Chasing Memories in the Last Danish Wilderness

Author: Jonathan Small
Photos: Jakob Nørregaard

 

The past months presented themselves with unique challenges. They affected us all in a multitude of ways, some positive, many less so. For myself, I have been fortunate to stay healthy and have had unrestricted movement inside my home country of Denmark. However, work-wise, the lack of international travel and even working from a home office has left me with more free time than I have experienced for a long while. The result was a dramatic increase in the amount of cycling I have had time to enjoy. Although surprisingly, this still left me with a strange sense of unfulfillment. So as the year approached its end, I felt the need to get out. Out of the comfort zone that I had nestled in and that had left me unsatisfied. I felt the need for something that would be beyond the ordinary. Epic. Challenging. And to be found in my wider backyard. 

Tour 

Four days before the turn of the year I travelled to the west coast of Denmark, an area known for its characteristic nature, shaped during the last Ice Age. When the ice had melted and receded, the land began to rise by the process of post-glacial rebound. It’s also an area well known for harsh weather conditions. So much, that one could mistake the trees near the coastline for people that turn their faces away from the sea and bend to seek shelter from the heavy gusts.  

It was dark outside when I arrived in SøndervigRingkøbing with two of my friends. We did a last check of our bikes and made some final decisions for the adventure ahead. Our plan for the next two days saw us departing for a 340km round trip to the fishing town of Hanstholm that marks the conclusion of the Thy National Park. On what was characteristic cold, damp and windblown morning 

No matter how much you ride, alone, or with your mates, a round trip like the one we had in mind never provides you with any guarantees upfront. Especially not on the open west coast shoreline of DenmarkTherefore, we prepared ourselves for several days, packing and re-packing, with advice from those more experienced than ourselves. But as we set-off, there was an inspiring cocktail blended of expectation and anticipation with a hint of trepidation. 

Starting out along open marshland, before passing through pine forests, on smooth, flat, pristine gravel roads, we were able to keep the chain tight and the pace high as we passed immense sand dunes that looked certain to collapse into the ocean at any moment, in order to reach our first goal of the hourly ferry across the mouth of the fjord known as Nissum Bredning.  With solid earth under our wheels again, we entered the unspoilt natural beauty of the Thy National park and ploughed on through windswept pine forests and open heathland with its majestic winter tones of gold, honey and brownsAnd despite finding our way blocked by low-lying water we kept on grinding... 

We rode past the lighthouses of Bovbjerg and Lodbjerg, that guide the fisherman in times of need. The fine, sandy surface shifted unpredictably from firm and fast, to something one might sink into quickly. Inevitably, I thought of the abandoned settlement that once surrounded the Lodbjerg church, one of the smallest in the whole country, as we rolled past. Built around 1500 it still stands tall and defiant against the weather.  

Without a town in sight and but a few, scattered, uninhabited cottages, we enjoyed our isolation and honed our senses to the surroundings, as trees gave way to a baron heathland of beautiful winter heather. It’s easy to feel small and humbled in the vastness of such surroundings.

As the dark displaced the light and a cold, but clear night descended, we pressed on with rear lights blazing a trail through the night skies to our destination. We were cold, wet and tired, but thoroughly exhilarated. It’s funny how no matter how cold, wet and tired you might feel, a hot shower, dry clothes, warm food and a glass of wine put everything in a different perspective. Our internal batteries, like our electrical ones, began recharging for what was planned to be an even longer second day. 

Detour 

The alarm seemed to come abruptly after a rejuvenating sleep in a guesthouse designed for surfers. Our host had prepared breakfast of fresh rolls and plenty of sweet toppings. Combined with the awakening aroma of freshly brewed coffee, we slowly came to our senses and began to prepare ourselves for the detour down south, along the LimfjordIn what would be a challenging return to Søndervig.  

The morning was clear. We had the wind at our backs as we set out. Counting our blessings, we pressed on over the gravel paths of the National park. The first hour was marked by forests and pasture lands until we rounded the fjord on the in-land bank. This part of Denmark is riddled with water and islands, and the bridge crossings afforded us incredible vista’s across the shores to the narrow strip of coast that we had navigated the day before. We pushed on unperturbed with the pace dancing in tact with the surfaces beneath us whilst we held each other's spirits high. 

Forcing our way through the wind and rainwe tried to ignore the pain in our fingers and toesHowever, after a while we succumbed and stopped to huddle around our gas stove. Enjoying the positive effects of a warming coffee coursing through our bodies, the appreciation of our equipment grew. A feeling that got even stronger as the gear continued to ignore the challenges of the ever-changing surfaces and sceneries. I guess, it must have been the same for the two spear fisherman that were hunting for their New Years menu, as we met them whilst walking our bikes across a section of pebbly beach some time later. 

Just a week after the winter solstice the daylight hours are still short in this part of the world. and as we fired up our lights and gazed towards our eventual goal, we entered the last of our 14-hour adventure. No-one dared to mention the impeccable performance of our equipment for fear of the opposite. But we need not have worried. Despite the Wind, Rain, Saltwater and lack of overnight maintenance our equipment rolled on in to our starting point, with the same smoothness that it had left with. Once again, we counted our lucky stars, but perhaps we should have given ourselves a pat on the back for our preparedness, or a healthy mix of both. We stripped off our wet clothes and mounted our bikes on the cars. Tired. Satisfied. It was that rare feeling of satisfaction that cleanses your mind and body and solidifies into a lasting memory.

The gear 

To withstand the extreme elements that this expedition demanded, we chose CeramicSpeed’s Coated products. Our Bottom Brackets, Pulley Wheels and Headsets can all be found in this moisture resistant version, which provides greater protection and longevity from the harsh elements of winter riding, off-Road riding or riding in moist or humid conditions. Don’t let your equipment stop you from experiencing something epic.