I miss you, little red bike...

One of my favourite shots of me and the bike. This was taken on a road through one of the tidal basins on the island.

I miss you, little red bike…

I’ve found myself really missing the motorcycle I had in Korea a lot lately.  I loved that bike, and I made it use every single one of its 150ccs (and even beat a Mercedes up a mountain once). Because nostalgia is a very visual thing for me, I’ve decided to compile some shots involving me and the bike (more below the cut):

New bike...

Brand new (to me). I quickly cut off the tassels on the grips and added a milk crate to the rack on the back.


The first day I had it, before it became covered in mud and rust for the rest of its life with me.


For scale. I'm only 5 feet tall, so it was really a perfect size for me.


Perfect fit. My legs were really at just the right angle, and I could touch both feet to the ground, without feeling like I was sitting close to the pavement.


Near the "tidal fishing experience" village on Jindo. I love this shot, because it's so quintessentially Jindo; overcast and green.


Taken at the beginning of winter. I hadn't started to wear my parka yet, or the ushanka I wore underneath my helmet later on.


Same day. Still rather bundled up, despite it only being probably October or November.

IMG 1178-1

Standing next to a defunct former post office in a traditional building. A lot of the traditional "hanok" buildings on Jindo are just sort of being left to rot, like this one. You can see the ushanka I wore underneath my helmet, sticking out around the edges. It not only made me warmer, but it made the helmet fit better.


This photo could pretty much sum up my experience on Jindo: motorcycles and a Jindo Gae puppy.


Me on the bike (it's on its kickstand). Amusingly enough, this was taken in the reflection from the window of a Jindo breeder.


Again, me with the bike, in the configuration it had for about 95% of the time I owned it. After a couple bad burns to my inner calf, I stopped wearing shorts when driving - it's a good policy anyway.

I'm becoming Korean by osmosis...

My bike as a pack mule. Jindo only had one small grocery store, and nowhere to really buy housewares, so I had to either drive or take the bus to Mokpo, an hour away, to shop. I drove a couple times, and I often had to get creative with the way I carried stuff back. I was so amused at my ability to cram so much stuff onto the bike on this particular trip that I took this photo when I got home.


In the middle of a rice paddy, near Jisan (and Dongduksan) on Jindo. Jisan had no indoor plumbing, so I was glad when I stopped having to work at that school, but it was also situated on one of the prettiest parts of the island, and my drives home from there were often some of my most interesting.


In the middle of an alley in some tiny village ("ri" in Korean) on Jindo. You can see that even though it's spring, I still hadn't taken off the felt handlebar mitts - it's colder than it looks in this photo.


  1. Dear Kelsey:

    I am always delighted to come across a new reader to my blog (Twisted Roads), but I was genuinely intrigued by the pictures of your bike. At first, I thought it was a scooter… But then I realized the scooter effect was caused by your machine’s unique fairing. The “squared off styling” on your bike really appeals to me too. You see, I ride a 1995 BMW K75, which has all the grace of a bowling shoe.

    I was also enchanted by the setting of your pictures. Thank you for a very pleasant glimpse into Korea tonight.

    Fondest regards,
    Jsck • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

    • Oh, I’m not a new reader! I also write “Travels with Smutka”, the blog about the couple trying to get a 1995 Ural Tourist into running condition. This is just my more personal, non-motorcycle-specific blog.

      Many people mistook my bike for a scooter due to that fairing, so much so that I started jokingly calling it “the scootercycle”. It is basically a “light” bike in that it was only 150ccs, but it could still move quite well – I could easily get it up to 70mph on a straightaway. As far as I could tell, it was basically a Daelim copy of the Honda SuperCub, but they changed the wheels and some of the plastic styling. The engine is basically the same (it even has the same semi-auto transmission – you still have to shift manually, but there’s no clutch to depress), but it was bumped from the 50ccs of the original up to a very efficient 150ccs (I got well over 100mpg, but like I said, could still hit 70mph pretty easily), and the overall shape of the bike is the same. It took quite a beating from me and Korea’s dirt country roads, and I didn’t treat her very well because I knew nothing about motorcycles and couldn’t communicate with the mechanics, but she got me through a year of daily commuting (45 min each way) in rural Korea.

