Who says that cycling adventures (always) have to be about endurance, challenges, and hardship?
Island hopping around southern Funen offers a plethora of natural gems. There are ferry crossings, a deep-rooted sailing culture to be explored and plenty of ice cream. The days of riding were as slow and simple as they needed to be. Two small legs were on their own for the first time, and the biggest mission was for it all to be fun. It was very important to us that the kids would enjoy it so that they would want to come along again the next time!
This was our second year of bike touring with the kids but last year the adults did all the pedaling, with both kids on the VeloSled. With a 6-year-old under his own power we kept our ambitions in regards to distance modest, and our expectations for fun and exploration high.
Despite it being a bicycle journey, we had to sort out the initial logistics by car to get to our starting point in Svendborg. Trains in Denmark, unfortunately, do not (yet?) allow for cargo bikes, so off I went with our van whilst the family got comfortably seated on the train.
From Svendborg, we got right on the ferry to Ærø, where we wanted to spend the first part of our trip. With its modest size, plenty of tent camp opportunities and lots to be experienced in the historical towns of Ærøskøbing and Marstal, it seemed like the perfect choice for a quiet family trip.
However, it turned out that we were not the only ones to get that idea…
In Denmark the Covid-19 crisis has inspired the government to offer free ferries and cheap train rides all summer long. This meant that we were never short of the company of other people along the way.
Despite our love for “planning-as-we-go” we were forced to concede to booking the island ferries in advance to make sure we could get across. A stark contrast to our earlier experiences of cycling in solitude in the Danish countryside, at one with nature and alone with our own little klan.
Accepting the more crowded circumstances for what they were, we decided to make the best of it and guess what happened? We ended up making new friends (!) We even found ourselves socializing with other camping loving families; often into the wee hours.
I believe it might be what the now-infamous term “hygge” is really all about.
Cycling, especially on Ærø, was a bit of a surprise. Admittedly, we are not big on planning and we left our home feeling less than organized, let alone prepared for the trip.
Already into the first couple of days, it turned out that even if we had imagined our days of cycling to be relaxed due to those little legs on their first longer tour, we often found ourselves out of breath, torrential fits of sweating, and having to give it all we had to get up those hills in the northern parts of the island.
To a Dane who is used to FLAT city cycling, this came as a bit of a surprise. Cargo bikes are great, two-wheeled ones even better, but fully loaded ones frequently going uphill makes you quietly think about the forbidden words for a touring cyclist “electric assist”…ssshhhh!
What made it all worthwhile though, was the stunning scenery and seeing our 6-year-old just pushing along, at times passing both his parents with ease. He even overtook a team of Lycra dressed male cyclists, earning a round of smiles and applause when we all met at the top.
Heading on from Ærø to the smaller islands of Strynø and Tåsinge we found more and more of that solitude camping lifestyle that we always dream about when we go touring. Even with full ferries, small island life is just somehow slow and still in a manner that speaks to city creatures like us.
We were never at a want for social opportunity. It turns out that a family touring on cargo bikes attracts attention, even in a cycling country like Denmark. Lots of great conversations were sparked just because of the VeloSled in itself and our stack of stuffed business cards and flyers became smaller and smaller as we went along. One should never miss a chance to work a bit, right?!
Back in Svendborg, we decided to dive into the maritime history of the area once again. My (Mette) last name Walsted, does have its roots firmly planted in Svendborg’s yachting history. We went looking for a particular boat that had a big influence on my grandfather’s life as a renowned boatbuilder in the post-war era. Anyone interested in boats will find this little gem of a wooden dinghy a true delight.
The Vigø dinghy was designed by Jens Quistgaard in the ’60s and built by Walsted’s in ‘68. The inspiration came from the Faroe Island dinghies which were renowned for their ease of handling in coastal day sailing. Only very few of its type were built, but we found this one at the yachting museum. This particular design is also engraved on my grandfather’s tombstone.
Island hopping with our VeloSled turned out to be a fabulous way to travel with kids. Twelve days, two cargo bikes, 4 people, sometimes more demanding rides than others. At times, no riding at all, just lazy days and plenty of campfire time. It’s not always so much about going far, as it is about enjoying the pace of local life and moving comfortably along whilst carrying kids, daily groceries, and all the essentials for camp life. That said, up to 24 kilometers a day for a 6-year-old, does not qualify as lazy riding!
So, what are you waiting for? Anyone can do it and the little ones love it, so really it’s just a matter of getting out there.