Best Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – A sport bike loop

Best Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – A sport bike loop ride

When I’m looking for a “dragon like” challenge close to home, this 90 mile loop satisfies every time!

Section of NC 215 near Lake Logan.

Section of NC 215 near Lake Logan. You’ll find some nice scenery on the popular road. The curves so far are just a warm up for what lies ahead.

As much as I enjoy a ride on the infamous Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, it’s a bit of a ride to get out to it from the Waynesville / Maggie Valley area where I live. Fortunately, there are ample challenging roads nearby, and when I really want a peg-scraping ride, this is one of my favorite local loops. For those on sport bikes, it’s a must-do when you are in the area.

The higher you go the better it gets on NC 215.

The higher you go the better it gets on NC 215. The road crests where it meets the Blue Ridge Parkway, then plunges down the other side of the gap.

The map originates in the small crossroads town of Bethel, NC south of Waynesville, Canton, Maggie Valley, and Junaluska. It can also be done as a side loop off the Blue Ridge Parkway (exit at Beech Gap, MP 423.3, NC 215 – cuts 36 miles off the route).

Descending from the Blue Ridge Parkway on NC 215

The curves continue as you descend from the Blue Ridge Parkway with a brief break when you enter a valley. The curves that follow really kick it up!

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Length: 90 miles plus your ride to the start in Bethel, NC.
Ride time: 3-4 hours
Difficulty: Very challenging, tight curves, climbs and descents, sustained, varied road surfaces, all paved

Photo-curve-on-Silversteen-Rd

Imagine miles and miles of curves like this one – a.k.a. Silversteen Road

Turn-by-turn route description

Start at traffic light in Bethel (junction US 276, NC 215, NC 110).

Follow NC 215  – starts as Love Joy Road. Easy section through farmland along river with a few sharp turns.

2.9 mi – Turn left @ stop sign to continue on NC 215. Junction Love Joy Road and Lake Logan Rd (NC 215).  Moderately difficult. Rolls through houses, some nice curves, section along Lake Logan very nice.

16.8 mi – Pass Sunburst Campground. Enter Pisgah National Forest. Start climb to Blue Ridge Parkway. Road gets more twisty here. Nice stop at a roadside waterfall. Beware loose gravel on road, especially in turns, most likely to be found in the highest sections. Difficult.

17.9 mi – Pass Blue Ridge Parkway ramp. Popular break spot, if not at the junction, go up to the parkway and turn right to reach a nearby overlook with lots of parking. Continue under the parkway on NC 215. Good views from the highest section. Road surface improves south of parkway. Difficult.

35 mi – Turn right @ stop sign onto US 64. Junction NC 215 (Parkway Road) and US 64. Just a short section on this sometimes busy road. Easy.

Photo-Charlies-Creek-Rd

Charlie’s Creek Rd – typical of the wonderfully empty and inviting rides that abound in the Smokies

37.7 mi  – Turn right onto Silversteen Road. Junction US 64 and Sliversteeen Rd. Sign warns of tight turns ahead, believe it! Difficult.

38.3 mi – Keep right on Silversteen Rd. Junction Silversteen Rd and Golden Road. Difficult.

43.6 mi – Sharp left turn to stay on Silversteen Road. Junction Silversteen Rd and Macedonia Church Road. If you don’t make this turn, you will end up back on NC 215. Difficult.

45.7 mi – Turn right @ stop sign onto NC 281. Junction Silversteen Road and NC 281 (Canada Road). Nice section, a little loose gravel in places. Difficult.

57.6 mi – Turn right onto Charlies Creek Road. Junction NC 281 (Canada Road) and Charlies Creek Road. Be on your guard, surprising turns on this road. Difficult.

Photo - wolf Creek Dam

Wolf Creek Dam near the midpoint of NC 281, one of the scenic points on this great motorcycle ride.

68.4 mi – Turn left onto NC 215. Junction Charlies Creek Road and NC 215. Start back on a road you’ve been on previously.

89.7 mi – Follow NC 215 back to Bethel.

You’ll find gas stations in Bethel, on NC 215 on the south side of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and at the turn off US 64 onto Silversteen Road.