      I really wish I could find a similar bike in the US. I am short, so it’s difficult for me to find bikes that I can even toe-touch from, and I don’t like the seated stance of cruisers. I sat straight up on my bike in Korea, could still touch the ground, and though it was fast enough for me to take onto the highway there, it was still a *small* bike, and I felt very in-control of it due to the small size and low weight. I’ve looked around at the current options in the US, and have yet to find anything even remotely similar. I’m actually considering buying some old 1970s Honda or somesuch, since that seems about as close as I can get.

      • Some small standard bikes: Honda Nighthawk 250, Suzuki TU250 (if it ever shows up), Suzuki DR250, Kawasaki KLR250. The Honda Rebel looks like a cruiser but it has a fairly neutral riding position, and with a handlebar change could be made into a standard.

        You take beautiful pictures. I’m slightly more Korean than the average American, but alas, I’ve never visited. I think I’m scared of the negative reception I’ve heard half-bloods receive over there.

        • Ooo. I really like that TU250. Thanks for the heads up!

          Thanks for the compliments! If you want to see some of my best shots, a glance at my portfolio is your best bet (be forewarned, it’s still under construction).

          You should visit Korea. Gyopos (Korean-Americans or Korean-whatevers) are becoming more and more well-received, though you will likely get some flak if you don’t speak a word of Korean. Learn a few useful phrases and politenesses and you’ll be fine.

        • I have a honda Rebel and it is a really nice bike, comfortable seat, upright riding position, it is easy to handle and great on gas, 82 mpg. It handles nicely and is perfect for a female rider as the bike is not too heavy. It is easy to turn and very forgiving bike for a novice rider, like myself.

          • I’ve ridden a Rebel and didn’t really care for it. It’s still too much of a cruiser-style ride, which I found uncomfortable.

            However, I now own a Ural, so it’s all a moot point anyway.

  2. I miss the bike too. I had to sell it to my friend a month or so ago. The first week I had it, I dropped it and tore a ligament in my shoulder. Couldn’t lift my shoulder for months and riding was agony. My friend borrowed it for a bit since I decided to take a break from physical activities and riding the bike. When the doc said I’d need surgery, I sold the bike to my friend in rural Haenam county. A couple weeks later, I could move my shoulder. I regret selling it every single day.

  3. What a sweet post. We never forget our first loves, do we?

    great photos~

    • It was really the bike that got me into motorcycling. I had always been a big fan of wandering around on foot and on four wheels, but that motorcycle brought it to a whole new level. It was especially handy in Korea since their two-lane roads are more like our one-land roads, and there are tons of dirt roads everywhere left over from the Korean War that lead to abandoned traditional houses, etc. It’s a country with a lot of cool stuff to be discovered, and I wouldn’t have found any of it if I hadn’t had that bike.

  4. Scooter or cycle, it’s a snazzy and classy thing! Nice self portraits,too.

    • I really enjoyed that bike, though I wish I had been able to find a blue one (they existed, but were rare – pretty much every bike I saw in Korea was red) and I thought the wheels were hilarious.

      My boyfriend and I are working on restoring a 1995 Ural Tourist that sat in a barn for 10 years, but I would love to have a small bike like that again as well. Unfortunately, it seems really hard to find small bikes in the US. There’s the Honda Rebel, but it’s a cruiser, and I really prefer standards; I like to sit up straight when I ride, as I feel it improves my balance (and makes it easier to put my legs down in an emergency). Do you have any suggestions?

    • Also – it was quite awesome in that it only cost me $400 almost brand new (it would have been $1500 new). Getting it worked on was a challenge, since I didn’t know any Korean that related to automechanics, but gesturing usually did the trick. I rode without a 100% working battery for several months though, due to the language barrier. It was…interesting.


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