Over the past forty years, Korea built a topnotch train system. From the KTX to the SRT, they offer the quickest and most reliable travel across the country.
In the past, a friendly attitude granted you and your greasy contraption access to many trains. It might’ve gotten you on the KTX.
Nowadays, however, trains and bikes don’t mix. Only a few ITX trains welcome passengers with full-sized bikes. Most trains allow folding-bikes only.
The Trains of Korea
All trains allow bikes. But ninety-ish percent permit only folding-bikes. This is perfect for commuters. Not for bikers exploring the country.
Only the ITX-Cheongchun guarantees a place for your road, MTB, or touring bike. A few other ITX trains may grant spots for bikes — but only a few routes at designated times.
For more background on the trains of Korea checkout our breakdown below.
KTX: the train with the fame. The Korean Train eXpress class of trains became the fastest on the peninsula in 2004. Traveling at 305 km/h (190 mph), the train became the quickest and most convenient way to get from Seoul to any other major city in Korea.
High-Speed Railway Lines
KTX and Bikes
In days gone, benevolent conductors might allow a biker to bring a touring bike aboard. They would’ve asked you to detach your wheels and stuff it in the luggage compartment.
But times change. folding-bikes are the only contraptions allowed now. Commuters can fold up their bikes, hop aboard, and store it with the other luggage.
The Super Rapid Transit (SRT) and the KTX have a lot in common. They’re high-speed trains that share the Gyeongbu and Honam Lines lines. In addition, Busan and Mokpo Station mark their final southern stops.
So what’s the difference? The SRT runs slightly newer trains and keep their prices about 10% cheaper than the KTX.
SRT and Bikes
Like the KTX, the SRT enforces strict policies regarding bikes. Folding-bikes are stored in luggage compartments. No full-sized bikes.
The ITX (Intercity eXpress) is the newest class of conventional trains. They run faster (165 km/h) than older Mugunghwa (무궁화) trains (140 km/h). But much slower than the KTX and SRT (305-330 km/h).
Compared to Mugunghwa, ITX trains have more amenities, wider seats, and make fewer stops.
ITX-Saemaeul runs on the Gyeongbu, Honam, and Gyeongjeon Lines. They serve more cities than the KTX and SRT.
ITX and Bikes
ITX - Cheongchun
Unlike the Mugunghwa workhorses, many tourists flock to the ITX-Cheongchun to escape the city and explore Chuncheon, the self-described Romantic City.
The service boasts the only double decker trains in Korea. Besides updated amenities, the trains’ top speed reaches 180km/h.
Cheongchun and Bikes
Plan on tackling the Bukhangang Bike Path? The ITX-Cheongchun is the most convenient transportation. Though there is only one route, it follows the bike path to Chuncheon.
In addition, the train operators equipped two or three passenger cars with bicycle cradles (자전거거치대). This means you can board with any bike: road, MTB, or touring.
The train is popular. If you can’t reserve a seat in advance, check out the Gyeongchun Line (경춘선). It’s a commuter train that leaves from Seoul.
The Mugunghwa-ho (무궁화) class of trains are the oldest (1980) still in operation in Korea.
Once the most Premium class, now they’re the slow (140 km/h) workhorses of Korea.
The humble Mugunghwa trains run on older tracks that weave throughout the countryside. So, they serve the most cities and towns.
In days past, operators equipped some Mugunghwa trains with bike cradles. And if cradles were unavailable, conductors let bikers hang out in the dining cars or luggage compartments.
However, Korail changed their policies. They removed the cradles and now only allow folding-bikes.