27 October 2017 / South Korea
One of the biggest holidays in South Korea is Chuseok (추석), or the Korean Thanksgiving. To celebrate this year, we decided to head to Korea’s east coast, put the ocean on our left and cycle till we reached the beach in Busan. What followed were five days of fun in the not-so-sun and a ride as laid back as it was beautiful.
South Korea boasts several thousand kilometers of dedicated bike path crisscrossing the peninsula. One of the latest additions to this impressive network is the East Coast Trail which, as the name suggests, runs the length of the eastern seaboard.
Starting in the northern beach city of Sokcho, we set off in the cold drizzling rain.
As Chuseok is a time to be spent with family, not every rider could ride every kilometer. Instead, what we wound up with was a rotating cast of characters that joined the ride for a day or two at a time, giving us a chance to meet up with some good friends from across the country as we made our way south.
Having a long holiday meant plenty of time to slow down and enjoy the ride, a luxury not afforded on every Far Ride adventure. Our aim was to set a decently quick tempo, push ourselves through some of the short, yet steep climbs and enjoy the extra time sipping coffee and sampling the fresh seafood available in the countless towns and fishing villages along the trail.
We’ve often been told by bike-tourers passing through Seoul that South Korea is a much needed break from the rigors of Asian cycle-touring. Paths are clearly marked and well maintained, food and water are never more than a few kilometers down the road and you can sleep anywhere, be it camping in a quiet forest or enjoying a king size bed and a private hot tub in a relatively inexpensive, and wildly sexy, love motel.
This being vacation, most nights we opted for the latter, staying in a mix of motels, sea-side guest houses and minbak—a bare-bones private room with a heated floor and a pile of blankets to sleep on.
Some guesthouses even made available hoses to spray off the sand at the end of the day, others sent us down the road with ride snacks.
The route follows the coast and rarely are riders more than a few kilometers off the water. Short, punchy climbs lead cyclists up the small mountains that cover seventy percent of the Korean peninsula, offering riders some truly breathtaking views of the rocky coast and breaking waves of a sea with two names—known to locals as the East Sea, the Sea of Japan to the rest of the world.
Rain became an expected, yet unwelcome companion on our ride with wind often joining in kind. Spending hours in soggy saddles with water-logged shoes and sandy drive-trains meant that the rare sunny days were all-the-more thoroughly appreciated.
For the final day of our trip, we met up with some local RCC riders in the city of Ulsan, friends from our #FarRideBusan route in Volume06. As construction on the East Coast Trail is not entirely finished, these local riders were thankfully able to share their roads with us and lead us to our final destination of Haeundae Beach in Busan.
The route spans roughly 550 kilometers and is typically enjoyed over the course of four to five days. It’s the nicest dedicated cycling route we’ve had the chance to ride in South Korea and highly recommended for cyclists interested in exploring The Land of the Morning Calm.
For those interested in riding this route you can find all the data and navigation from our ride on Komoot.
There are numerous resources across the web and social media about cycling in Korea. Or if you’re in the area, shoot us a message and we’ll be happy to help you out or maybe even meet up for a ride around our home.