Jukebox Junction is a popular diner in Bethel. It’s mostly gas station food for the remainder of the ride.

Map of the ride

You’ll find these roads and many others in the surroundings on America Rides Maps motorcycle pocket map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park – EAST.

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Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Favorite Blue Ridge Motorcycle Rides Closed

Favorite Blue Ridge Motorcycle Rides Closed – 

January 17, 2013

Unusually warm weather and extreme rain wash out roads, bridges, and cause landslides, many favorite motorcycle rides affected;

photo - slide closes park

photo source: Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Newfound Road US 441 hit by slide, park closes

Days of pouring rain in the Smoky Mountain region has caused severe damage, flooding, landslides, closing many favorite motorcycle roads – significant roads so far affected:

US 441 – Newfound Road which crosses Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Landslide closes road indefinately

US 19 – west of Cherokee, slide and house sized boulder in road – road closed

Blue Ridge Parkway – Slide near Soco Gap US 19 / Maggie Valley  (MP 455) – road closed

Cherohala Skyway – NC 143 Slide – road closed

US 74 – Nantahala Gorge – slide, one lane closed

Many other bridges / roads washed out, heavy flooding – Still raining. Freeze coming tonight which may dislodge more rock and weaken slopes.

Current updates on Facebook pagehttp://Facebook.com/blueridgemotorcyclerides

Will update with assessment and suggested routing when situation stabilizes.

wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Best Motorcycle Rides in North Carolina – NC 215 Update

After hearing of several wrecks this weekend I decided I’d better make another run out to NC 215 near the Blue Ridge Parkway to check the status of the road work. The photo shows the current state – a new coat of gravel.

Best Motorcycle Rides in NC - NC 215 - new gravel

Best Motorcycle Rides in NC – NC 215; This rider made the right choice for him, hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Fresh gravel on NC 215 at this stage of the repaving, it will get better soon.

If you like drifting your motorcycle and power sliding through turns, it doesn’t get much better than this. A topcoat of gravel over s smooth hard base makes for ideal conditions. I had a blast!

Most riders though are going to find this the worst of conditions, and for now you’d better avoid it until the next phase of roadwork is completed. I’ll keep and eye on it and let you know when it improves.

Best Motorcycle Rides North Carolina - NC 215

Best Motorcycle Rides North Carolina – Paving on NC 215 has started from the top down. You can see one lane done here, still a way to go.

ADD –  Looks like US 276 is done, nice pavement, but still no road markings. Read More about what’s going on here – http://smokymountainrider.com/?p=5031

You’ll find these roads on America Rides Maps motorcycle pocket map #6 – The Best Motorcycle Rides EAST of Great Smoky Mountains National Park along with another 50 or so outstanding rides in the surrounding area and a guide to the numerous roadside waterfalls.

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycle Safety – Respect and Skin in the Game

I don’t remember much, it was almost 40 years ago. My first thought when I regained my senses was to find the piece of the bike which had the key in it – didn’t want somebody stealing it. Obviously, I was still rattled a bit. That was the last ride for that Honda CB 450.

I remember the dog that shot out of nowhere as I rode home, I may have been coming from high school. It came running out of a cow field and right into the bike. Almost went down, but found myself riding along the sandy shoulder of the road. Hardly suited to off-road riding, I was rolling on the throttle to keep the front wheel of that heavy Honda from washing out in the soft sand, picking up speed.

I remember thinking I was doing pretty good on this bike in those conditions, heck, I’d saved it, but making the coming curve meant I needed to be back on the pavement.  I picked my spot only to find there was a deep gully where so many cars had run wide and a mound of patch built up in a futile attempt to fill it.

I remember the loud bang as the front wheel hit the asphalt.

I remember looking straight down at the pavement as the now vertical bike landed on the front wheel and for an instant it seemed to balance and roll along in control. Then the bars were jerked violently from my hands as the front end buckled, and it was slow motion silence as I floated through the air doing a somersault.

I remember thinking “This is going to be a bad one”.

* * * * *

How to Avoid Skinning Yourself Alive – Brittany Morrow from Brittany Morrow on Vimeo.
Direct link – http://vimeo.com/22897515

Looking at my helmet my head probably contacted first. Considering my injuries, I then laid out on my back and slid down the road and into the pasture. The bike probably took out the barbed-wire fence just before I went through it, no deep cuts or lacerations.

