Friday, September 10, 2010

Cycling in Korea :: Essential touring, & where to ride?

Choose the roads where nobody goes. Off the beaten-path should be emphasized more on this blog. Even in a densely populated country (as this is) you can utilize the offroads (rice fields, can you see them from your window in Korea?) or any tributary (river walks) in Korea are usually bike accessible. For longer tours on the East or West coast, you will experience traffic along "route 1 -Western, route 7 -Eastern" however, there are numerous other secondary roads snaking North-South that most people just never explore. Along the East Coast, I have discovered route 456 (East-West) from Gangneung. From North to South (Gangneung to Taebaek (route 35) or Jeongseon-railbiking! and back to the East coast to either Samcheok or Donghae, it's epic cycling in the mountains and along the rivers through the coastal mountain  passes. Both route 35 and route 59 cut along rivers flowing between the coastal and Eastern (Pyeongchang-gun) ranges dividing the countries Gangwon-do Province to the East and Gyeonggi-do Province to the West (at Wonju). I hope to compile a comprehensive guide to the Best Tours in South Korea (while I am at it myself, and others here -please email your routes, I'll gladly share/post to other riders/readers in Cycling in Korea group on Facebook, or here in blog. Meet other riders and share ideas!

Be sure the crew is well hydrated, bring snacks too. As a group, we enjoy pasta prepared the same-day, grapes, apples, or raisins when seasonal fruit isn't available (or too expensive). Use reusable rubbermaid containers. While cycling solo, I usually pack an emergency 300g of sun-dried raisins, a few apples and at least 3L of water (1L per hour).

Mega-Korea Touring Route 2012 (Click link to see locations)

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For starters, find the best location to meet up. I tend to text message a few riders and hope that one is available to ride. We meet in Gangneung at the Lotte Soju Factory (aka Barf Factory), they offer spring/distilled water to the public on tap.
Trek Go-Bug. Definitely essential to add "family" into your next adventure cycling epic. We opted to have a local "cover manufacturer" help us design a durable rain cover (60K won), it'll be featured on the road this fall while we're out riding in the rain. Be sure to vent the rain cover if it's designed in vinyl or other non-breathable fabrics, kids need fresh air! We opted to customize the rear into a flap/roller-clip, it adds some ventilation. 
We salvaged a late model (2003) Lespo mountain bike from a local friend in Gangneung. This was destined for the recycle scrapyard, it was rusty (solid brown stone!) and all the cables were ceased/rusted out. Do some business with your local shop before expecting anything to happen that's just great service without a negotiation. We repacked the original bearings (bb-spindle in excellent shape, regreased and ready to fly), and replaced the chain and cables, 25,000won. We brought it to a local shop (a place I bought a used Trek Go-Bug trailer, and the Trek tag-a-long trailer for Matthew. 
Happy trails since then. Riding a luggy 19kg bike might be beneficial to the rider too, it mimics the weight on expeditions.
Sometimes you want the "good stuff" as I have over the past 4 years stationed/working/marooned in South Korea. I have settled with the cheaper line of bikes (200-500K range) and purchased in bicycle shops locally (once, a 2006 Lespo Tracker MTB, heavy-bone bike! I cycling the length of the Eastern/Western South Korean coasts, replaced 3 bottom bracket bearing sets, 1 headset, brake pads, fixed numerous flats, but it remained a steady ride for 220,000 KRW and 1000s of Kilometers on the road/offroad light XC. 

The kids needed a trailer to roll with Mi Sung and I.  First opted for a brand-new steel frame/steel wheel trailer in the effect/copied design of a Schwinn, rode a few times - it was solid, but a little heavy. We paid 175K on  Next, our used/like new Trek Go-Bug, if you find one (used on definitely buy it. We paid 300,000 KRW used.

Remember, it's the motor under the hood that counts. Cycling in Korea starts with the initiative to see more outdoors, the vigor to pedal, and a bike that fits your budget, while it's important to source the right gear, here's a few tips that might help: 

Search - and search for "Blackcat" That's a good start to Cycling in Korea. The branded bicycle is basically an imported, unpopularized frame from either Taiwan (higher end) or China (lower end), frames in aluminum (grade unknown) and components differ considerably between a 200,000KRW and 600,000KRW model. These are great bikes, with a few tweaks, upgrades to the tires (Schwalbe Marathon 26x1.5-2.0), you'll be singing. 

There is a local scene for (GARMIN CONNECT, SEE GPS ROUTE!) intense off-road XC MTB riding (Daegwallyeong, Gangwon-do), but plan to bring your bike into Korea 


Another option, if your looking for Touring/light XC trail riding around your city, farming fields or similar, then the Blackcat mentioned above, will fit the bill. Always, consider the specifications that are available (forks -Suntour XCM V2 come with many Blackcats, it's a road shock only-as tested, derailler system (Shimano components? Most have model marking, Alvio, Deore, SLX, XT, XTR...from the bottom to the top of the line), the wheelsets are always solid builds in Korea, from Lespo, Alton, ProCorex, up to Blackcat, Cello and the international makers (Merida is popular here, then there's the best of the bikes (specific by model and/or components, don't be fooled by the Branding): Specialized, Cannondale, Trek, Mongoose, Yeti, Kona, Jamis, Surly, Look (expensive!), Santa Cruz, Ellsworth, Ibis, Norco, Giant, and many more...the source for reviews is MTBR

More suggestions - Where to ride in Korea?

  1. Han River Cycling throughout Seoul Metropolitan Area.
  2. DMZ Mountain biking routes north of Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi-do
  3. Daegwallyeong Mountain, 25km west of Gangneung City, Gangwondo (XC and DH)
  4. Muju Resort, Awesome Mountain Biking DH routes for experienced riders. 

Next are Cycle Touring Routes for South Korea areas
  1. Jeju Island Loop, Free camping and enough smooth pavement to tour for weeks.
  2. Southern Korean coast, Busan, Gyeongsannamdo to Mokpo, Jeollanam-do. 7-10 days.
  3. Sokcho, Gangwon-do and Busan, Gyeongsannam-do, 4-6 days.
  4.  (distance: 475km, Time: 5 days, Route: Hwy 7, Ride Diff: High)
  5. Seoul (Seongnam-si), Gyeonggi-do -> Suam, Andong, Daegu (distance: 355km, Time: 3 days, Diff: Medium), 3-5 days
  6. Seoul, Gyeonggi-do -> Seoraksan National Park, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do (distance 315km, 2 days, Diff: High) 2-4 days
  7. Gangneung, Gangwon-do -> Busan, Gyeongsannam-do (distance 415km, 4 days, Diff: High)***
  8. Incheon/Siheung/Ansan, Gyeonggi-do -> Suwon, Pyeongtaek, Cheonan (Hwy 1 to Daejeon*) West to Boryeong/Daecheon Beach, South to Byeongsanbando National Park (or Mokpo*) (distance 355km, 415km to Daejeon, 460km to Mokpo*, Days 3-5, Diff: High)
  9. Gangneung, Gangwon-do -&gt Daegwaelleong, Pyeongchang-gun, Jinbu, Taebaek, Imgye, Donghae, Gangneung return (Start Hwy 35...Hwy 456 from Gangneung-downtown..Hwy 35 to Taebaek, West to Donghae*) (distance 257km, time 2-3 days, Diff: High)
  10. Seongnam/Bundang/Seoul river trails to metro Seoul (South of the Han River)
  11. + others (send updates: if you can help list)

[ Notes: *** best route for cycling, camping, sight-seeing, adventure cycling. I personally like all routes (: ]


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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.

Thanks for visiting my Journal from Asia

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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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