Nuts and bolts of long-distance biking

by Michael Burkhardt
Groove Korea (groovekorea.com)

1. More time, less distance. It’s easy to fall into the trap of getting fixated on the destination. Ride no more than 80-100 kilometers per day and schedule an extra day — off the bike — to explore. This gives you time to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, savor a viewpoint for an hour along the way, and conserve your time and energy.

2. Stay in motels, minbaks and jjimjilbang. Unless you are on a serious budget, camping in Korea can be a hassle. Motels in small towns are usually in the 30,000 to 40,000 won range. Minbaks and jjimjilbang are even less.

3. Use a smart phone with GPS for navigation. Download Google Maps and Daum Maps. The satellite view in Daum maps is better than Google’s and is indispensable for finding small, deserted farming roads and minor roads away from the highway. Google allows you to cache up to 10 map grids for offline use if cell phone reception is a problem.

4. Use the buses. Unlike the trains, which can be hit-or-miss, intercity buses always allow you to throw your bike in the luggage compartment. This opens up an infinite number of options for one-way tours and jumping around to different places along the way.

5. Gear up. If you’re a beginner rider who is just getting into touring, don’t spend too much money on a bike right away. You can also find decent, new, Korean-made Lespo bikes with rack mounts for under 500,000 won. Check out Bike Nara (www.bikenara.co.kr).

6. Stock up online. For clothing, bags and other outdoor gear, OK Outdoor (www.okoutdoor.com) is Korea’s equivalent to REI in the U.S. or MEC in Canada. They have a nice, little outlet just outside Dongdaemun History and Culture Park, line 2, exit 5. If you are looking to do lots of touring, investing in a decent, steel touring bike is a good idea. The Surly Long Haul Trucker is a popular option. Plush Bikes (www.plushbikes.com) has the best deals in Korea, and the owner speaks English.

These other vendors also host a healthy offering for bike aficionados:

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