I remember walking along the road thumbing for a ride. I knew there was a fire station nearby, if I could get there they could help me.

I remember the cars slowing down, I looked fine from the front, then taking off when they saw the bloody mess where all the skin had been taken off my back. The light cotton shirt and blue jeans I was wearing in the summer heat of Florida might as well have been paper. No protection at all. Last time I would ever ride without at least a jacket.

I spent the next few weeks lying face down on the fold-out couch as my wounds healed. Most of that was in a codeine stupor. Seems every joint in my body had donated some flesh. A few scars remain, but the years have faded most of them. There would be more to come before I learned the value of leather and then textile gear.

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Direct link – http://youtu.be/Uz748Q4tkGo

I don’t often tell this tale. There are others. So why bring it up?

I spent a few hours this weekend at a rally. Don’t really like doing events, it can be pretty boring. You end up doing a lot of people watching.

Many of the riders were from out-of-state, groups from Georgia, Florida. Standard biker attire, blue jeans and a t-shirt. Some wore shorts. Slip on shoes. Many of the passengers wore only jeans and a tank top. Some pretty ladies. Not even wearing gloves. The smallest skid lids that would keep you from getting pulled over.

I went through my recent photos. All too common attire. Photos of riders on some of the most challenging roads they will ever see, for the first time. You can often see the look on their faces that tell the ride is demanding something from them.

I watched Daryl’s (Killboy.com) recent 12 minute video from the Dragon. Easy to spot the bare flesh rolling by, particularly the passengers, on one of the most challenging and dangerous motorcycle rides in the world.

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WAKE UP PEOPLE. Riding in the mountains is some serious sh*t. RESPECT IT.

Go off the road up here and road rash will probably be the best of outcomes. We’ve got rocks and trees right up to the roadside. You’ll probably be plunging over a steep hillside or worse yet a rocky cliff. It takes hours to get a rope team out to haul your inured body up to the ambulance.  Show some freakin’ respect for it.

Word to you “easy riders”watch the video – You know who you are. Low and slow and always in control. Too hot to wear gear. I like the feel of the wind and the sun, yadda, yadda, gonna work on my tan. Gotta look the part with the right biker attire – blue jeans, your biker t-shirt, the tiniest helmet you are forced to wear – I never planned any of the motorcycle accidents I’ve had. Most happened relatively close to home. Just a short ride, a commute, running to the store, work, school, going to hang out with my buds,  etc. Almost all have been under 30 mph. Just riding along minding my own business, taking it easy, la-la-la. If there was skin exposed, it was skin in the game, skin lost.


Direct link – http://youtu.be/EhJ74f-MGak

PS – I’m not just posting this  for you flatlanders – it’s pretty common up here as well. As if that big fat bike is going to protect you. Gotta look the part, dress like everyone else, feel the freedom! WAKE UP. Think about all those times you’re rounding a curve and there’s a car half in your lane coming at you. All those times some old geezer pulls out at 10 mph in front of you. It’s always the worst of curves where the cars slip off the inside edge and kick gravel and rocks onto the road. You KNOW it happens. You KNOW what I’m talking about.

Forget the blue jeans. Useless. Repeated personal experience. You’ve got 2 choices – textile or leather. If you can get some armor in there it will help keep bones from breaking. Respect the ride. If you don’t need it, at least respect your rider and get her the right gear. She’s trusting in you, do her right.

If there is skin exposed, it is skin in the game, a game you are forced to play every ride. 

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Wayne Busch

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– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Safety Tips

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Safety Tips

Visibility

I first heard rumors in town yesterday a motorcyclist had died in an accident on the Blue Ridge Parkway. http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20120516/NEWS/305160022/Motorcyclist-killed-Parkway?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFrontpage It is a sad occurrence which typically happens a few times each year. Considering the millions (YES MILLIONS) of motorcycle riders who will make the journey to one of our nations top motorcycle rides this year, I have a few suggestions on how to be safer on your travels.

image-motorcycle in fog on Blue Ridge Parkway

Motorcycle Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway - Safety Tips - fog

This tragic accident seems to have happened because of reduced visibility from rain / fog. At most entrances to the Blue Ridge Parkway you’ll see signs which say “avoid the parkway during fog and bad weather” (my paraphrasing, wording on signs varies).

