Why ride in Korea?

Well, this probably should have been one of the first articles I wrote. I suppose the reason its took me so long to get around to it is that it has been a very long time indeed since I last heard someone ask "Why would you ride a motorcycle in a country with roads as dangerous as this?". As someone who had been riding a bike for the better part of 10 years, I realized this wasn't a question from someone who was uninformed of the realities of the situation, but rather someone who was unaware of my specific circumstances.

I won't be vague about it: my attempt here is to be the devil on the shoulder of those considering two-wheeled transport in the land of the morning calm. Yeah, I'm trying to push you over the edge...

The benefits here are many. Like with riding a bike in any other country, your transport can be cheaper than a car to purchase and insure, with better fuel economy too (this matters when fuel costs close to $8 a gallon), and then of course there is the fun of the ride itself. When it comes to Korea specifically, the benefits include skipping out on much of the heavy traffic experienced in cities by lane-splitting, in addition to this most often bikes aren't as targeted by police for enforcement. While some guys have been pulled over in recent crackdowns, cops are usually inclined to live and let be. Also any traffic, or speed cameras seem to be blind to motorcycles. So, while I personally try to not partake in excessive shenanigans, you can pretty much ride with impunity out here.

Sure enough it isn't for everybody, and depending on the individual there can be quite a steep learning curve. As for the dangerous aspects of this activity, if you are willing to acknowledge the danger and do a few simple things to mitigate it chances are you are already doing more than enough to not be a part of the unnecessarily high statistics of motorcycle related casualties. In order to help you with this I would recommend visiting the Maxler leathers shop in Itaewon for protective gear beyond a helmet.

Weather is another consideration. Korea can get quite cold, and that will affect people differently. And rain? Well, those are the days that I'll be taking the bus or a taxi. Getting weather appropriate gear will be a necessity if you plan to ride often.

Learning typical road conditions and the general behavior of Korean drivers will be necessary for you to safely navigate the streets and avoid problems. For example, you should know the civil engineering habit in Korea of putting all traffic lights on timers, even for pedestrian crossings. You should know their distaste for making left-hand turns in favor or making a U-turn aways down the road (where it is supposedly safer). You should know the propensity of running into speed bumps at inopportune times like at the exit of corners, or even in the middle of the fucking highway (Jeju). And you should absolutely be aware of drivers who are in the habit of pulling out whenever they damn well please as in Korea the stigma against "cutting someone off" is basically non-existent.

Once one is able to understand, accept, or get past these issues you unlock a vast opportunity for a rich experience in two wheeled motoring through a truly beautiful country. The mountains never looked so huge, the sea never so green, and the air never felt so crisp. And even if for whatever reason the glorious experience of the ride is lost on you, your bike will take you to out of the way places far remote from the typical tourist traps, or local haunts that you might frequent.

So, if you've decided to leave that which is familiar behind... I'll see you on the road...

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