Filthy FAQs

Questions and Answers

Q. What Kind of Riding is in/around Seoul? [TOP]
A. "San nomo San" - over the mountain there are (more) mountains.

Seoul is one of those fortunate cities that are surrounded by hills and mountains. There is mountain-biking to die for here if you decide to get off your fat bum and go ride them. We have trails to ride in just about every direction out of downtown - north, east, south and west. Not all of them have been posted up in the "riding area" of this website. But please feel free to post questions up on our main MFXC board. Korea's mountains are steep so the availability of nice rolling cross-country trials is somewhat limited. To give you some appreciation - the Filthies and their fetid friends all originally arrived here as lycra-clad cross country riders. Even Stifford - although he might never admit it. We are predominantly free riders now having decided to just adapt to the available terrain. And I tell you what ... there are some damn sexy trial up in them thar mountains. Many we've found ourselves or made ourselves.

Q. What should a mountain cyclist bring for a year in Korea? [TOP]
A. There are a number of bike shops in Seoul that are relatively well equipped. Outside of Seoul, Pusan and Taegu, the situation isn't too great.

These things are hard to find or are prohibitively expensive: bikes, frames (especially large sizes), fork oil, forks, big bike shoes, small or medium helmets, aluminum racks, panniers, replacement parts for boutique bikes or components, 36h rims and hubs, springs, shocks, true DH tubes, body armor except elbow pads, 8 speed drivetrain parts, bike clothing, bike tools, Sun rims, any 36h rim, aluminum nipples, Sachs/SRAM chains, Pedro's lubes, replacement chainrings, women-specific bike anything, Guinness Stout in any form.

These things are common or affordable: camping gear and clothing, IRC tires (They're made here), current Shimano parts, ATF, common tools, welding shops (free to $5 for a broken steel frame), machine shops, small bike shoes, steel racks, frame painting (US$25-30).

Things to bring: the smallest gearing possible (yes, it's that steep), full suspension preferable over a HT if you've got it, strong wheels, extra components, body armor for the best trails. Good maps are at the airport upon arrival.

Q. Can you take your bike on the subway? [TOP]
A. No, not really. This door is closing fast. We used to travel via subway quite easily by pulling the "Foreigners Card" - smile, act dumb, do it anyway. These days things have tightened up considerably. There are laws against it and you will be stopped by keen officials. If you choose to try then PLEASE adhere to the following rules:

  1. Be extremely courteous to all passengers. You represent all foreigners in Korea. Be an arrogant, inconsiderate wanker and we are all considered arrogant, inconsiderate wankers (some of us are but shhhhhh! Don't tell anyone)
  2. Do not travel at rush hour or when the carriages are full. If they are - wait for the next one (or the next one) or ride instead
  3. Have your card bought and ready BEFORE you hit the turnstiles with your bike. Don't buy it wearing your helmet or displaying your bike to the guiy. He'll refuse to sell you one. Hide all of that around the corner
  4. Wait until the ticket window guy is busy with people then walk quickly and quietly toward and through the turnstiles together.
  5. Keep your bike group limited to less than 5. 2-3 is ideal.
  6. Do not ride your bike in the subway (unless really drunk but that's another story)
  7. Keep close to the walls, if possible, at all times
  8. Load your bike on the very last or the very first carriage up against the back wall. Don't block the doorway.
  9. Be considerate and intelligent or ruin it for all of us. By the way, this particular statement can easily applied to all the riding you do in Korea.

Q. The buses? The trains? [TOP]
A. Intracity buses: no, and not a good idea. You can ride faster anyway.

Intercity buses: absolutely! This is the best way to get out of town. The bike simply goes underneath with no special box or anything. You might get a few frame scrapes, but it's a mountain bike. You may have to take off one or both wheels and lower your seatpost.

Train: usually. Depends on the train, the conductor, the ticket gate, and the destination. I prefer the bus, but some destinations, like Kangchon, are more easily accessed by rail. The express trains (Mugunghwa) have less room for bikes than do their slower cousins.