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway - Safety Tips

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway - Safety Tips - Wait for the clouds to rise

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Safety Tips
1) Wait for the clouds to rise

As it was the middle of the day when I heard the first rumor, it means this accident probably happened earlier in the morning. Here’s the first bit of advice – wait until later in the day to get up in the high elevations. Typical weather patterns in the Smoky Mountains have the clouds settling on the mountains and valleys over night. You awake to fog in the morning. As the sun warms the clouds from above, they rise and the fog clears from the lower elevations. If there is a lot of moisture in the air (we’ve just been through an extended rainy period) it can take quite a while for the clouds to get above the 6000 ft heights of the Blue Ridge Parkway. If there is any bad weather occurring, it will hit the high parts first, and can linger up there all day while it’s fine and dandy down low.

 

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway - Safety Tips

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway - Safety Tips - It's on days like this a waterproof camera comes in handy. Visibility quickly vanishes when the clouds and rain close in.

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Safety Tips
2) If you want an early start, see some other great biker roads first

Adopt a “locals” strategy. Most local riders know how different the weather can be up on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and know to wait until later in the day to get the most out of that ride. As there are so many other great motorcycle rides in the area, there’s no reason to make the quick jump up high when you can get out and have a fun motorcycle ride down low. The Blue Ridge Parkway is just one great motorcycle ride. There are so many more. Use the opportunity to get the most out of your travels. With so many good biker roads intersecting the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can spend an hour or two cruising some of the best motorcycle roads in the country, then pick up the Blue Ridge Parkway at one of many entrances later in the day.

Photo-clouds-move-in-on-the-Blue-ridge-Parkway

Clouds will hang just at the mountaintops. Dense, wet, thick clouds which can reduce visibility to nearly nothing but whiteness.

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Safety Tips
3) Eat first so you don’t lose time later

Take your time, enjoy a nice breakfast, you’ll make up the time lost – So you’re just interested in riding the Blue Ridge Parkway, no time to see those other roads, got to stay on schedule and knock out the miles?  One strategy I use when I need to cover some distance is to eat my big meal at breakfast. Sure it prevents that early eager start, but get your belly full, and you can make it through lunch with snacks at the overlooks. There are few convenient lunch stops on the parkway, so you’ll lose time later in the day when you go searching for one. You’ve got to sacrifice some time to eat, so do it early when it makes you safer through the day.

Visibility can be severely limited at the high elevations found on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and it’s best to avoid the situation if you can.

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Wayne Busch

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– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycle training: Tell all the Harley riders this really works!

Motorcycle Training – Comment from one of the participants in a Lee Parks Level 1Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic this weekend – “Tell all the Harley riders this stuff really works!”

Motorcycle Training

Motorcycle Training: Learn to take a lowered bike through the curves without scraping the hard parts

Total Rider Tech held it’s first class in the Maryville,Tennessee location this weekend and we had a diverse mix of both bikes and riders. The advanced rider training in a Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic focuses on cornering skills with an emphasis on traction and control.

Motorcycle Training: Gain confidence handling a big bike in tight conditions

Motorcycle Training: Gain confidence handling a big bike in tight conditions

Regardless of what type of bike the riders brought, they all saw a specific and measurable improvement in their riding by the end of the day and challenged themselves to take their riding skills to a higher level.

Motorcycle Training: Get more enjoyment out of the performance your bike can deliver

Motorcycle Training: Get more enjoyment out of the performance your bike can deliver

Total Rider Tech provides instruction for the experienced rider who has progressed well beyond the basic techniques learned in an MSF or similar courses, but is not ready or interested in a full blown high dollar race track school. The emphasis is on street riding in real world conditions, though those with racing aspirations certainly gain valuable skills which are applicable for them as well.

 

Motorcycle Training: Several women came to improve their riding skills.

Motorcycle Training: Several women came to improve their riding skills. This experienced rider has been to Alaska and back!

