choices

becnal: Great links and resources, thank you! I'm going to discuss the trip with them soon, and let them know how they'll need to prepare. My inlaws may end up renting a car and meeting us from town to town. This may be a more realistic expectation for this trip, we'll see what their motivation is.

gcl8a: Thank you for the excellent suggestions. If we are definitely going to Denmark, I'd like to PM you offline. I hadn't realized how easy it was to combine the bike with the train, that gives us many more options, especially if my inlaws aren't physically able to keep up with the pace of the trip.

FlowerBlossom: Both my wife and I, and my inlaws have traveled fairly extensively throughout Europe and Asia. I don't know that anyone but me is prepared for the trials of bicycle touring, but we're all comfortable in other countries and cultures. I definitely hear your warnings however and that's why I want to be honest with everyone up front, and make sure they're prepared for what's ahead. I have this feeling that my mother-in-law would be averse to riding in the rain, and that pretty much rules out this trip for them, by bike at least. I'm increasingly open to the idea of them tagging along, but by car instead. This gives my wife and I the option to get away from them for a couple of days, but also to meet up and enjoy some towns and cities together.

erikasberg: I appreciate your words of encouragement! I know they could do it if they just take a little time to prepare, and what fun it could be

A couple of people mentioned having cell phones for the trip. I have Cingular service here in the U.S. and they offer an international service. I believe it's quite expensive however. Has anyone on this forum used your U.S. based international service on a bike tour? Or is it easier to just pick up two phones in Denmark when we arrive?

Last edited by greenstork; 12-19-06 at 10:22 PM.
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Old 12-20-06, 01:46 AM
  #16  
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Two things:

1) You're welcome to contact me off line. I honestly don't know if I'm signed up for PM'ing, but if that doesn't work, email me at glewin@mip.sdu.<the two letter country code for Denmark...no, no, de is germany...yes, dk>

2) From others' travels in Europe, cell phone service was ridiculously expensive with American phones (dollars per minute). European phones, on the other hand, are quite cheap. If you have a tri-band phone, you can get a SIM card for it when you get to Denmark. https://www.lebara.dk/ has cheap rates: 39 øre / pre minute is about 6.5 cents. Looks like about 49 kr. startup, which is $8, but no monthly contract -- you only pay for minutes. Otherwise, renting a phone here can't be that hard, although I've never done it. There are a number of places on Strøget, the main shopping district in Copenhagen, that have phones. I assume the airport does, too.
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