Q. Can you ride in the streets of Seoul? If so How? Will I die on the roads? [TOP]
A. Well, yeah, you might. Korea has a little-known and never-followed law that the motorized driver is at fault if involved in a collision with a non-motorized vehicle. But you'll soon learn upon arrival that most laws aren't usually followed. Does that help? Seoul has drastically expanded or introduced bike paths along canals and the main river, the Han. There is one very central bike canal about to be completed in Chongyesan which takes you to within about 500 meters of City Hall. You can use these canal and river pathways to get within a 15 minute ride through traffic of whichever trail network you want to ride. Sweet! But watch out for roller-bladers and dreamy walkers who neither have little consideration for others nor concerns for the consequence of their thoughtless actions.

Excerpts from the MTBK board:
I love riding on the streets. I avoid the sidewalks at all costs; too many people and motorcycles (yes, motorcycles on the sidewalk!). The only way to survive on the street is to ride like a lunatic completely disregarding stoplights, stop signs, speed limits and right-of-ways. I find tremendous satisfaction in weaving through gaps in traffic jams and there isn't anything cooler than outrunning cars, scooters and busses. I realize (hope) you were just joking about getting a hybrid, but clear your mind of the thought. You need a tougher bike to ride the streets than you do to ride the mountains. (Bill Bayer)

I completely agree with Bill Bayer about riding on streets. People say it's crazy to ride bikes in Seoul, but once you know the drill it's really fun to fly by stuck traffic in rush hours. All though it's not safe to ride bicycles between cities. Riding from Anyang to Seoul wouldn't be a good idea, because cars and buses really don't have an idea about passing by a bicycle. They don't understand why a bicycle in on a road and blocking there way, when they are on a rush to work. Sometimes the bus drivers will actually try to kill you by squashing you to the side of the road if you are on their way.(I have experienced it several times.)

About half here are riding hardtails. I ride a hardtail with street tires for urban riding and commuting, which is perfectly safe if you are alert and both defensive and aggressive. You must not ride the streets using the same rules as cars such as stopping at stoplights, keeping to a lane, obeying one-way signs, etc.. The only safe way to ride the streets is with one rule, "don't get hit". You will learn that breaking all the rules is the best way to "not get hit". For example running red lights allows you to ride on an empty road until the other cars get a green and catch up, if they can. You should also make war with black limo side mirrors. I ride a full suspension for single track now but a few months ago I descended with the back suspension locked out. As I was ranting about what a sweet ride the full suspension had just given me I realized it was locked out. So who really needs full suspension? Don't even think about a hybrid bike though. You need something that can jump curbs. One rider rides a hard tail with street tires on week days for commuting and changes to fat tires for single track type weekend riding. That's a good option. For me, I've concluded that fat tires 2.4"+, a good 5"+ travel front fork and disc brakes (of any manufacture or type) are the key to a happy single track ride.

Q. Where are the Seoul City Bike paths? [TOP]
A. < NO ANSWER GIVEN >

Q. What kind of bike shops and bike equipment are there in Seoul or Korea? [TOP]
A. Thankfully things have improved drastically for the MTB scene and there is now a multitude of shops and gear. See Bike Shops. Some gear and especially bikes, forks and bike frames are generally more expensive than say in the US but other stuff such as Shimano componentry is cheaper.

Q. How do I get to Achasan? Namhansanseong? [TOP]
A. View the Bike Trails section of this site.

Q. How do I find more specific information on trails in these areas? [TOP]
A. Talk to the boys and girls on the MTBK and FF message boards. Be polite, introduce yourself and all that information will be answered. Please keep in mind we have shown a lot of visitors and travelers the trails we have found and made. Solid appreciation via gas money, humor, or cold sexy wonderful beer is a good idea.

Q. Do you provide guides, rent bikes or provide vehicles? [TOP]
A. If you're here for only a short time then you may require an actual guide for half day, full day or two day hikes or bikes around Seoul or outside Seoul to some of the beautiful areas. A guide can be arranged, a trip customized and priced, your reasonable requests met, your adventure-oriented satisfaction assured.