The diversity of this class truly demonstrated how the techniques taught work on all bikes. We had all types of motorcycles. There were cruisers, big touring bikes, sports tourers, sport bikes, and even a motard bike that participated in the class, and everyone benefitted and gained skills applicable on the road on every ride.

Motorcycle Training: This woman wanted to sharpen her street and track skills and get more out of her riding

Motorcycle Training: This woman wanted to sharpen her street and track skills and get more out of her riding

Total Rider Tech teaches riders the technology of how their bike works and how what they do on their bike affects its ability to maintain traction and control. Learning the  science behind the riding techniques gives students the understanding of what specifically they can do to maximize their motorcycles built-in cornering capabilities while being safer out on the road.

Riders leave with the knowledge to identify riding problems while out on the road, know the solutions, and apply them on the fly. Classroom presentations provide the foundations for each skill, followed by live demonstrations of proper and improper technique on the course. Riders then practice applying these skills on their motorcycle with coaching that helps them learn how to perform them on their bike when out on the  road.

Motorcycle Training: This rider wanted to get better at managing traction

Motorcycle Training: This rider wanted to get better at managing traction

The way the material is presented and the coaching provided is designed to embed these principals and techniques so they will be remembered and incorporated once the riders leave the class and go out riding on their own. They can then take these skills an adapt them to their motorcycle, their style of riding, and their physical capabilities to become better and safer riders.

Motorcycle Training: This woman wanted to improve her skills and confidence in tight conditions

Motorcycle Training: This woman wanted to improve her skills and confidence in tight conditions

It’s the ideal skill set for improving your enjoyment and saftey of mountain riding, though they apply regardless of the terrain and situation. That Harley rider on a lowered bike was so glad to learn the skills to corner faster, smoother, and without scraping the floorboards in tight corners, he implored me to pass it along to others. It really works!

Motorcycle training: Static exercises help riders become more confident at high lean angles

Motorcycle training: Static exercises help riders become more confident at high lean angles

 

The next Total Rider Tech courses in the mountain area will be in Maryville, Tennessee  on June 5-7, then in Robbinsville, NC on July 14 -15. See calendar of courses here –

 

Motorcycle Training: This racer was so impressed with what he learned he may pursue becoming an instructor!

Motorcycle Training: This racer was so impressed with what he learned he may pursue becoming an instructor!

http://www.totalridertech.com/calendar.html.

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If you want to get the most enjoyment out of your motorcycle and appreciate the performance of a modern sports bike, cruiser, tourer, adventure bike, bagger, motard, dresser, dual sport, or custom, AND be safer on the road, this class will take the experienced rider to a new level of riding performance and enjoyment. If you typically ride with a passenger, bring them along and develop your skills together.

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Wayne Busch

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– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycles and Gravel on the Road – Relax

If you clench your teeth and death-grip the bars at the sight of gravel in the road, you’re asking for trouble.

Yesterday, Jackie and I took a winter motorcycle ride to the Blue Ridge Parkway via NC 215. I’ve been riding NC 215 about every 2 weeks through the winter to monitor the road condition. Since it was paved with a ‘tar and chip” coating this fall, the surface of this outstanding climb through the national forest has been strewn with loose gravel. (See Map of this section)

photo-nc215

The loose surface of NC 215 can make you a better rider if you relax.

It’s certainly not as much fun to ride this classic motorcycle ride in this condition, but it shouldn’t be an exercise in terror either. One of the worst things you can do when riding a road like this on a motorcycle is to tense up, fight it, and over-react to slips.

Face up to it – on a loose surface, the bike is going to slip a bit now and then. Expect it. Accept it. You can’t prevent it. You just need to manage it smoothly as it happens and allow the bike to do what it needs to do. Almost every instinctive reaction we have makes the situation worse – hitting the brakes, cutting the throttle, and aggressive or stiff inputs at the bars only reduce traction further. Relax. Use the lightest touch you can and maintain your throttle so there are no abrupt weight changes on the tires.

