I stumbled upon your blog and was hoping you could answer a question for me. I am preparing to teach English in Korea (Seoul most likely, though I don't know which area yet) and I have been wondering about the city's cycling culture. I'm not a very experienced rider. During college (I graduated one year ago) I lived in a small community making cycling an easy, safe, and quick mode of transport. Since, I have moved to the outskirts of Washington D.C. Though there's a growing bike culture here, the streets are narrow and drivers are not yet prepared to "share the road" with cyclists. This results in frequent car-bike collisions, and also in me being afraid to ride downtown.
I have never been to Asia, but as Seoul is even larger than New York (somewhere I have been) I was hoping to use my bike as a healthier and faster way of commuting around the city. Maybe as I get more comfortable, I'll take longer rides, but right now my goal is simply to get to and fro.
My main questions are:
1. How bike friendly is Seoul (are there bike lanes, do cars watch out for bikers, are there a lot of bikes, etc.)?
2. What does it cost to buy a road bike normally? (Keep in mind, I don't need anything fancy. Something used, bare bones will get the job done, at least for now.)
3. Do you have any recommendations for bike shops in Seoul? (I don't know Korean :( Just English and Spanish) Thanks so much. Can't wait to hear from you!
Koreans are culture keen to see change, Cycling in Korea is much a part of the growing lifestyle choice for millions of nationals here, and foreigners who Teach English in Korea (as in elsewhere in Asia) find their new host culture to speak a universal language -Bicycles.
I know a few locals that enjoy Cycling in Korea - My friend Brian Sullivan and son Matthew James
So, for under $250 you can now use http://gmarket.co.kr/ as your search engine for bike shopping (Alton, Lespo, Blackcat, etc...for the cheap starters, still good quality though) and if you want something more expensive, you can search for Trek, Scott, Marin, Giant, etc. for much, much more money. You can also visit your local bike shop, regardless of where you purchased your bike, if you become familiarized with them -practice your Korean and the owner/operator or other customers will practice their English, you can accessorize your bike, get it tuned up from time to time, and make new friends in the process. Find out where they are riding and join them if your bike fits their groups intended usage.
Cycling in Korea is an international spirit, a language which stops at no borders, no languages, no cultures, no boundaries -except the ones we build for ourselves (growing more confident, these boundaries will disappear as well) and eventually, you will be Cycling all over Korea. This is a great place for bicycle cultures to find their place and many Koreans are keen to see those changes come true - helping the bicycle culture grow in Asia.
Hope this message helps you, I'm glad to share it with you.
Peace from Korea,