You ever have those days where you really need to do one huge task, but it’s so huge, that to feel a sense of accomplishment you do a similar, smaller task? This, readers, is one of those days. Soon, very soon, I’m going to regale you with a looong post on how to have an epic Seoul staycation as I did during Chuseok, but I really wanted to publish something this week, so I’m going with this shorter, though just as joyfully meaningful and informative story as the staycation post.
Indulge me as I tell you all about my new source of bliss when I’m in Seoul: renting a city bike and riding it along the Han River’s amazing paved paths. Read on …
Even though I’ve been in Korea a little more than a year I’m actually quite new at doing the city bike rental/riding on the Han thing. Early on, in researching how to take advantage of the great biking paths along the river, I think I got overwhelmed with all the options: Do I rent a bike from a bike shop? Find one of the handful of shops that rent bikes for free? Bring my own, huge, clunky leisure bike on the subway and find a spot to pedal? Or try the community bike option featuring the white and green bikes I’ve seen often (and enviously) from the Han River walking trails?
The latter option seemed the easiest way to dip my toe in this pool, so I Googled for info and came upon the Seoul Bike website. It is the mecca for all things community biking, and the best part is, it’s in English (as well as Chinese, Japanese and Korean)!
Seoul’s community bike program is called Ttareungyi — the sound a bike bell makes; get it? Say it again, you know you want to! — and at the website, you can do everything related to it but mount the dang bike! You can view a map to find every community bike stand in Seoul, see how many bikes are available at each rental spot, and, of course, reserve your bike with a credit card. You can also pay for your rental on the spot with a credit card, but I haven’t tried that option on the chance that my fairly temperamental Korean bank card somehow won’t work. Better safe than sorry!
Anyway, when you purchase a rental on the website, you get a voucher number that you simply dial into the bike’s key pad, which then releases the lock on the bike. And off you go! Helpful videos on the website walk you through every step.
A one-hour voucher costs only 1,000 won, and a two-hour voucher costs 2,000 won. Any overage is charged at a rate of 1,000 won per half-hour. When your ride is through, you can return the bike to any Ttareungyi station. On a recent bike ride, I cut things short a little early, fearing there’d be no more open spots for me to lock up my rental at the convenient bike stand nearest to my location. There was one last slot, so I didn’t have to execute what I thought would be Plan B: figuring out a route to the next nearest stand. Turns out I wouldn’t have had to: Even if all the slots are filled with other bikes, you can tether your bike to another, locked rental bike and be on your merry way. Brills!!
Additional thoughtful touches, besides the mostly well maintained paved trails include plenty of clean, well lit restrooms along the way, with spots to park your bike; elevators to biking-friendly bridges so you can cross the Han with your bike; and, OMG — lighting! This past weekend, I hardly noticed that the sun went down, because the trail illumination came up, so I biked well past sundown. Let’s call this a new chapter to my new obsession …
Where to Go, What to Do
Most recently, I got off at the Dangsan subway station where the Ttareungyi stand near exit 4 is riiiight near a tunnel leading to the Han River bike path — perfect! When the tunnel dead-ended, I turned left onto the bike path, which was humming with activity, and soon found a grassy spot for a quick picnic (next time, I’ll picnic THEN rent a bike so as not to run down the clock, haha). Picnicking followed by biking has become my new favorite pastime in Seoul — laying out my picnic mat, unpacking delectable goodies (and usually a beer), pumping a happy soundtrack in my ears and enjoying a nice meal while reading is all kinds of joyful. Ahhhhhh.
Back on my bike, I enjoyed this stretch of the river, called the Yanghwa Hangang Park. Views of the city are grand, as are the vistas of the mountains behind the skyline. Breathtaking. The main bike path soon forks off to a smaller, quieter, less populated path, called the Yeungdeungpo River Trail (below). The skyline was a bit less impressive, but I loved the solitude and the canopy of trees that soon enveloped me. Plus it seems none of what I call the elite bikers seemed to take this side route. The elites seem to follow the rules of the road, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t startled suddenly by a gaggle of them whizzing by me in a flurry!
In addition to Yanghwa park, I’ve also biked at Jamwon and Jamsil Hangang Parks, and I have to say the stretch of Jamwon that heads toward the Seongsu bridge was by far the most beautiful portion of the Han that I’ve biked. There’s plenty of skyline and natural scenery to gawk at to make for a super-enjoyable trek.
Wherever you go, I hope you take full advantage of Seoul’s city bike rentals and get out there, especially before winter hits full force! Happy cycling!