Just contact Kevin Silverson (info@koreamtbadventures.com), or visit the Korea MTB Adventures website for more information.

Q. What should I take with me, what should I remember when riding? [TOP]
A. Water, food, windproof jacket, a map, a Korean phrasebook, a friend or two, money, a brain, patience, a sense of humour. You should always be self-sufficient and be able to do all the standard "on the trail" repairs to a bike. If you can't you need a guide. Please contact Brett Bowie.

Q. How should I bring my bike over there? [TOP]
A. Bring it with you on the plane, so you can start riding immediately. By treaty, transoceanic flights must accept your bike as a normal checked piece of luggage with no surcharge. In 20 something flights into or out of Korea, I've had no problems with the bikes. You can use a cardboard box (Cannondale boxes are strong as hell), a hardshell flight case, or my new favorite method: two plain old sturdy suitcases with your full suspension frame disassembled in two halves. No airline or customs hassles.

Q. Will customs hassle me when I arrive with a bike? [TOP]
A. Nah. If it's a concern, make sure the bike looks obviously used when you arrive. No one I know of has ever had a problem getting hassled by Korean customs because of a bike. If you aren't US military and have to have expensive bike parts sent over through the Korean post, you may have to fight to avoid the charges. Last I heard, there's a 20% customs tax, but it really depends on who you talk to and what the claimed value is on the package (US$50 seems to be the magic number). I got out of the last one when I received a SID fork as a gift, by talking to the lowest-level guy I could find, but it was a hassle. Do your shopping abroad if you can and carry it in.

Q. What do you know about the riding in Taejon, Pusan, etc? [TOP]
A. Not much. You'll have to explore on your own, then write up some trail guides for this site. Please. Hook up with locals, but be prepared to explore on your own to find the gems and the steeps.

Q. What's the racing scene and overall riding culture like? [TOP]
A. It's definitely growing and attitudes are changing and becoming a little more relaxed and fun focused. The races cost about US$8-15 and include lunch. XC courses are improving but are still too short and too easy. Same complaint worldwide of the dumbing-down of XC courses. For DH and DS and other jumping arts, see my article on the issue. Trials has some practitioners, and even some competitions, but the obstacles are nowhere near as advanced as you might see elsewhere. Almost all racers are part of some team/club, and all of these are based out of bike shops. So if you want to race, have raced before, then it'll be much easier if you hook up with a shop. You'll probably be enthusiastically welcomed, especially if you make some effort to learn the language and eat kimchi. There is little grassroots racing. There are some informal underground DH events. There are a few informal enduro events. There are few festivals (except for a two-day underground event that Bee, Jeffro and myself organized in May 1999, which attracted 65 riders who each paid 70 US cents) although this also seems to be changing. There are no trail maintenance parties except by the Filthies. There are no trails designed and cut by cyclists except by the Filthies (but there are lots of opportunities). There is little freeride culture (or whatever you want to call it) but, once again, this is changing. Almost no one rides off-road at night, although this is changing. There are no singlespeeds. A growing number of Koreans commute by bicycle or rollerblade along the aforementioned bike paths. There are small groups of BMX riders, but there don't seem to be many BMX tracks we know of. The riders tend to do urban riding or do skate parks of which there are several. The upside of all this is that if you're motivated, you can create some events and introduce some bike cultcha. We've been toying with holding a grassroots DH series, but can't seem to get it off the blackboard stage. There are some great possible coursings around Seoul for such a series.

Q. Are there any easy trails? [TOP]
A. Despite our rhetoric, easy singletrack does exist here and there. Namhan Sansung's Honeybee (intermediate) and Supercrunch (beginner), Sinwolsan, Surisan, near World cup Stadium, Pundang are just some of a growing XC network. There is little signage though. Umyon-san, in south-central Seoul is the easiest overall trail network--classic meandering singletrack through the trees with a few steeps. Of course, there are dirt roads to ride. Phoenix Park ski resort has one nice, meandering 4.5 km singletrack descent that's gondola served; 10,000 won all day, but you have to ask nicely.

