A guide to preparing you for the wind, rain, and sun in all four of Korea’s seasons.
Before you saddle up for the 633km ride, make sure you’re prepared for all eventualities. If you’re not a hardcore cyclist, you probably don’t want to ride in the rain and snow.
Check the forecast before you head out on an afternoon, day-long, or week-long trip. A quick Google search for “how’s the weather where I am” will suffice. You’ll get a pretty good reading for the weather in Korea.
Legend has it that the rain in Korea makes your hair fall out. I’ve cycled in wind, rain, and sun. I still have a full head of hair. I’m skeptical about this one.
But, it’s important to check the weather in Korea before starting out. You definitely don’t want to be caught out by the rain half-way through your ride.
South Korea Climate:
Bring appropriate clothing. Korea has four distinct seasons.
Winter: (December — February)
The South Korean climate in winter is dry and brutally cold. I think January is the coldest month. Make sure you are bundled up and don’t forget those gloves! You can’t hide the fingers from the wind when you’re gripping the handlebars. I learnt the hard way. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.
Snow falls over Korea, except for the southeast. Bike paths can build layers of ice and snow. They salted or plowed like normal roads. Be extra vigilant when you ride.
Spring: (March – May)
The climate in South Korea changes dramatically in spring and it arrives from March until May. This season is the best time to catch cherry blossoms in Korea. White peddles emerge and sprinkle the path. The blossoms begin in Jeju around the end of March. They gradually make their way north up until mid-April.
During the spring months, Korea has been dealing with high air pollution. It has become a national problem. A combination of Chinese factories relocated to the coast and Korea’s coal and manufacturing industries, the government is working to correct the problem.
It’s no fun cycling in fine dust. With long exposure, the health effects can cause have long term complications. Download an app to keep tabs on the air quality. I check apps such as Plume Air Report regularly before and during my rides.
Face masks which specialize in filtering particle matter (PM2) can be bought at drug stores (약국) for 3,000 KRW. Wear them when the pollution is high. Moreover, try and make sure the mask is higher than KF94.
Summer: (June — August)
If you’re cycling at the end of spring and into the summer, wear sunscreen. A pleasant early-May ride left my arms red and raw after half a day. The sun can be deceptively strong. In fact, wear strong sunscreen…all year round.
Unlike swimming, you’ll be cycling all day with exposed arms, face, and legs. Cool winds can make you forget about the sun’s radiation. I use Neiva Sun, Kids, Swim and Play sun lotion. It’s around SPF-50 plus. The sun lotion doesn’t drip into your eyes when you sweat.
Summer monsoon rains come at the end of June and last until mid-to-late July. Typhoons can also cross over Japan to Korea in August and September. Keep in mind these months in mind when setting up your ride.
The summer months which run from June until August can get ridiculously hot. Be extra careful about water. Stay hydrated. Take breaks. It’s easy to get heat stroke and succumb to dehydration. You are never too far away from a city, but it can take a while to get to a hospital.
There might also be insects flying around. Some insect repellent and sunglasses won’t go a miss. Be careful not to ride over the snakes too.
Autumn: (September — November)
Autumn is just perfect. This season is my favorite time to ride. The south Korea climate in September to November is generally cooler and dryer. Ample sunshine keeps you warm in the daytime. You can witness the spectacular beauty of harvest and changing leaves.