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Sogon Yoon, Far Ride
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Sogon Yoon, Far Ride

We start the new week in South Korea with Sogon Yoon, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Far Ride. Driven by his passion for cycling, Far Ride was Sogon’s first foray into the world of magazine publishing. Each issue features a long ride into a new country – the latest issue, volume eight, sees him and his team riding across Mongolia as well as retracing the route of the Berlin Wall.

Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
I get up and put on my cycling kit. Then I check the tyre pressure on the bike, grease the chain and head out to cycle along the Han River which is less than a kilometre away from my house. The path takes me all the way to work and in total, it’s approximately a 20-kilometre commute. Along the way, I listen to podcasts related to cycling or the print industry.

Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
Usually I keep it pretty neat, I don’t like to keep things cluttered around the desk. The desk itself is fairly sizeable as it fits a monitor, keyboard and mouse as well as a stand for my mobile phone. Our office sits on top of a hill facing a large road with a steep incline. At times we often hear the sound of car tyres screeching, and we cycle up this hill every morning so it’s a good work out.

Which magazine do you first remember?
I’m a huge soccer (football) fan and think Four Four Two is the best sport in the world. I love its coverage and analysis.

Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
Even since the early days, National Geographic has promoted conservation and preservation. They were one of the early voices. I also have always enjoyed the idea of documentary journalism as a source for inspiration. I do feel that nowadays they’ve lost a bit of that, though.

How popular is cycling in Korea?
Korea has never been a great country for cycling other than the fact that bicycles have been a mode of transportation since the early 1900s. There have been a few Korean pro-cyclists that have made a dent in the international sphere, but most of the international cycling culture is not dominated by Korean cyclists.

A lot of cycling-related products and content are all imported from Europe or America. So, it’s still a somewhat foreign sport/activity and only enjoyed by a comparatively small group of people. We have great infrastructure and beautiful rideable mountains here in Korea, so I’d like to think that the potential for growth is huge.

The magazine covers all forms of cycling; what’s your daily experience of cycling?
I didn’t have any editorial or publishing experience prior to Far Ride. I rode motorcycles from a young age and had a few near-fatal accidents. I tried cycling as a substitute and I quickly realized that it was a completely different beast. To be a cyclist, it takes a lot more than just buying a bike. It takes suffering, dedication and discipline. I’m sure most cyclists would agree about that.

I naturally gravitated towards content that inspired me to ride more. When I started cycling and reading about cycling, I found two types of cycling-content to be most widespread: pro-cycling news and gear reviews. The pro-cycling news felt too inaccessible for an average rider like myself and gear reviews made me want to shop more than it made me want to ride. I found that individual blogs and posts on social media expressed the joy of riding better. I was more inspired by first-hand accounts of cycling adventures than I was by commercial content on most print and digital mediums.

I am all about real-life cycling stories of riders who put themselves out there and make themselves vulnerable. It’s also my daily approach to cycling even if it's just a 20-kilometre commute to the office.

Each issue you and the team do the main Far Ride journey into a new area/country. What were the best and the worst journeys?
We’ve been on so many great journeys and I think all destinations are worthwhile in their own right, so I’ll just talk about the most recent one.

We put together a team of four riders and loaded a support van with food, water and tents to ride through Central Mongolia. There were hardly any paved roads along the way. Although people have cycled through this part of the country, they gave themselves much more time than we had. Our plan was to ride from Karakhorum (the old capital of Mongolia) to the Gobi Desert in six days. We were in the middle of nowhere with no reception and more animals than humans. When you are in a place like that and all you can do is keep pedalling, it helps you gain a different perspective on life.

One of the worst trips, if I had to say, must have been the trip we took to Istanbul. We went there purely because people told us Istanbul is one of the worst places to ride bikes and we wanted to see it for ourselves. It really was.

What are you worrying about at work this week?

I’ve just finished riding in Canada and am back in the office. Somehow, my buddy Cal and I thought it would be a great idea to ride across Canada from Vancouver, British Columbia to Saint John, New Brunswick during March. We found out that it’s not. March in Canada is still winter, and I have experiences ranging from hypothermia descending a 15 kilometre stretch of steep hill to riding in snow, hail, and freezing rain. In all honesty, I would never recommend a ride like this to anyone, although I have to figure out a way to present this story in a way that it’s inspiring and not discouraging to our audience.

What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
Riding my bike! It’s finally warm again in Seoul.

What will you be doing after this chat?
Looking for the next great cycling journey

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