Motorcycles function very well in loose conditions if you let them move about as they need to do to maintain stability. The wheels will come back into alignment when they find traction and the bike will self correct. Anyone who’s ridden a dirt bike knows the wheels are moving all over the place, the harder you fight it, the less control you have. You just keep it guided in the general direction and let what happens happen as you go.

It’s a delicate situation when a tire slips. You need smooth and gentle input on the controls but if you are all tensed up, you can’t react quickly and smoothly. If you panic, you’ll apply your controls too harshly or change them too quickly and buy a ticket to crash-land. Chop the throttle and you get an express ticket to trouble. Practice being relaxed and accepting whatever is happening.  Respond softly, gently, and maintain your throttle application through turns.

Photo-road-unpaved

Practice getting a little out of your comfort zone when conditions change. The skills you learn may save your butt on the pavement when you least expect it.

As you gain more riding experience, you’ll learn many techniques to help you manage traction better while riding your motorcycle. None of them will be effective if you don’t relax and perform them smoothly.

The next time you find yourself on a road with a loose surface, remember to relax and accept it. Recognize what it has to teach you –

  • You’ll learn how to gauge the limits of your traction and how to react when you exceed them.
  • Because you’re more familiar with riding at the edge of traction, you’ll have a better feel for knowing when you’re getting close to the limit.
  • You may not intend to ride at the limit of your traction on a nice clean road, but when the unexpected happens and a wheel slips on a slick spot, the reactions you’ve learned will be old habits.

NC 215 will improve with time. Rumors are it may get more paving in the spring, but I wouldn’t count on it. The next time you find yourself riding a road with a loose surface, appreciate the opportunity to hone your skills and learn how to deal with things when they get a little out of your comfort zone.

photo-bikes on gravel

Occasional rides on gravel are a learning experience. Just take it easy and avoid a crash course. You'll gain skills that will help you react better and be more comfortable when things get loose.

Tip – Where are your elbows? If your elbows are above your wrists, you’re not relaxed.

Read what other riders have to say about NC 215

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Wayne Busch

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– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Just minding my own business? Not on a motorcycle!

Minding your own business while riding a motorcycle is a recipe for disaster!

“I was just riding along, minding my own business, when this cager came over into my lane and nearly hit me!” How often do you hear this said?

photo-when riding in traffic, ride to be seen.

When riding in traffic, ride to be seen.

Too often, if you ask me. It’s usually followed by a rant on how cars don’t look out for bikers and how stupid drivers are for not being more aware of motorcycles and tales of kicking doors, breaking mirrors, and other aggressive retaliation schemes by “some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet”.

Fault is always assigned to the auto driver, and it is with some justification, drivers should be more aware of their surroundings and pay more attention. But the saying is “it’s a two way street” and fault goes both ways. I never hear the motorcyclist taking any responsibility for what occurred. They were just riding along “minding their own business”.

“Minding your own business” on motorcycle is a recipe for disaster. If you’re not minding everyone else’s business out on the road, and actively working to insure you are always seen, that recipe can bake you some humble pie and a big plate of hurt.

Whenever I hear those “he came into my lane tales” I first wonder “Why did you let that happen?” You ride in a drivers blind spot and then get all bent out of shape when he doesn’t see you?

graphic-blind-spots

DON'T ride in the blind spots.

The remedy is to ride to be seen and pay attention to where you are positioned. Don’t ride in the drivers blind spot. Either fall back and give him room or roll on a little throttle and move ahead so you are clearly visible.

Assume and expect you are not seen, that other traffic will behave like you’re not there and ride accordingly. Mind what that driver nearby is doing. Watch their mirrors, where they are looking, the movement of their head as they glance up to check the review mirror or glance left or right. It can signal their intentions and alert you something is about to happen. You should always be watching for it.

Also keep an eye on what’s going on ahead of both you AND the car nearby. Slower traffic ahead in their lane or a flash of brake lights in the vehicle ahead of them means they may take quick and evasive action that involves the space you are occupying.

Above all, stay out of those blind spots. Recognize when you are in these danger zones and move out of them as quickly as possible. Minimize your time at most risk. When you find yourself alongside another vehicle you should be taking action to move out of the situation – that is what minding your own business should mean on a motorcycle. Drop back or move ahead.

