S Korean bike enthusiasts swap city for dirt - GulfToday

S Korean bike enthusiasts swap city for dirt

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A participant gestures as she waits to compete in the annual Dust Race in Chungju.

South Korean dirt-bike enthusiasts ditched their city cycles to race custom-built contraptions in a small but determined celebration of motorcycle culture.

Light on rules and large on roaring engines, Dust Race is held on a small island in the central city of Chungju and its appeal has been steadily growing since it launched in 2014.

The two-day gathering represents a rarity in South Korea where motorcycling has been relatively slow to gain popularity as a hobby and lifestyle.

Now with around 150 participants, from office workers to engineers, the weekend of competitive racing is steeped in novelty.

"When I ride an old bike on the dirt track there's an adrenaline rush and all my stress from everyday life is completely gone," Moon Jae-hee, a 31-year-old female rider, told AFP.

The typically repurposed city bikes are fitted with engines and stripped of all non-essential components.

The result is a loud, lean machine that is happier belting its way through bogs than pottering around the streets.

Finding a location for the event is a challenge, said Park Jong-young, one of the founding members of Dust Race.

"When we try to register our event with the council to use public land, they tell us to just forget about it because it can't be officially acknowledged," he said.

Organisers must employ a combination of careful location scouting and self imposed night-time noise restrictions in order to ensure its continuation.

For most of the public, two-wheeled references rarely extend beyond the ubiquitous chicken-delivery couriers that can be seen zipping through most South Korean towns.

"People view bikers in a negative way, usually associating us with the bike hooligans," said Lee Young-ho, who attended the event.

"We have our own rules, we don't bother others, and we just want to enjoy this culture."

Agence France-Presse