A guide to the gear you should bring with you while cycling across Korea.
You don’t want to lug an extra third of your body weight when cycling six-hundred and sixty kilometers (410 mi) across Korea. However, you don’t want to find yourself on a mountain with a flat tire and nothing but your two hands.
Fear not! We’re here to lighten your load. Here’s a list of the essential tools to bring while cycling across Korea.
Let’s get started.
- hex wrench set
- inner tubes
- portable air pump
- batteries for your phone and lights
- bike lights
- first aid
- water & snacks
- bike lock
Eighty-plus percent of bolts on your bike use some size of hex wrench (Allen key). These are the same six-sided screwdrivers Ikea gives you to build their bookshelves.
If you have a brake problem, need to adjust your seat, or tighten or loosen anything on your bike, you’ll probably need either a 4mm, 5mm, or 6mm size hex wrench.
What is a multi-tool? Think Swiss Army knife. But, we’re not talking about your wine-opening, cheese cracker spreading thingamajig you got for your seventh birthday. We suggest a hardier version.
Look for a multi-tool with pliers, slot and Phillips-head screwdrivers, and a tool with a sharp edge. Everything else is
A flat tire is the ultimate biking party-pooper. However, if you bring the right gear, changing a flat is super simple. (Tubeless tires are another story.)
First things first, you need an inner tube.
Because tires come in all shapes in sizes, inner tubes do too. However, inner tubes expand to fill the space between your tire and the rim of your wheel. That means inner tubes more or less conform to your tire.
Therefore, every inner tube has a range. For example, a typical inner tube for a road bike might say 700c x 18-25mm. The 700c (700mm) refers to the diameter of the wheel. 18-25mm is the width of the tire.
If your wheel is 700mm in diameter with 23mm tire installed, the above tube fits like a glove. Check the side of your tire for the exact size.
Tire, Tube, & Wheel
Tire, tube, and wheel may be interchangeable in the layman world. But, they have specific meanings in the bike world.
Tire (tyre) refers to the rubber that meets the road. The inner tube is the tube stuck between the tire and wheel. This is the part inflated with air. The wheel is all of the metal parts: the spokes, hub, and rim.
Read more on how to change a flat tire here.
What good’s a new tube without air? Bring a portable bike pump.
There are more varieties than stars in the sky. Usually, portable pumps are around
Get a pump with a solid feel. Forcing tons of air into a tire can crack plastic doohickeys on bottom-bin pumps.
Pressure gauges on portable pumps are a nice feature. But, sometimes they aren’t accurate. Just pinch with your fingers. Or, lean on the handlebars. If your tire pancakes on the ground, put some air in. If it feels like stone, let some air out.
Many portable pumps have both connections. But, double check. Imagine you’re on the side of the road with a flat. Speeding cars zoom passed. Your tubes are Presta. Your pump only has a Schrader valve connection.
You’re phone’s dead. You can’t find where to eat, where to sleep, or where you are on a map.
Bring extra power.
You won’t be scrolling the Gram all day. You’ll be gripping handlebars for the majority.
However, your phone might drain quicker than you think. You’ll be taking pictures, checking the map, running a cycling tracking app in the background.
If your phone has a 3,000 mAh battery, double that with a 6,000 mAh external battery. Round that up to 10,000 mAh for good measure.
Legend has that when night falls two tons of nightmare metal roam the roads of Korea. They’ll creep up on you at unnatural speeds and force you into the bushes.
A front light with some real power (500+ lumens) will help light up dark paths. If you’re stuck on a rural farm road, a fading headlight won’t spot that fallen limb across the path.
In cities, set your lights to strobe. This will distinguish you from the many other traffic lights littering the streets.
Your brain is 1.3 kg (3 lbs) of tofu. Your skull protects it the best it can. But, It’s no match for an immovable slab of concrete at +20 km/h.
Helmets help. They aren’t the law in Korea. But, forget that! The only law you need to worry about is the law of physics.
Crashes happen. They aren’t fun. But, you can
If you flip over your handlebars or feel sore from yesterday, pop a few ibuprofens. Two of these suckers will blunt sharp jabs from the pain stick.
During the summer months, you’ll grip your handlebars from dawn to dusk. The sun will blast your exposed arms.
If you have fair skin, you need sunscreen. Slather layers of high SPF on any exposed patch of skin. Don’t risk a deep burn that will haunt you for hundreds of kilometers.