Q. Are there hiker/biker conflicts? [TOP]
A. Nope. But this is changing slightly. PLEASE respect the hikers. In fact, you'll be cheered as you pass by going uphill or down. The downside is that on many trails, there are a lot of hikers. But no horses. Despite appearances, there are places to go to escape the Sunday crowds. Many hikers aren't used to seeing bikes, so their surprise might limit their reaction times, so be prepared to stop if you have to.

Q. What's the weather like in Korea? [TOP]
A. Temperate. Summer is hot like the southern US, from June to mid September, with 5 or 6 weeks of heavy rain in July-August, which is when Korea receives about 80% of its yearly rainfall. Fall is fairly short and then it gets cold but dry until mid December, when it gets really cold. Then it gets colder in January. You may not be able to ride if the mountains freeze over, but there may be week-long stretches where the ice has melted and the trails are clear enough to ride. By mid February you can ride as much as you want again, but it's still really cold. By April, you no longer have to wear plastic bags in your shoes or bring ski gloves. Spring is relatively dry, but there can be up to 3 days of consecutive rain. The best riding months are May and October, which you simply shouldn't miss. Make yourself free during those times.

Q. Are there any special concerns female cyclists might have? [TOP]
A. I've met only a handful of Korean women who ride, if that's an issue for you. If you're a serious mountain bike grrrl then you probably won't have any problem keeping up with anybody. If you're into recreational meanderings in the woods for a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon, that can be accommodated too. Just watch out for road traffic.

Q. Why did we create this site? [TOP]
A. Steve and I met back in May 1997. He'd been here for a year and getting very frustrated. Together with Jeffro and a few revolving others we Filthy Three rode, mapped, discovered, and had a hell of a lot of fun doing what we loved. Steve, being the more technically savvy of the three of us (read serious geek) decided to create the first site. However when he finally escaped the Kimchi shores around 2002 I was kinda left to look after things. Freeriding was radically altering how we rode, the growth in Korea was huge and still is, and the old site needed serious upgrading. So, after a trip to Taiwan to ride with some expats there, I hooked up with the guy who designed the FFTA site and tadah - here you have it. The new MTBK adventure site aimed at continuing to serve as a base for bike-oriented adventure seekers wanting to come to Korea. Between Stifford and myself we know most of the trails and options in and around Seoul, have named a bunch of them. Until we did all this there was no resource in any language on local trails. Even local riders didn't know about the trails across town. In our time in Korea, we've developed an intricate knowledge of almost all the local trails, have even done first descents of many trails, and we're still finding more. Because there is still no comprehensive published source in Korean or English on trail riding opportunities (02/2001), we wanted to leave something for future riders and try to contribute in a remedial way to bike culture here. Both Stiffboy and myself hope like hell we help Korea avoid some of the problems the real world has faced with trail closures and so on and that the the few remaining Seoul-based riding spots don't all become closed, become high-rises, roads, or amusement parks.

Q. What's our favorite riding areas? [TOP]
A. Acha-san and Namhansanseong. Achasan because it's where we learned how to really ride steeps and do drops, and where we came to appreciate body armor back in '95. And who can say no to Korean slickrock? There are at least 6 distinct descents and only one of them is easy (which is the only trail on which any of my riding buddies have ever been hurt bad--and he broke his wrist). Bonus points for it being right in the city, and the cool name: Acha means "oops" or "yikes," as in, "Acha! I shouldn't have tried that 2 meter huck onto that 50 degree granite sidehill." Access from Acha-san subway station.
Namhansanseong because of the shuttleability (is this an actual word?), and the very impressive array of trails and variety there. Also great fotress wall and great dongdongju ju (cloudy rice wine), pajon (Korean pancakes) farm-raised steamed duck. Yummy.
--Steve, 22 February 2001. Brett, updated 23 January 2005

Q. Can you recommend any resources for roadies? [TOP]
A. There are Korea roadies who go out. We see a few groups of them. I know the contact for one, Mr Chang, but ask me (Brett) to introduce you to him first. And there is one group of regular, keen foreign riders also. Talk to the MTBK members. In particular Tom, road cycling and Jerry (road touring). For good road touring information, please visit long-time Dutch expat Jan Bostra's excellent site on bike touring in Korea at http://bora.dacom.co.kr/~boonstra/korea/cycle.htm.

