Kim Taehwan's ride
City riding gives me freedom, adventure and pleasure. If you walk through the city, you will experience different sounds and rhythms such as cars, bikes, and people. It feels like an unorganised orchestra. When riding, this becomes my rhythm and I feel a strange pleasure. I think now that when I look around the world, the most interesting city is Seoul. This is because it has all the colourful feelings I have experienced in many other cities. When I head for the city from the southern part of Seoul, I go through the middle of Namsan where I always pass through the city centre. Namdaemun, which is waiting at the end of the descent of Mt. Namsan, tells you that you are entering the old gate of Seoul. If you go along the Cheonggye Stream to the east after passing through the city hall, you will pass through countless hardware stores that have been used for more than half a century. The neighbourhood of Ehwa-dong street near Dongdaemun where the old castle in Seoul remains, is worth a visit too. As you pass through what used to be the eastern end of old Seoul, going through the old palaces of Chosun, such as Changgyeong Palace, Gyeongbok Palace, Gyeonghuigung Palace, and Deoksugung Palace, you can see an exciting skyline that mixes old with new.
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Riding in the city is a precious and intimate thing for me. Obviously the sensation of freedom and adventure is a big pleasure but there is a specific rhythm to each and every city around the world.
Riding in the city is sort of like playing music and you become a part of an unorganised orchestra. There are so many variables such as cars, pedestrians, taxis, buses, motorbikes, traffic lights. Each one has its own rhythm and when you find that sweet spot you feel as if you are one with the city.
I have visited and ridden in many different cities but Seoul is a unique place because it contains little bit of everything. It is not easy riding in the city of Seoul but it definitely is rewarding once you get the hang of it.
Though I was born in Seoul, I lived in the UK, USA and Canada for about 15 years, which is about half of my life as of now. Coming back home wasn’t as easy as I anticipated. In the far land of North America, everything is huge and far, and I never felt the lack of freedom. But when I started living in Seoul once again, the lack of freedom tortured me.
I started riding again in Seoul as a stress relief and for leisure on a fixed gear bike. The purity and simplicity of it helped me to appreciate the pleasure of riding and the beauty of the bicycle itself. When I first started riding in Seoul traffic it was more like a survival than an enjoyment. But gradually I got used to that ‘rhythm’ of the city and discovered a very special sensation of riding in the city: having absolute awareness of my surroundings.
When cycling became part of my life like this I wanted to take it to the next step. The logical next step was to add a road bike to my stable. I searched and found out that there was a forum for classic road bike riders. It was very fun, educative and addictive. Though the love for classic bicycles isn’t as big as in other countries, I’ve met some great friends through it and that’s where I found out about Rapha for the first time.
Watching the old Rapha Continental films was like an epiphany for me. It has broadened my visions and changed my values about cycling. Though I feel the competitiveness of the sport is still important for cycling; the community is what makes it so much more than just a sport.
Unlike other nations, Korea has very strong cultural standards for respecting older people. Even a one year age gap is taken quite seriously. So in a social aspect, it is challenging to feel close to those who are older than you compared to Europe and the US.
In the community of cycling, however, the gap vanishes. Everyone is well respected and taken seriously, no matter the age gap, as long as you show a passion for cycling.
Seoul as you might have heard, is an unbelievably fast-moving city in every aspect: economy, music, fashion, trends, etc. The trend for cycling has been growing at a tremendous pace for the past few years, but it still has a very long way to go to catch up with other countries where cycling is part of their everyday lives.
Whichever reason it is that people ride, the important thing is that they are all ‘cyclists’. An influential community like the Rapha Cycling Club can help all sorts of cyclists come together and share their values. It can also guide those who haven’t yet understood the essence of cycling.
I feel very overwhelmed and grateful to be living in the city of Seoul with a great group of cyclists whom I can call friends. In addition, the amazing thing about the RCC is that the connection and relation go beyond locally. I have been able to meet so many wonderful people around the world. I sincerely look forward to the future endeavours and adventures both on and off the saddle with other RCC members.