Last week, I had the honor of riding with the Seoul, Korea muni team, and it surpassed all expectations. The adventure started when I exchanged an email with Seo Sang Man (aka “George”), a local leader in the unicycle community and, incidentally, the owner of Unicycle.com/Asia. But without a mobile phone or regular internet access out there, I ended up missing my first chance of a group ride. Fortunately, Sang Man was able to organize another ride on my last weekend in town. He said a couple others might show up, so I was expecting a small group of three. He also said it would be a really easy ride, which I took to mean smooth surfaces and a gentle grade. This thought didn’t bother me since I was just excited to see some nature and meet a couple muni brethren.
When the day arrived, Sang Man drove me to a local mountain called Borak San. We were to do an out-and-back. When we got to the base, we were greeted by not one or two, but eight other riders! And not one of them spoke a lick of English, which added to the fun since I don’t speak a lick of Korean! They quickly provided me with everything I needed for the ride, including helmet, gloves, shin guards, and my very own shiny KH muni!
The ascent began. The surroundings were lush. Tons of trees. The trail was wide enough for two riders. Almost immediately, the trail became way too steep to ride up. I guess they haven’t heard of switch backs in Korea Then came a long train of wooden “railroad ties” with a variety of different shapes, sizes, and heights. I was starting to wonder if this was the “really easy” trail that Sang Man warned me about. As we got higher, things only got more interesting, with jagged baby head rocks and a few larger but still rideable boulders. When we got to the top, finally I understood what he meant by easy: the ascent wasn’t more than a mile or so… but there was a web of different trails coming down from the peak. In other words, what Borak San had to offer was steep and fairly technical trails with beautiful scenery but without an epic hike… what more could I ask!
When we made our first descent, I had a lot of fun with the wooden ties. These additions proved to litter the entire trail, providing innumerable opportunities for poppy rolling hops, skinny practice, and precision side hops. But the most fun came from the riders. At first, I was nervous that we couldn’t communicate, but it became clear that we were able to communicate pretty darn well, simply because we all spoke the language of muni! We got excited and impressed by the same lines, we egged each other on, complimented and teased each other, and exchanged advise, just like I do with my English-speaking gang at home. The only surprising difference was their intrigue when they saw the strange hose contraption on my back which I naively assumed would be immediately identified as a CamelBak.
After descending a few lines and getting effectively tuckered out, we walked down the street to a nearby traditional restaurant. The guys ordered a bunch of amazing food for the table including a delicious alcoholic rice drink called Makgeolli (be careful, it doesn’t taste very alcoholic), and didn’t let me pay a single won. It was an all-around excellent experience. I only wish there existed an accurate translator that could be integrated into unicyclist.com so that my new friends could be a closer part of our forum community.
Thanks, San Man and the Seoul Muni Team! Here are a few photos from the ride…