“They won’t try to hit you… if they see you that is.”
These reassuring words were my first bits of guidance from Kalvis, a former colleague, and talented cyclist, who kindly offered to show me around while I was in the city a few weeks ago.
We started our ride in the middle of Gangnam, the center of modern Seoul, South Korea. As I chased Kalvis and his friends through 10 lanes of traffic, zig-zagging between buses, taxis, and mopeds, I actually wasn’t as terrified as I thought I should be – instead the utter focus on all the moving pieces around me.
The bike path–which I later discovered runs hundreds of kilometers, from north to south–was less terrifying than the streets, but required just as much attention. It was free of cars, but absolutely packed with cyclists of all types: Couples on tandem beach cruisers taking selfies (while riding), solitary men with radios in their pockets blaring K-pop for all to enjoy, mountain bikers presumably headed for some mountains, on very fancy titanium bikes, and packs of Rapha-clad roadies with aero helmets.
After about an hour of riding, once we were well outside the city center, the paths calmed down and people start saying “Annyeong” (hello) to each other instead of “Watch Out!” – a word I did not manage to learn properly in Korean, but could guess when it was being yelled at me.
It turns out that outside Seoul, Korea is kinda pretty. And very hilly.
On another ride, we headed out to the northeast and rode to the very end of a subway line at Cheongdam (which is a lot farther than it sounds – about 130km total one way). We got rained on a bit, but in the summer heat, we weren’t really cold until we got on the subway, which has extremely efficient air conditioning. By the time we transferred from one line to another, I think we both were well into stage II hypothermia.
At night, the bike path along the Han River is even more hopping than the day. In fact, it’s kind of a party zone. More radios, more people, crazy lights. And great views of a bright and shiny Seoul.
If you’re visiting Seoul, check out Seoul Cycle for route tips & contacts. And please be careful!