I’m back from a really great ride this year so before I delve into the specifics I’m going to do an overview of what you should consider before you set off on your trip.
3. Time of year
Let’s start with number 1. PREP. If you don’t do long rides before setting off on a 655km+ ride, you’re going to have a hard time. You HAVE to make time to go on rides of 60km + at least twice. WHY? Long rides teach you how often you should eat and drink on the bike. You should always eat and drink BEFORE you feel hungry, thirsty or void of energy. When you have no energy, you will feel tired, lose concentration, miss road signs, get lost and waste time. Also, your ass, nuts and lady bits need to become accustomed to the saddle that will become your new BFF on the trip. TRY TO USE EVERYTHING YOU WILL ON THE TRIP IN YOUR PREP PHASE: equipment, food, drinks, clothing, chamois cream, bags. This way you’ll know if a gel will give you the shits, your bike shorts rub you raw or that your bag is too heavy etc. Service your bike beforehand, especially your gears and brakes. Check your tyres for wear- Korean tyres wear out much quicker than Continental tyres. If you see cracks in your tyres or a weird smooth bulge change them! Pump your tyres to the recommended PSI/bar before you set off (my road bike= 110 bar). Clean and lube your chain.
2. BUDGET. I left Pohang with 263,000 won in my bank account and I have 14,000 left. This does not include my bus fare ( approx. 40,000 won). Accom: Save money by sharing rooms with a group or sleeping in jimjjilbangs. My accom during this trip varied from 6,000 – 10,000 won per night in jimjjilbangs to 17,000 won sharing with 2 guys in a motel room. WARNING: out in the sticks they might tell you it’s not OK for girls and guys to share rooms. If you have time to look around, I advise you to do so until you find a friendly hotel that understands that there will be no orgies/ threesomes after a long day’s cycling. Food: Korean sit down lunches can vary from 6,000 to 10,000 won, dinner from 10,000-15,000 won (sharing) and each CU convenience store stop will probably set you back between 5,000 to 10,000 won (water, powerade/ pocari sweat, ice cream, mentos, kimbap, egg etc.). VEGETARIANS should go around to a few CUs beforehand to see what would be OK to eat PRIOR to your trip.
3. Time of year: Last year I did the ride in August during the heat wave. This year I did it in June. I definitely recommend June. It’s cooler, which means you sweat less, burn less, fatigue less. You also see different things at different times of the year. June has loads of colourful roadside flowers and thousands of butterflies, as well as different crops being harvested. We saw garlic and onions this year whereas last year in August we saw thousands of chillies spread out by the roadside to dry. All of these sights are great photo opportunities. I’d love to do the ride in Spring and Autumn one day to see the great colour changes that accompany the seasons here in Korea.
4. Resources: The KTO maps are great. If you’re relying on blogs or on-road maps, use Jan Boonstra, not just any dick who did the ride and got lost a lot…. Do your homework. Plan a route. Look at the distances and estimated times given in the booklets (we were usually 20-30 minutes faster but I’d say we’re above average fitness and on road bikes). Join Facebook’s Cycling Seoul to Busan. Learn to use naver maps. The entire 4 rivers bike path is on naver map road view.
1. Click 자전거 on the upper right hand corner…
2. You will then see the bike path in red (exclusive for bikes) and blue (shared with motor vehicles)
3. Click the road view icon.
4. Click the part of the path that you want to see on road view.
Passports: If you want to complete any of the 4 Rivers trails/ cross country (the Ara Lock- Nakdonggang estuary bank route) and get recognition for it you need to pick up a passport (around 4,000 won). There are specific places to pick these up so check this website beforehand for opening times. If you have a nice Korean friends they can order one for you on the 4 Rivers Korean website. You have to get each stamp to get a sticker at the end (you get a medal and certificate for cross country and completing 4 rivers. Each course gets you a sticker and the grand slam gets you a certificate). There are certificate centers at the end of each course to give you your goodies.
5. Packing: I can almost guarantee you won’t be reading a book on this trip so don’t pack it!!! Don’t pack huge bottles of shampoo, sunscreen, after-sun etc. (My bag weighed 6kg before the trip but I packed spares for everything on my bike). En route we saw a young Korean guy who’s done the trip ten times and he had the right idea: 2 drinks bottles on his bike and a fanny pack. That was it. It held his phone, money, spare top, sunscreen and chargers. His snacks went in his cycle top’s pockets. Next time I do the ride I want to do it like him (I’d add a lightweight rain top). You can wash your clothes every night and if it’s still a bit wet in the morning it’s OK. If you sleep in a jimjjilbang you get clothes anyway and the restaurants along the way are pretty used to stinky cyclists by now… DON’T overpack! You’ll regret it! If you find that your bike was too heavy after your first day, send stuff home via the post office or CU- they often have a posting facility. Our friend posted home 3 of his 8kg load!
My next five posts will briefly detail my trip i.t.o accommodation, navigation, points of interest etc. I hope you find them useful.