Two-wheeled fun along the river’s edge

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Two-wheeled fun along the river’s edge

“When I was young, at daybreak I would always take a walk to the uppermost reaches of a nearby river. Now that I’m older, I’m drawn to the lower stretch, where the river flows into the sea. I want to bike to the mouth of the river, the very end! A new source of philosophy might be found there, and we might no longer need ‘Meng-tzu’ (by the Chinese philosopher Mencius).”
-- from Kim Hun’s “Biking”)

On the riverfront path behind the Misari Boat Race Course, a family is bicycling together. A young girl sits on the back seat of a tandem while, up front, her father pedals away, managing to keep a smile on his face. Freed from having to exert herself, the girl waves to her mother and two brothers, who are trying to catch up from behind.
Bicycling along the Han River? It’s a lot more fun than it might sound.
The JoongAng Ilbo’s reporting team met up with Kim Hong-suk, guru of the Biker’s Heaven Web site, with an eye to poking around the river.
It seemed the wiser choice to ride along a section of the Han than to drive to some faraway spot, only to end up surrounded by crowds anyway (and stuck in heavy traffic on the way back, to boot). Quiet paths, the waterfront’s cooling breeze and a taste of nature are all there waiting for you, in the middle of the city. Here are four suggested paths, one on each bank. And remember: here along the river, cyclists ride on the right side.

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1. Gangbukseoro (north bank’s west path): From Gayang bridge to Wonhyo bridge, about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), or 40 minutes’ riding time each way.

General information
Offering a stretch of riverfront largely free of debris, this course remains uncrowded even on weekends. The section from Gayang bridge to Hongjecheon bridge in particular is known for its “country road” atmosphere. The city paved this path with hard soil, which is more environmentally friendly than asphalt. At the end of this dirt road, near Nanjicheon Park, one comes upon a small, manmade pond alive with frogs, ducks and other wild critters.

Photo ops and rest stops
Try Noeul, Haneul and Nanjicheon parks, and the protected Bamseom islet, a birders’ paradise. You can best observe avian activity on the islet from the north end of the Seogang bridge, where views of the National Assembly building and Yeouido Full Gospel Church can also be had. The Jeoldusan Martyrs’ Museum near Dangsan railroad bridge, a willow tree grove and the water level observatory between Mapo and Wonhyo bridges (it resembles a small lighthouse) are worth seeing.

Keep in mind....
Bike accidents are frequent where this path crosses the Hongje stream bike path, because there is a wall facing the stream that obstructs cyclists’ fields of vision.

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2. Gangbukdongno (north bank’s east path): From Wonhyo bridge to Jamsil bridge, about 15 km or 70 minutes’ riding time each way.

General information
Since this path is not fully paved, it usually attracts fewer people. Those who venture off-road here can pick up some speed without much worry.

Photo ops and rest stops
There’s a large, nicely decorated garden in the Ichon section, as well as a replica of the 16th-century warship Geobukseon Naruteo, which contains an exhibit of items left by Admiral Yi Sun-shin. (Entrance fee is 1,000 won or 85 cents for adults, 700 won for teens and 300 won for children).
Take it slow and easy and do some people watching. You can take a break with the anglers at the Jamsil dike, a spot known for its fishing. The Ttukseom section offers a cornucopia of water sports, including waterskiing and windsurfing, and good pictures of these sportsmen can be readily had, with the right lens.

Keep in mind...
A keen eye is necessary, especially in the early morning or late afternoon hours when sunlight is scarce, since the path still contains a number of spots under construction. Hard cement areas and unpaved spots are found from Oksu Station to Seongsu bridge, and rough patches will also be encountered from Oksu Station to Ttukseom.

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3. Gangnamseoro (south bank’s west path): From Haengju bridge to Yeouido Park, about 13 km or 1 hour’s riding time each way.

General information
The path is mostly flat and straight, which makes it a safe place for young children to pick up some speed. Paving was recently completed on this section.

Photo ops and rest stops
A number of interesting attractions are to be found around the Yanghwa ferry dock. Not to be missed is the World Cup Fountain, which spurts water 200 meters high from 2 p.m. to dusk on weekdays and noon to sundown on weekends. Seonyudo Park, which has been transformed from an eyesore of a water treatment plant into a botanical garden, is another worthwhile stopover. Gangseo Park, a splotch of wetlands centered around the north end of the Banghwa bridge (which is the western end of the path), is known to harbor many animal and insect species.

Keep in mind...
The section from Yanghwa bridge to Haengju bridge has no noteworthy rest stops or sights of interest, though you can certainly pull over for a breather. To cope with the heat and avoid sunburn, wear a bicycle helmet with a visor, and bring a full water bottle. Since neither bicycling nor inline skating is allowed at Seonyudo Park, bikes should be locked to the racks near Gureumdari footbridge at the park entrance.

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4. Gangnamdongno (south bank’s east path): From Yeouido island to Hangang Park Jamsil Area, 17 km or about 80 minutes each way.

General information
If you’re itching to speed on a path that’s broad, flat and straight, head to Yeouido on a weekday, when it’s less crowded. With the LG Outdoor Stage as the focal point, a comfortable 8- to 10-meter-wide path extends 1.5 kilometers in each direction. For 1 kilometer east of the Banpo bridge you can ride another path that’s more than 8 meters wide.

Photo ops and rest stops
In the vicinity of the Yeouido Full Gospel Church is an attractive flower garden. Under the Mapo bridge, you can ride a bike path to Yeouido Park. And if you pedal east from the Banpo bridge, you will find an artificial islet that’s the province of a sizeable duck population. A small park in the Jamwon section is a good place to stop and smell the flowers. Those exiting the path to the Hanyang apartment blocks in Apgujeong-dong will see some interesting graffiti.

Keep in mind....
This stretch is the most popular on the Han, and that means one thing: a greater chance of collision between bikers and/or inline skaters. The 1-kilometer stretch from the Hangang railroad bridge to the Noryang bridge area is considered the most dangerous section along the Han. It is less than 4 meters wide, with many hills and sharp curves.


by Pyo Jae-yong, Choi Min-woo
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