Good day fellow ADVriders, This ride report is a little different from other ride reports on ADVrider. It is not the typical adventure ride along forest and mountain trails, mountain twisties or some of those adult watergames that many of us enjoy so much. It is neither involving hot Korean biker babes or siberian cuties nor is it a “family ride” or a “romantic” ride under the blossoming cherry trees with the wives. I get many PMs asking about motorcycling in Korea and especially related to the famous motorcycle test so I thought I summarize it in a ride report. Things are indeed a little complicated here. A Korean "heavy motorcycle licence" is required in order to drive anything over 125 cc (!) in Korea! A foreign motorcycle license is NOT valid. In order to get the Korean heavy motorcycle license you need to pass a practical riding test which actually is rather tricky. The tests are conducted at a limited number of official driver’s license offices of which we have one in Busan. The driver’s license offices are run by the police. In Busan the tests take place twice a week on either Tuesday mornings or Thursday afternoons. My colleague, “Changwon Easy Rider”, and myself enrolled online (well, we needed some help) to take the test since we wanted to ride powerful “heavy motorcycles” with a displacement in excess of 125 cc. 1st attempt After registering at the driver’s license office and presenting IDs to prove our identity all 50+ candidates gathered in the lecturing room and we were briefed about the test for some 30 minutes in Korean… We looked serious and nodded as a sign of understanding. Luckily one of the candidates spoke English and could give us a separate private lesson explaining the test. We had to pass the four sections of the test without touching the edge of the track and we were allowed to put down a feet only once. The edges of the tracks were prepared with hoses having some kind of electrical contacts making a loud horn signal as soon as a wheel or a foot touched the edge (hose). 1st section: 2 x 90 degrees corners 2nd section: S-curve 3rd section: “Slalom” 4th section: “Straight ahead” 1st section: 2 x 90 degrees corners 2nd section: S-curve 3rd section: “Slalom” 4th section: “Straight ahead” We were not allowed to make a test run but we could sit on the motorcycle to be used for the test, a Hyosung Mirage 250cc. Please note that I am sitting on the pillion seat on this photo. The policeman in charge drove through the track a couple of times to demonstrate how easy the test is. So it was time to gather outside and start doing the test. All of us were commanded to take place on the grand-stand and enjoy the show. The “order of appearance” was chosen by lottery and the comedy started. All in all 4 out of roughly 50 persons made the test. Of those who failed the test all failed in the 1st section with the 2 x 90 degrees curves. Including me. I do not even know what happened, just heard the horn and the test was over. After failing I was out and could not continue to practice sections 2 to 4. Just enrol for the next week test again. Changwon Easy Rider passed the test. He has years of experience navigating through the Changwon rush hour with his Daelim 125 cc. Preparation Start 1st section 2nd section 3rd section 4th section Test passed. Maybe “Iceman” or “Coolman” would be a more appropriate name for the Changwon Easy Rider. Here Changwon Easy Rider on his new Suzukawaha 800 cc cruiser. These videos on YouTube (not mine) maybe give you a better idea about the test: - A test failed in the first section (the 2 x 90 degrees turns). - A successful test passed in less than 50 seconds! - This one is unfair! The guy had the opportunity to make a practice run and did not even use a helmet! The police guys running the test on the countryside seem to be way too sloppy and do not take the test seriously! The track seems to be next to SPP Shipyard in Tongyeong or Goseoung. 2nd attempt I arrived some 5 minutes too late and they would not let me in to the test track. After insisting to talk to “Sajangnim” (the President of the office) they let me in. The Korean briefing was about to end when I arrived so I thought that I could just take the test again. But I could not. The guy in charge got really angry and started shouting at me in Korean. Did not understand so I called my assitant for instant translation. He did not take the phone but my assitant could translate that he was shouting that “I am breaking the law and that I have to leave immediately”… So I gave up and went to the office and registered for a test the next week again. Saw this sign in the office. 3rd attempt This time I arrived in a timely manner. I was however upset because of some job related issues and when I learned that I was to do the test as No. 1 I thought OK that’s it - Publicly humiliated once again. My heart was pounding and pumping adrenaline when I strapped on the helmet and started the Hyosung. I entered the first 90 degree bend of the first section and… No horn. What? I am not out! I have to continue! Second 90 degree bend I was about tipping inwards and I gave the Hyosung full throttle and stormed through the bend with my outer leg straight out to balance the bike. I managed the first section! I was even more excited and knew that it was now or never. I took a deep breath and entered the 2nd section, the S-curve. It is actually not difficult but due to my excitement I almost screwed it up. Again, I went through the second curve with a full throtlle and my outer leg straight out balancing the bike. Successful. The 3rd slalom section was easy. I got through the 4th section with the same technique as sections 1 and 2. I could not believe I did it. Luckily there was no rule against stretching out legs to keep the balance! I got my “heavy motorcycle license”! For all of you guys planning to ride a 125 cc+ bike in Korea you will need to take the test. In case you ride an insured bike without the aforementioned Korean "heavy motorcycle license" and somebody crashes into you (the others fault), you are in deep shit since you will have to absorb a part (how much is decided by police / judge / insurance...) of the damages although you are innocent! Want to buy a bike in Korea? You can march into the local BMW Motorrad dealer and buy a new beemer. The R 1200 GS Adventure costs 30 million Korean won new (25.000 USD)! Alternatively you buy second hand from the official beemer dealer or you surf for bargains on e.g. http://passo.co.kr/ (all in Korean of course!). Since foreign motorcycles are for “rich” Koreans only they fall in price quite quickly and a 5 year old bike (a 5-year old bike is not a status symbol anymore) can be found for a reasonable price (compared to the new price in Korea, of course). On the purchase price you will have to pay a significant amount in tax when you register the bike. I paid some 800.000 KWON (670 USD) for my 2nd hand 4-month old 2008 R 1200 GS Adventure. Finally there is no "all-risk" insurance for motorcycles. I.e. you crash your bike into a tree you get nothing. Bad luck. The insurance premiums are soaring and I currently pay 700.000 KWON (590 USD) a year for my 2008 1200 GS. Once you are through all this you can hit the road. Unfortunately as a motorcyclist you are treated as any messenger boy on his Daelim. The definition of "safety distance" is "the safe distance when not even a small Daewoo Matiz can squeeze in between yourself and the vehicle in front"! Out on the countryside the riding is fabulous, normally little or no traffic and the roads are great. Nice people and landscapes everywhere.