In case of cuts and abrasions, bring some band-aids. Small, adhesive strips are good for arms and legs. However, they’ll fall off on body parts in constant motion. Bring some gauze for knees and elbows.
WebMD doesn’t recommend applying peroxide or rubbing alcohol to fresh wounds. They’ll kill bacteria, but damage to raw tissue. They recommend cleaning with water.
Korea blames China for its yellow dust problem. They are half-right. The other half is coming from inside the house.
Water & Snacks
Let’s make a list of food to pack for your cycling trip across Korea.
*Maybe some snacks.
Bring water. Lots of water. If its winter, you’ll sweat into your layers. If it’s summer, you’ll drown your clothes.
Korea tucks convenience stores into every nook and cranny. So, you’ll never be too far away from sustenance. But, don’t risk the one-two punch of sun and heavy exercise.
Plus, if you get into a bloody confrontation with the road, water is the recommended method of cleaning the bacteria and grit out of wounds.
Bring snacks, too. Whatever your diet, it’s good to keep something to munch on. Protein bars, carb bars, nuts, or fruit. Hungry friends won’t judge if pull out a bag of gummy bears. Energy is energy.
Korea is a safe country. The crime rates are some of the lowest among industrialized nations. However, don’t risk leaving your bike unattended for a long time.
You don’t need a 2 kilogram (4 lbs) monster lock. A simple, but hearty cable combination lock is enough to deter.
If you really want to protect your bike gangs of bicycle thieves with welding torches, lock your bike to a thick pole with a U-lock. Then, wrap your wheels with a looped cable and slip it into the U-lock.
Whichever season you cycle, you’ll need the right clothes. You can go with shape-hugging cycling spandex. Or, you can go with civilian getup.
What to Pack
Pack for utility and weight. Don’t pack for a dinner party. Two to three sets of outer-layers should be enough for any cycling trip. However, bring a fresh pair of socks and underwear for each day.
If you’re worried about the stench, go to a local laundromat (빨래방) after your ride.
Clothes made for cyclists have advantages. They cut down on wind resistance. They strap down anything that can flap like a sail. Cycling shorts might have padding sewn into the crotch and butt.
However, you can make do with general exercise clothes. If you’re heading out in the summer, look for breathable layers. A hat or collar will keep the sun off your neck and face. Remember to slather anything exposed with sunscreen.
For colder months, wear light layers under a windbreaker. A
If you ride thirty seconds without gloves in winter, you will regret life choices. The wind will gnaw and tear at any exposed digits.
Beware of the hungry chain. It will gobble up any loose pant legs. Bring some ankle-hugging pants to stay out of your chain’s teeth.
We discuss more about clothing for the seasons in here.
Here’s a list of gear that isn’t essential, but could come in handy.
- chain breaker tool & quick links
- chain lube
- saddle cover
- saddle pack and panniers
- tire levers
- resealable plastic bags
- electrical tape
Chain Breaker & Quick Links
If you have a broken chain, you don’t need a full kit. You just need
We’ll discuss how to fix a broken chain here.
Also, you might want to bring chain oil or lubricant. This’ll keep your chain running smoothly throughout your trip.
If you use a dry lube, apply every 80-150 km (50-100 mi). On the 660 km trip across Korea, that’s four to eight applications. More if it’s raining or snowing.
We also discuss chain maintenance here.
A saddle cover (seat cushion) will add some forgiveness to a hard seat.
You can choose from endless shapes and padding levels. Look first for a saddle cover that holds firm to your seat. You don’t want to squirm all day trying to maneuver the cushion under your tailbone.
Saddle Pack and Panniers
A simple saddle pack
If you never remove the saddle pack from the bottom of your seat, you’ll always have tools with you.
For a detailed guide on how to pack for larger loads, check you this post from REI.
Tires fit snuggly over the rim of your wheel. So, you’ll often struggle to get a tire on and off with bare hands. A set of hard plastic tire levers make the job a lot easier when fixing a flat.
Never pry your tire off with a screwdriver or metal tool. You’ll damage the rim. Shards of metal might poke into the newly installed tube. You’ll soon be wondering why you’re getting a flat every fifteen minutes.
Water from heaven perpetuates the cycle of renewal on earth. It’ll also destroy your smartphone. No matter how sealed you think your bags are, rainwater will creep in and soak your cash and ruin important documents.
You never know when a small roll of electrical tape comes in handy. This versatile tape is strong, sticky, and somewhat waterproof. From holding things in place to wrapping a wound, you won’t know why you need until you need it.