In today’s fast-paced and competitive society, it is quite a challenge to keep in touch with people we cherish.
The rising popularity of bicycles has made bicycle clubs a potential solution for quenching our thirst for human affection by forming new relationships. Such clubs, which often offer a family-like atmosphere, come with the added benefit of staying fit and healthy at the same time.
Since riding in groups requires strong teamwork at times, especially on rough routes, it is often said to be one of the best activities for connecting people.
Members from “Happy Bike” warm up for a competition held in Busan last year. (Happy Bike)
Han Moo-hyun, 27, who takes part in a slew of bicycle clubs including “Tour De” and “Happy Bike,” finds pleasure in life by developing wide and diverse human relationships with club members and building unforgettable memories with adventures at new spots.
“Those who seek new pleasure with new people usually join bicycle clubs. Sharing experiences with people you’ve first met provides another type of delight in our busy life,” said Han.
Grouping with like-minded people, club members explore various bike routes, an act that can work as a breakthrough in their lives. The Hangang River and Mount Namsan in Seoul are commonly recommended routes, due to their paved roads where it is easy to ride a bike, even for novice cyclists.
According to Han, several clubs uses a particular convenient store located on the Hangang River as a meeting spot for many of their events that are held randomly.
Some clubs even move beyond bike routes in Korea.
“After carefully studying about the culture and language of the nation we are about to travel in, club members go on a cycling trip abroad for a month or two, during summer and winter vacations,” said Kim Seung-hyun, president of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies’ bicycle club.
Many expert cyclist seek out rougher trails, pushing one’s limit in search of more memorable experiences. Such routes include those near Mount Yumyeongsan, Mount Hwaaksan or in Misiryeong, Gangwon Province, all which offer rugged and steep paths.
Members also engage in cycling competitions for various purposes, such as to win a cash prize, for renown and honor, to feel a sense of accomplishment or to just with the motivation to stay fit.
An array of competitions, including the “Masters Cycling Tour” in Korea -- modeled on the international cycling championship “Tour De France” -- are periodically or occasionally held.
“Bicycle clubs belonging to universities usually participate in relatively less professional competitions such as the ‘Hi Seoul Bike Parade’ of ‘Pocari Sweat Blue Road Campaign,’” said Park Jae-sung, the president of a Seoul-based university’s bicycle club.
“We put more emphasis on cycling as a fun activity we can enjoy without much pressure,” he added.
What’s notable is that cycling clubs have changed from social gatherings to relatively well-organized social groups with professional members also joining the activity.
Recently, Olympic speed skating gold medalist Mo Tae-bum drew people’s attention by entering a competition that usually draws members of nonprofessional clubs.
Meanwhile, apparel and equipment are also a significant factor that cannot be left out when mentioning bicycle clubs.
“We usually prepare ours, but in some important cases we order group uniforms or get sponsored by a well-known company,” said Lee Sung-won, who is currently a member of a bicycle club named “Dossa.”
In order to facilitate the already saturated bicycle club scene in Korea, clubs are inclined to use social networking services as actively as possible. An app called “Strava” is worthy of notice. It is an optimized application for cyclists to share each other’s records and bike routes, and the app has gone viral.
Through additional applications, club members are able to build rapport with each other and forge a wide network among themselves.
Some say that since men and women mingle closely together, there is a high possibility of romantic relationships developing, which can be fatal if extramarital.
With bicycle clubs springing up everywhere, no one can deny that it provides a forum to form intimate human relationships in this fast-moving era.
By Kim Yu-jin (email@example.com