Concrete Jungle to Countryside

A question that I have heard continuously asked about motorcycling in Korea goes something along the lines of, "how do I get to...?", "what is the best Navi app for...?", and less often "how do I attach my gps to my bike?". I will attempt here, albeit poorly, to answer all of these questions. This list won't be all inclusive, as the options are nearly endless. I'm just gonna talk about the commonly used/better ones.

First of all you need to decide whether you want to use a dedicated GPS unit, or if you'd prefer to use a smartphone app. Smartphone apps allow for you to save some money by using your existing smartphone and can charge it for you, but you might damage it in rain or if it detaches from the bike. A dedicated GPS will be rather expensive even if it doesn't need to be removed from the bike. Both have their benefits and drawbacks.

Despite English being a second language here, you'd be surprised to find that the only functioning English language option available for a dedicated GPS unit is the old fashioned Garmin. Many in the Korea riding community swear by it, and it even has a function that allows for quick swapping of routes so you can follow in anothers footsteps. There are a few Garmin smartphone apps available, but they seem to be for North America only and are rather expensive compared to the other options which tend to be... free.

If you go with a smartphone GPS app (makes the most sense IMO) you have quite a number of options. Strangely enough however, due to legal reasons Google Maps isn't one of them! (I once had a long discussion with a Google Korea employee about this, it's a lot of politics). I noticed that Apples Maps app "works" as in it will give directions, but it tends to not be as accurate as the Korean made apps. Most of these are available for free from your cell provider. So if you use SK telecom T-Map is what you'll want to look for. Olleh Navi is what is on offer from KT Olleh. Both of these are decent options. Another free app that works for any smartphone is KimGisa. It's quite accurate and tends to get the most thumbs up from my riding buddies. Unlike Olleh Navi it remembers locations travelled to, but won't log routes and doesn't have as many customization options.

Note that all of these apps will need to be set up so that they don't steer you onto motorcycle restricted roads before you use them. Some of them (T-Map) don't actually have "Motorcycle Modes" per se, but rather they only put you on toll free roads(무료도로). While this will most often be irrelevant, there certainly are a few toll free roads that are also motorcycle restricted, so watch out. You also won't be able to take advantage of toll roads that allow motorcycles. One last option that I experimented with for awhile was Waze GPS. It's crowd sourced so many roads in Korea will be unlisted, but it's in English and has many desirable options for logging routes and such. I however found it to be too buggy for long term use.

These are the "bike mode" screens. From left: T-Map, Olleh Navi, KimGisa

Next is the tricky issue of mounting the GPS. I don't have a dedicated GPS so I'm just gonna talk about getting your smartphone hooked up to your bike. The first thing to do is get a smartphone mount, and optionally a charger and waterproof case. There are many mounts available that are suitable for a motorcycles handlebars. Available online, on Toegyero(퇴계로) near Chungmuro station(충무로역), and on Gmarket. They will cost about 20~50,000. However you choose to obtain your mount, make sure it isn't for a bicycle. These are less sturdy, and believe me you don't want to experience the horror of witnessing your $500 electronic appendage eject from your bike at 100kph. I'm afraid those of you with clip-ons are at a bit of a disadvantage here as bar mounts will be hard to fit, and clip-on specific mounts are expensive. A waterproof case is specific for each smartphone so you're on your own there. As for charging options, the most effective method is getting a DC 12v car charger or USB adapter wired into your bikes electrical system. Getting that done appropriately may not be an easy task for some, so feel free to drop me a line if you're in the Seoul area and want help. Surprisingly, all of this stuff can get a little expensive. If you're not penny-pinching expect to pay around 100,000 for all of it.

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