If you’re going to ride in traffic you’ve got to both ride to be seen and assume you’re not.

Ok, so this is “Motorcycling 101”, everybody knows this stuff. Yet on any day you can visit a forum or social networking site and read scores of posts about how “some car came into my lane”. Knowing it is one thing. Apparently applying that knowledge is something we need to work on. Don’t let it happen to you!

Here’s a great site for more detailed review. http://www.motorcyclebasics.com/blind-spots.html

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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Learn Total Control

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycle Safety & Why We Get it Wrong

“Watch out for Bikers”“Loud Pipes Save Lives” , and other such “be safer riding” campaigns get a lot of attention from motorcyclists, but when you look at the science, they approach the problem from the wrong side.

Image - Watch out for Motorcycles

False Hope

Studies show the greatest improvements in motorcycle safety are gained through better riding skills and awareness. 

I recently spent as much time as I could stand reading through studies on motorcycle accidents from the early 70’s through the mid 80’s – I found little data after that. The most notable of these is the Hurt Report, though there are also a couple big ones from Europe.

The results of these studies are consistent over time and irrespective of location with similar conclusions.

  • The most common multiple vehicle accident is caused by a car turning left in front of a motorcycle at an intersection – about 2/3 of multiple vehicle accidents.
  • The most common single vehicle motorcycle accident is running wide in a turn and leaving the road or sliding out – about 1/3 of single vehicle accidents.
  • In about 40% of motorcycle accidents one of the contributing or cuasative factors is inexperience or lack of skills to evade or avoid the accident by the motorcyclist

photo-motorcycle-crashAll of these are best addressed by the motorcycle rider through increased awareness and better skills.

Those popular “Watch out for Bikers” and “Loud Pipes Save Lives” campaigns are not supported by the science. They may be popular, and it’s easy to put the blame and shift the responsibility to cage drivers, but it’s an ineffective approach.

Watch out for bikers? Size Matters;

The studies go in great detail examining how visible motorcycles are on the road; color, frontal area, bright clothing, lights on/off, etc. While each of these things does increase visibility and have an impact, overall it’s not significantly relevant.  Bottom line is motorcycles are small compared to any other motor vehicle out on the road. You can do things to be more visible, but don’t count on it helping much.

image - Loud pipes save lives

Too little, too late

Loud Pipes Save Lives? What’s that Noise?

We are primarily visual creatures. Biologically, we process and intake information visually. Auditory input is secondary. We listen to the radio or books on tape when driving because we know we process our driving information visually.

There are no scientific studies that examine whether loud pipes have any impact on driver awareness. The evidence is anecdotal or assumed – “I know my loud pipes kept that guy from moving into my lane”. Not if he didn’t see you. When it comes to the most dangerous situation for motorcycles, approaching an intersection, you can draw your own conclusions from a simple experiment. Next time your sitting at an intersection, note when you hear an approaching motorcycle. It’s long after you can see it. By the time the sound is loud enough to draw attention, it’s too late. Whatever is going to happen has already started.

 Photo-motorcycle crash How to ride safer:

Riding a motorcycle in traffic is like  a mouse running through a heard of elephants. Be alert and ready to take quick evasive actions or you’ll be crushed.

  1. Always ride like you’re not seen. Expect the most common accident, that car pulling out in front of you. Intersections, side streets, and anything that obstructs the view tells you to get ready to react. Develop that second sense and practice spotting these hazards.
  2. Be Ready to React – ease off the throttle, get your hands ready to brake / clutch, get your feet off the highway pegs, down where you can get at the controls and position yourself to respond quickly.
  3. REACT – here’s where most failures occur and where better skills make significant statistical difference.

Once is not enough:

Typical motorcycle fail in the studies – car pulls in front of bike. Biker jams rear brake. Bike either skids upright into car or is “laid down” and slides uncontrolled along the ground. If you did take a Motorcycle Safety Course you have been exposed to how to brake and swerve – once. That was in a parking lot, at low speeds, with nothing to run in to, when you were totally focused on what you were doing. If that was the last time you practiced braking and avoidance, you are an accident waiting for an opportunity.

