Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cycling in Korea: Is it safe to bicycle tour solo in Korea? The answer is: YES!!!

 Julian Kim wrote:

Hi Brian,

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!


 Brian Perich wrote:

Hi Julian,

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!

Cycling near Gangneung, Gangwon-do Province (northeastern coast of Korea), Express bus across Korea (bike and bag stowed in luggage compartment, this is hassle-free in Korea, D.I.Y.). Gangneung is the starting point to excellent riding either north to Ganseong (DMZ outpost) or south to Busan, Gyeongsannamdo. There is one route along the coast - Hwy 7. There are mountainous routes as well for the more adventurous cyclists whom enjoy 700-1000m climbs, Take Hwy 35 West from Gangneung, over the mountains (883m) to Pyeongchang, another 20km to Jinbu, turn South on Hwy 59 towards Taebaek, at the junction (road T-bones) you turn right (West) to Taebaek, Gangwon-do or left (East) and cross 7 -700m peaks and eventually decend back into Donghae (south entry), turn left (North) and continue on the coastal Hwy 7 to Gangneung, you have just completed a 257km loop. Continue South on Hwy 7 from Gangneung, you will pass Donghae, Samcheok, Uljin, Pyeonghae, Pohang, Gyeongju, Ulsan, Busan.
  Hi Julian,

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.

 Cycling from Seoul to Sokcho on a KSPO Tour was a highlight for me in 2010
 It's easier to meet other riders while out riding than it is to schedule it ahead of time, just go out and ride!
 After heavy rains on tour, the air is fresh and the nature's movements are amazing to see
I suggest being better prepared, a helmet, cycling gloves for hand protection, a reflective neon vest (Home Plus sells them here), cycling shorts (for comfort on long tours), a nylon or sports jersey/cycling jersey, a decent bike with quick release hubs, a pump, patch kit and levers to remove and replace the tire in event of flat/puncture, a light weight rain poncho (Sold at Home Plus in Korea, 5,000won), a bicycle headlight and tail light. It doesn't take much to be prepared, the rest is water, raisins for emergency and continuing tour fuel between meals on 10 hour days, and keep smiling throughout your journey.
 If you have children going cycling with you, remember to always them buckle up
 Helmets are a must when Cycling in Korea or any country where road hazards exist
 With a little preparation, even winter Cycling in Korea can be safe and enjoyable

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

  • June 5
  • Julian Kim
    about an hour ago
    Julian Kim
    • Hi Brian. Thanks for all of the info! I'm trying to get everything together, but arranging for an affordable and decent bike is proving to be quite difficult.

  • Brian Perich
    2 minutes ago
    Brian Perich
    • Next post on my blog explains (contains a link to Gmarket) how to source a decent bicycle for general riding or light touring in Korea.

      Many riders I know, have expensive bikes and many have passed me bye over the years, but I started with the cheapest bikes in Korea and gradually built up my experiences, technical skills in maintenance repairs. Better to start cycling cheap in Korea, buy a Tonyon lock (big, cotton cloth covered chain, commonly used on motorcycles in Korea, you can get a chain version, wrap it in clear tape (wide-style) from end to end, protected from grease/dirt and wrap it again when it gets dirty. Secondary smaller locks, a good idea too, all found in local bicycle stores. 

      Good luck with the launch, let me know how it goes. ^^

      Brian Perich

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About the Korean-World Author

Brian Perich was an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) lecturer for a decade, father, and adventure cyclist based in South Korea.

Previously, Brian has led Canoe adventures in Quetico Provincial Park, Atikokan, Ontario, Canada (1993/1999); led Grand American camping adventures (2000); lived at Paramahansa Yogananda's SRF Ashram for 5 months (see the film "AWAKE"), formerly worked in titanium welding at Agilent Technologies, formerly worked in Winery industry in Marin County with Kendall Jackson in California; Surfing and Meditation continued for several years in California, British Columbia, South Korea, Yoga training in California 1999-2000.

Between 1994-1998 - Brian completed his own adventures with motorcycles. His motorcycling marathons took him across the United States and central/western Canada, while traveling solo over an astounding 24,000km in 60 days! Brian endured 900 mile/1300km average days in the motorcycle saddle and apparently loved every minute of those adventures.

Today, he has given up motorcycle adventures altogether, but finds an outlet for his enthusiasm in outdoor recreation while bicycle touring and micro-blogging about those experiences on his mountain bikes.

While employed as an English teacher in South Korea, Brian has became an advocate for bicycle touring on his mountain bikes. The Korean-World blog originated from those small adventures in Korea, now expanded to cover his recent trek down the TransMongolian highway to the Gobi Desert, cycling 900km east through the Khentii grasslands and in 2012 crossing Mongolia in 45 days, 2500 kilometers 1553 miles. HimalayasX expedition Brian previously cycled across western China, the Taklamakan Desert, the northern Himalayas of East Turkestan Xinjiang/Uyghur Autonomous Region, the corrugated back roads and mountains of Kham Tibet. Brian successfully completed his 2011 mountain bike expedition with 3200 kilometers / 1988 miles unsupported, on/off road MTB adventure cycling.
Brian has completed his second mountain bike journey, MongoliaX expedition - Crossing Mongolia 2012, an unsupported mountain bike MTB expedition across 2500km of Outer Mongolia from Ulanbaatar to Altai Taven-Bogd National Park bordering China, Russia and Mongolia.

In 2013, as a sequel to a trilogy of cycle tours, Brian enjoyed a more leisure bicycle tour onboard his Koga-Miyata World Traveller seeing the northern tier of the United States and western Canada covering 3400 kilometers / 2000 miles in 30 days. This North American cycle tour was called Totherocktour. Enjoying the adventure of bicycle travel and every great conversation started while traveling on the road - has refueled his inspirations to cycle around the Earth. In 2013, while he cycled solo from the Great Lake State of Michigan, United States to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. He weaved through local communities and reconnected with friends, family and community after spending almost a decade in Asia.

Brian is now supporting several non-profit foundations through expeditions: IDEAS Foundation of Canada IDEAS is the acronym for Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society which supports the IBD community, those suffering from IBD-inflammatory bowel disease, also known as Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis.

The second non-profit foundation is ETE.ORG - Education Through Expeditions, UK which supports educational outreach programs inside schools around the world. ETE connects explorers with students in the classroom, through an interactive online program in development (Beta).

Brian is researching support for a 18000 kilometer bicycle expedition across the Americas: North, Central and South America - ONE -Arctic to Argentina
Please contact him if you are interested in helping out.

Twitter: Cycleagain
Location: Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea or southern Ontario, Canada.

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Brian's friends have also been...Cycling in Korea!

Brian's friends have also been...Cycling in Korea!

Cycling in Korea, Warning: always wear a helmet! (I gave mine to my friend)

Cycling in Korea, Warning: always wear a helmet! (I gave mine to my friend)

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