I'm sorry to message you out of the blue, but I found you via your blog and I was hoping to ask you a couple of questions.
First, I am a Canadian (aged 22) with a modest control of the Korean language. I will be visiting Korea for 1.5 months starting late June to first visit family with my parents. However, I will be staying after my parents depart and was hoping to do a bike trip. After reading your blog, the Seoul to Busan route has interested me. I have this poorly thought-out and hastily thought up notion of a soul-searching and culturally revelatory solo-trip down the country. I was wondering if, from your experience, riding alone for that distance was generally inadvisable? I understand everything comes with its risks, but I'm wondering how much general risk am I going to be dealing with by going alone? By the way, I have some experience (2 trips) biking but have always done it with an experienced friend.
In addition, I was wondering if you knew of any places I could possibly rent a bike for said trip. Would it be possible to rent from a place in Seoul then drop it off in Busan?
Sorry for the wordy message and thanks in advance!
I appreciate your interest in visiting family in the homeland and taking the idea seriously to go Cycling in Korea. Rental bikes for touring all of Korea are hard to find, if available at all. I can direct you to cheap bikes in Korea, perhaps a relative in Korea can order you, I'll search for a link... I have a used 2008 Trek 6500 completely rebuilt with Schwalbe touring tires, frame is 17.5 large, and it's selling for 600,000 won, similar to the new 2011 TREK 6500 selling for 1,600,000 KRW Otherwise, in a local bike shop in Korea you can purchase a decent bike for touring Korea for under 600,000 KRW (about $550 USD). Thanks, hope this information helps you!
I didn't answer all your questions - my apologies. Absolutely, I recommend Cycling in Korea to anyone experienced or new to bicycle adventures, and you can definitely (without any problems) do it solo. I have crossed Korea on various routes riding solo and sometimes meet other cyclists while on tour, and we finish the routes together. South Korea is incredibly safe, diverse (topographically) and has enough open spaces (despite it's size 99,000 square kms, 48 million population), since development is concentrated in Seoul and surrounding cities, Daejeon, Incheon, Daegu, Busan, perhaps the rest of the country is much less developed, either mountainous or used for agricultural purposes. Korean nationals are friendly, welcoming, offer free water to cyclists at any service center for autos, and there is little risk except for general traffic and hazards that come with bicycling in close proximity to urban roads.
Take a camera and charger unit for multi-day adventures. These are a few more ideas for you to consider while Cycling in Korea, and enjoy the journey, this is the place to do it, in the company of others or in the solitude of yourself and your bike. Always remember to bring several locks, a Sturdy TONKIN chain lock is preferred, take your seat and seatpost inside for overnights. Remove the front wheel and lock the wheel to the frame/rear wheel, and lock the bike to a fixed object. My only concern with Cycling in Korea is BIKE THEFT (as it would be internationally), ALWAYS LOCK YOUR BIKE OR KEEP IT WITH YOU.
Thank you Julian - for important questions and I am glad to help you. I will be away on expedition across western China, Tibet and the Himalayas this summer, talk about going solo, remember to trust yourself and all your instincts while out riding, play it safe and never assume drivers know your next move. Keep safe, check my blog for regular updates, I like to ride solo and I like to ride the extreme, or at least I am trying!
I wish you success on your tour of South Korea! Peace, Brian P