I’ve always been a map guy, whether it be paper or computer. Staring at them for hours memorizing road numbers and town names. So ever since bought a bike in 2007 and started riding in Korea (off the Han River) I have been the guy that comes up with a route. I am the one out front leading the way, taking the credit for a fantastic choice of roads or the blame when an after noon is spent going up the wrong way. How wrong might be a simple left instead of right, or like the time in China when we went 20km up a mountain to 1700m only to find that the road ended and the only way down was the way we came.
Unlike China where all we had was a provincial map in Chinese with roads that either weren’t mapped, Korea is the land of everything digital making it much easier to plan an interesting route in advance, whether it be a short day ride or multi-day all over the country. To best explain my thought process I am documenting step-by-step as I plan this weekends in Gangwondo (???) near the city of Gangneung (???).
My Tool Set.
- Google Maps (http://maps.google.com)
- Naver Maps (http://maps.naver.com) or Daum (http://local.daum.net/map/index.jsp)
- A simple GPS unit that can import a gpx file or a smart phone
- A few evening hours of free time
- 1.5 liters of Coca-Cola
Note : I have a couple of extra tools implemented on my google maps account. Distance Measure Tool, Drag ‘n’ Zoom, and Smart Zoom. You can enable these tools by clicking on the settings menu at the top right of the screen and choosing ‘Google Labs.’
Where & How Far?
First I mark my starting point of the ride, in this case the MGM Hotel on the beach in Gangneung. Then after zooming in and out more times than I can remember and switching between maps and terrain, view I use the Google Labs ‘Distance Measure Tool’ found at the bottom left corner of the map (if enabled), to guesstimate a rough route based on what I think the ride length should be, in this case about 100-120km.
Why use the ‘Distance Tool’?
It’s fast and easy to reset, plus it doesn’t involve saving or deleting lines on the map.
When looking at roads on the map I try to choose ones that would most likely have less traffic. National roads (Blue Oval with white number) are obviously going to be busier (but not always) than Secondary Roads (Yellow Rectangle usually with a 3-digit number).
There is a trade off between the types of roads. If you are looking to cover a lot of kilometers in a day, National roads generally have better gradients especially in the middle of the country, a lot of them are dual carriage, and there is more often than not a shoulder to ride on. Secondary (I call them “yellow roads”) often have steep gradients, are winding, and go over the top of mountains instead of through tunnels, but they are the best for an adventure and seeing what I call ‘the real Korea.’ I should also mention at this point that even though a road is marked online as secondary it may in fact be dirt – you just never know, ask Skee and Suzie.
And those little white lined roads are more often than not, dirt or concrete, I LOVE THEM. They take you to little places you would never imagine seeing and are great to chuck as a detour. More on that in Part 2 – “Creating a Basic Map”, where I will be getting down to details.