Q. What is some survival Korean I might need to know? [TOP]
A. (a big Filthy thanks to Steve "Stifford" Danyo for this list)

Talking about bicycles. You're in luck, young grasshopper. Most bicycle parts can be expressed with Koreanized English (Konglish) words, like "pump," which becomes "pompuh." Here are some others:

bicycle: ja-jon-go
bicycle shop: ja-jon-go ka-gae
handlebars: handle
stem: staem
cranks: crahnkuh
pedals: petal
chain: chain
wheel: pak-hwee
tire: tire
seatpost: post-uh
bottom bracket: beebee (this also means 'beeper')
tube: tyoob-uh
bearing: bearing (Korea makes fine and cheap bearings, by the way. Stock up.)
wrench: wrenchy
puncture: punk (no kidding)
brake: buraek-uh
suspension: suspension
derailleur: derailleur

"Where is X?": "X ga oh-dee ee-soy-yo?"
"Help me.": You'll never need to know this (Mowhahaha ... MoWAHahah)
hospital: byong-won
Gatorade: gatoraduh
"Let's go!" "Kaja!"
trail: deung-san-ro [note: there is no precise Korean word for trail. 'Narrow mountain way' or 'deung-san-ro' 'is as close as it gets, which can describe a dirt road in the mountains, or a backwoods singletrack. Use 'narrow mountain way' with caution. Sometimes Koreans use the word "course" or "corsuh" to talk about trails.]
beer: maekjoo
alcohol of any type: joo or suhl
mountain: san
this way: ee-jok
to the north: puk-jok
to the south: nam-jok
to the east: tong-jok
to the west: seo-jok
up: wee (-ae)
down: ah-rae
to the left: win-jok
to the right: orun-jok
straight ahead: cheek-chin
back, in the opposite direction: ban-dae-jok

You can use the following phrases to alert hikers to your presence. Korean hikers are generally very receptive to off-road cyclists, and are very impressed by the fact that bikes can negotiate the trails. There is little, if any, of the conflict found on US trails, despite huge numbers of trail users in Korea. There's a good chance you'll be the first mountain cyclist they've ever seen, and if you're not Korean, it's highly likely that you'll be the first non-Korean riding a trail that they've ever seen. This surprise sometimes produces a deer-in-the-headlights effect. Some hikers seem not to notice your alert no matter how polite or loud. In these situations you should just do as Korean mountain bikers do: pass them just like the buses and taxis drove past you on your way to the mountain. No really, you should just try to get their attention; most don't expect a bicycle to be on the trails, which tend toward the unrideable scale anyway. To wit:

"Coming through!" (very polite): "Shillye hamnida!" or "pee-kyo Ju-sae-yo"
"Hello." (polite): "Anyong hasaeyo."
"Watch out!" or "Careful!" (a little less polite): "Jo-shim-heyo!"
"It's broken." "Go-jang naseyo."
"I don't comprehend/understand." "Mol-ayo."
"I'm sorry." "Mee-an haeyo."
"Do you speak English?" "Yong-o mal haeyo?"
subway: ji-ha-chol
mountain spring (for fresh water) : yaksoo
water: mool
good: cho-ayo
bad: napayo
o.k.: kwen-chon-ayo
fast: bali
slow: chon-chon-hee

Q. How about track racing? [TOP]
A. Not exactly a FAQ, but track racing is cool! Take advantage of Seoul's status as a major metropolis and Olympic city. You've got at least two velodromes in the Seoul area; one at Uijongbu and one in Olympic Park. Whether they'll actually let you race or not is another story. Try checking in with the bike shop I mentioned above. Bring a translator. You can actually bet on the racers too. Forget the bloody horses mate ... Take a punt on a cyclist!!

Still have a question? Contact us.