tail of the dragon

Tail of the Dragon: a spectacular motorcycle ride

Tail of the Dragon at DEALS GAP, N.C. – With its 318 in 11 miles is America’s number one motorcycle road. US-129 is bordered by the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest with no intersecting roads. It is considered “the destination” for thousands of motorcycle enthisiasts from allover the world. Throughout spring, summer, and fall is possible to see several hundreds of riders sharing stories and their recent experience around US-129. Can you brave it? It’s best to be cautious as the turns are tight, but the Tail of the Dragon is guaranteed to be the ride of your life.

the tail of the dragon

Tail of the Dragon

Riding the Tail of the Dragon isn’t especially daunting. However it requires deep focusing, there is no time to look at the sightings. Let’s dig into what’s really appealing about this road.

Although I previously stated that US-129 is no panoramic road, one of the best thing about it are the feelings North Carolina Nantahala National Forest and Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains National Park are capable to deliver. Is possible to experience mountainside wilderness, rock walls or hills on one side of the road, and a sheer drop on the other. The thick hardwood forests that run alongside the asphalt make you realize what the Tail of the Dragon really is: a motor arena curved right out of nature.

This road is no mountain-climbing switchback; its turns, some close to 300-degree pivots, are on a largely flat course with no bumps or asphalt damages. Remarcable is the total absence of interseptions and driveways which definitely add to safety as well as natural beauty.

So far the Tail of the Dragon looks like a place where enthusiasts can enjoying their hobby safely. But, is it?

tree of shame

Danger zone

“Right into the danger zone” Kenny Loggins words rapidly became mine when I started watching videos of the place.
Let’s be clear: by all means, the Tail of the Dragon is a place for everyone but it requires brain.
Statistics are more than clear about how forgiving this road is: 1 death per year on the Tail of the Dragon.

I am an experienced rider with a lot of miles of experience and a couple of important road trips –here is one– in my saddlebags. Therefore, before any new ride, I usually get all prepped up looking at maps, weather, and pics and videos. Here’s the results of my research that were confirmed by my experience at the Dragon:

Although the posted speed-limit is 30mph and US-129 is a double-lined No Passing road, a lot of passing happen. Thing is that everyone has his own pace, which is totally fine, make sure to always choose the right moment to overtake someone and keep an eye on your mirros.

A lot of curves are banked and in certain areas the road looks like a roller coaster which, in some cases, took custom riders by surprise: custom motorcycles clearence does not allow bikers to lean as much as sport bikes so, when pushing too hard, the chances to ends up with your butt on the ground are very high.

This road is open throughout the year so all that amazing nature is a blessing during hot summer days. During all other seasons the story is a bit different…Shade areas can be very slippery. I saw no litter on the Dragon’s slim shoulders, just occasional clumps of yellow-bloom wildflowers. This is something you want to consider if you are planning of riding the Tail of the Dragon in autumn.

wheels through time

Museum

The Dragon is not only about the challenge of handling curves you do not see everyday. Is also about passion, brotherhood and freedom. All values that pushed Dale Walksler, a Harley dealer from Illinois, to move his extensive collection of historic motorcycles to Maggie Valley in 2000 to open a 38,000-square-foot museum that now showcases more than 300 historic American bikes. His Wheels Through Time is in the so rich that he has loaned choice items for display at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.
It is definitely a place worth visiting.

In conclusion, is the Tail of the Dragon really worth going? Definitely yes! It is similar to a lot of mountain roads and yet so different. I loved every curve, every inch of its asphalt and every bit of conversation entertained with fellow bikers upthere.

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