Motorcycle Safety  – Getting it Right

photo-motorcycle-rider-crashingThe science shows improving motorcycle riders skills are the most effective means of reducing accidents.

1) Up your skills with practice –

I can’t ever recall seeing anyone practicing motorcycle skills independently. One reason may be you find a secluded safe location to do it so it happens out of sight. I have my own “secret test track” not far from home where I go to hone my skills on a regular basis, but then I’m a motorcycle instructor and demand a high level of personal performance so I  can demonstrate skills well for my students.

Honestly, without such a motivation I rarely practiced riding skills on my own previously in any serious manner. We all know we could be better with focused practice, but riding time is so precious, it’s tough to give up a fun ride for the rigors of working on skills and practicing technique.  Let’s face it, it’s the rare motorcycle rider who ever does any independent practice.

2)  Use the force – No Pain, No Gain –

At least swap one type of pain for another –  a little financial pain can save you a whole lot of potential physical pain, as well as the attendant monetary consequences that result from even a minor accident. Since we’re unlikely to practice skills on our own, force yourself to do it. Pay for it and you’ll be motivated to give up the time and get your money’s worth.

3) Get ‘er Done

While there are plenty of things you can do to learn to be a safer rider, online sources, books, etc, or occasional practice on your own to improve skills, if you wan’t to get the quickest, best, and easiest  results find professional structured instruction. You’ll accomplish more in less time, and progress more quickly to being a better safer rider.

 Are you going to be safer next year?

It’s time to start thinking about those New Year resolutions. Becoming a safer rider is one to put on your list. Whether it’s repeating a basic course you’ve already had, or scheduling a track day to work on advanced skills, take action now and find an appropriate class for you. I know you want to ride more next year, don’t we all. Let’s all be safer riders as well.

Commit to taking motorcycle instruction to become a better and safer rider right now – scientifically sound advice.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

Total Rider Tech Logo

Learn Total Control

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech

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Not Good Enough for 100 Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rides

I’ve just released a map of the Smoky Mountains which shows nearly 200 motorcycle rides highlighted on it. Here’s one that won’t be on it, not good enough.

Photo-Grapevine-rd

A long section of bad pavement gives way to some great curves.

Yesterday, Jackie and I hopped on the bikes to follow up on a rumor of yet another good motorcycle ride tucked away in the mountains. Possibilities were high as the area northeast of Hot Springs, NC, is ripe with some of the most challenging and technical motorcycle rides you’ll find anywhere. The two lane roads that wind through these Tennessee mountains hug the edges of rushing creeks which snake the bottoms of shady valleys or carve steep steps through gaps and passes.

This is no place for the faint of heart nor the inexperienced motorcycle rider, though by the time you reach it those riders who won’t accept the challenge have already turned tail and run. Roads like NC 209, NC 208 probably give most riders as much thrill as they want. Only the adventurous consider these approaching roads just a warm-up and look to kick the ride up a notch with more challenging pavement.

photo-grapevine-rd

There are some very nice sections of Grapevine Rd, but overall, NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

I remembered Grapevine Road as soon as I turned on it. I’d been told by a couple people they thought it was a great motorcycle ride, but for some reason I couldn’t remember I’d not put it on one of my maps. I quickly figured out why.

The pavement was in such bad shape. Broken and potholed, sunken, bumpy, strewn with gravel, rocks, and loose asphalt. Add to that steep grades, devilish tight switchbacks, unforgiving drop-offs, and you’ve got a real handful, especially on a big bike.

The reason I’d come back to Grapevine Road is the last time, I made a quick judgment and turned around. Not having gone all the way through, I didn’t know how far until the pavement improved. I knew it had to get better as it approached more civilized areas to the south.

photo-jackie-thumbs-down

Jackie votes "thumbs down" on Grapevine Rd.

It was a long ride until the pavement smoothed out. Once it did, there was a decent section with some nice curves which become more sweeping and open, but little of scenic appeal.

Some may like this road, but there are so many better ones nearby, it’s the least appealing. Jackie gave it the “thumbs down”. No reason to recommend Grapevine Road.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

Total Rider Tech Logo

Learn Total Control

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech

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See the map “Best Motorcycle Rides of the Smoky Mountains
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