Words by Chris Hereford. Customer since 2017.
Chris is wearing The BIB Bibshort.
A job offer brought me to Songtan, South Korea, in April 2016. I had researched bike riding here from the time I heard I may be moving. Cycling sounded great! After waiting a month for my bikes to get here, I walked the city streets, researched popular routes, and waited impatiently. After a few months on the bike, I realized this was a bicycle country! And my road miles quickly overshadowed my offroad miles.
The first few months I was here, I heard about the Incheon to Busan ride, approximately 360 miles, formally called The 4 Rivers Trail. In my warped, but creative, mind, I thought riding straight thru, nonstop, sounded like the best plan. I have a tendency to take a normal ride and turn it into an adventure. Most people take 3 to 5 days for this amazing scenic ride, with hotel rooms and restaurants. The route has about 8000 ft of elevation gain, although most of it follows the two big rivers, Hangang and Nakdong, for a most of the miles.
My goal was 24 hours total elapsed time, and solo, riding a single speed bike. There are rumors of a few people doing this route in under 24 hours, but they include support vehicles, drafting groups, and alternate faster routes than the traditional route along the rivers, and they were riding normal geared bikes, which allow a higher cruising speed. As I was researching the most popular routing, I realized not everyone followed the same exact route. With the heatmaps feature on STRAVA, I could better see the most popular routing. Next was to draw the route for my gps and create a cue sheet with all the refuel stops I needed.
This route is beautiful! So much to see, from local and national culture to the natural beauty of the rivers, mountains, and flowers, and other growth along the route. Most of the riding is on multi-use paths, an overwhelming construction project a few years ago! In addition to the paths, there's a near continuous blue stripe painted on the streets and roads during gaps in the paths. With the path, the striping, and the many signs pointing the way, it is possible to complete the route without a GPS, but I trust my ability to monitor the gps more than the attention needed to follow the signs and stripes.
I first completed the route in 2017, in 32 hours, and in 2019 in 34 hours. I unsuccessfully tried the route in 2016 and 2018. In 2016 I was not solo, and we did not do enough homework; in 2018, a medical issue came up painfully a few days before starting and kept me from finishing.
Although there is so much to see along the route, my favorite time is riding through the night, watching the sun set and then rise, all while pedaling! The magic of night riding is lost on many cyclists, I’ve always felt a sense of an alternate environment at night, like being under water or maybe like being in space, it’s not where we are supposed to be, based on our physiology. And I’ve always been scared of the dark, but I somehow can ride and run in the dark.
Although wildlife in South Korea doesn’t get a lot of mention, there's a potential for seeing an assortment on this route - deer, raccoon dogs, many species of birds, and my favorite- the wild boar. Well, not my favorite at all, but the one I saw provided an experience I'll never forget.
Sometime around 0200 on the 2017 ride, I was cruising a twisty road stretch in the forest. I was wide awake, pedaling, and suddenly, I heard what must have been a truck driving through the uncut forest, crashing sounds like trees being pushed over! This was just ahead on the left, I slowed, waiting for a vehicle to emerge. IT WAS A HUGE WILD BOAR! Maybe 150 pounds!
I had been warned about these, but most of my Korean friends said I'd see these while mountain biking or running on the trails, not on the roads. They also said the boar would chase humans and eat me! Chase humans? EAT HUMANS? I had not prepared for being eaten!
The massive 200-pound creature landed in the road about 10 yards ahead of me, looked around, saw me, and started running away, down the road, same direction I was traveling. I was relieved! I was hearing the CLOP CLOP CLOP as its feet were hitting the pavement. Looked like we were both scared. I started pedaling again.
As I was accelerating, the 300-pound beast was weaving the road, looking for an exit, I was hoping; the forest and undergrowth was very thick. CLOP CLOP CLOP, it was accelerating, I was accelerating, and it dove into the trees on the right. Whew! Crashing, pounding, taking out the forest like a bulldozer at high speed!
But, do I sprint or wait to see if it comes back out? I chose sprint! I'm cranking, standing and spinning, when I start hearing CLOP CLOP CLOP and it is accelerating and sounds like it’s right behind me! How did it catch me so quick? With my headlight mounted to the handlebar, I can't see anything behind me without stopping and turning the bike, TOO RISKY! I look back, can’t see a thing. I'm freaking out, this 400-pound terror is catching me! CLOP CLOP CLOP! All I can squeeze out of my mouth is a week "EHHHH" wavering sound, more like crying than screaming. If anyone had heard this, they would have been laughing!
And then, as I adjust my position to become more aerodynamic and increase my speed, the CLOP CLOP CLOP sound changes. I realised it was my nylon jacket, it began flapping in the breeze, as I sprinted past the point where the Kraken jumped into the trees. Accelerating, increased the frequency of the clopping, sounding just like the boar increasing speed. I wanted to stop and relax and laugh, but I could not stop that close to that horror show experience. I was finally able to relax after sunrise, when all of us people scared of the dark can come out again. After this experience, I’ve always been prepared for the next wild boar experience, and maybe I imagine hearing and seeing them now.
I got my first pair of RedWhite bibs just in time for my September 2017 ride. They were amazing! And I’ve worn this same pair for many many miles, including on this route in 2019. The padding was very appreciated on these long rides. And the chamois has not compressed to nothing during that ride or other long efforts, maintaining the thickness and comfort. The lycra body of the bibs has not loosened or sagged, the shoulder straps still support the secure fit and maintain snugness in the right places. The front of the short is low enough for nature breaks for me, (male), with no loss of stretching or support over the miles.
These are the only bibs I've ever had that provided a cupped shape in the front, very comfortable for me! Don’t need to do the bib dance to get things right! With many miles of just cranking flat paths, the chamois gets a lot of uninterrupted action, and these take care of those areas very well!
The ride was great, both times. My stops consisted of convenience stores on or near the route. With about 20 of these stops, sitting for a few minutes, I never felt discomfort getting back on the bike seat. Would I buy these again? Yes! And I did buy another pair!
I’ve worn maybe 10 to 15 other brands of bib shorts, but these are by far the most comfortable, and very reasonably priced! The difference in the minor details add up to a fully capable and leading design. I may never know how many miles it takes to kill these shorts, but I'm smiling while trying! Thanks for making these bibs for me!
Yup. Night riding really is pretty special…doing a 600km brevet last year and the route you mentioned from Seoul to Busan in one push (on my geared bike 😅) I appreciate that weird feeling of being out of place, but in the moment. Great writing bro!