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History in the round

RundetårnRamp

Copenhagen_Rundetårn_street_leftCopenhagen has superlative bicycle infrastructure, with those beautiful Danes famously photographed in all weathers by the dogged Mr Cycle Chic, but there’s a location in the Danish capital where it’s possible to cycle in even the fiercest of snow storms. The Rundetårn (or Round Tower) is a 17th-century tower built for King Christian IV as an astronomical observatory. It has a 7.5-turn helical ramped corridor leading to the top. Each year the tower hosts a unicycle race, with contestants riding up and down the tower. In 1989, Thomas Olsen went up and down the Round Tower on a unicycle in record time of 1 minute and 48.7 seconds. But this wasn’t the first bicycle race in The Rundetårn.

No, the first was in 1888 and was a 210m hill climb done on ‘penny farthing’ high-wheel bicycles, probably to promote The Nordic exhibition of Industry, Agriculture, and Art. The spiral ramp has a grade of 10 percent (33 percent if you’re daft enough to take the inside line) and was built wide to allow a horse and carriage to reach the library at the top of the tower.

A Beaufort car was the first motorised vehicle to ascend the tower, puttering up in 1902. In 1911, the newspaper Socialdemokraten arranged a bicycle race down the Rundetårn.

The tower, finished in 1642, is part of Copenhagen University Library, founded in 1482.

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