3 Days on A Race Bike – Enough?

3 days with a Ducati Panigale 1199 - Angeles crest Highway, CA

3 days with a Ducati Panigale 1199 – Angeles crest Highway, CA

I just spent the better part of 3 days with a Ducati Panigale 1199 in California. It was kind of a bucket list thing, I wanted the experience. Would I buy one? Only if I win the lottery.

The good, bad, and beautiful –

Wayne The Rock Store, Mulholland Highway, CA

Wayne at The Rock Store, Mulholland Highway, CA

It was loud, even with earplugs, but in a way the best rock-and-roll should be loud to be done right. The Ducati sound is so sweet, so iconic, it just seemed the way it’s supposed to be – like the potato-potato of a Harley, it is a musical experience that reaches deep into your soul and makes you feel like Superman. All I could think about was “The cops are gonna hear me coming”.

Wayne - Mulholland Highway, CA

Wayne – Mulholland Highway, CA

It was more comfortable than I expected, but stiffer than previous race bikes I’ve been on. The body position is not so extreme it puts too much pressure on your hands, legs are a bit cramped, but overall it did not tire me out, I can ride it for days. The suspension was designed for speeds never attained on the street, ideal for the triple digits, but brutal on a normal road. I once missed a freeway exit as I was chattering so harshly on a rough section I couldn’t read the signs. You must ride like a jockey to see where you’re going if the road gets rough.

Andy and Jackie on Gibraltar Road, east of Santa Barbara - View of the Pacific fog.

Andy and Jackie on Gibraltar Road, east of Santa Barbara – View of the Pacific fog.

It’s hot as hell if you’re not clipping along at 70 mph+. The heat coming off that highly tuned engine cooks your thighs, butt and all the sensitive spots, especially at low speeds. Combined with a thin hard seat I swear I’m bruised down below. Freeway traffic demands lane-splitting just to keep moving and tolerate the burn.

East Camino Cielo Road - A stop to savor the views

East Camino Cielo Road – A stop to savor the views

It’s not the best canyon carver. This bike is made for the velvet-smooth high speed sweeping turns of a race track. It doesn’t fall into tight turns, you don’t flick it about. It can cut through the tight stuff but you’ve got set up properly and be smooth as glass as it will easily run away from you if you’re not focused. You can get in trouble in a blink on this thing.

Jackie on E. Camino Cielo Rd - sea fog to the left of the crest, the hot inland to the right.

Jackie on E. Camino Cielo Rd – sea fog to the left of the crest, the hot inland to the right.

Which brings us to the best part – the power seems infinite. It’s always there. More than you need. I never got confident enough to really let it rip – it was ripping at mid range. Hitting the upper revs was insane. With a quick-shifter, keeping the front wheel on the ground in the first 3 gears required gentle use of the throttle even in “Sport Mode”. I never switched to “Race Mode”. Enough was enough. I was suitably impressed.

Wayne and Jackie at Cold Springs Tavern

Wayne and Jackie at Cold Springs Tavern

Would I rent one again from RentADucati.com? Maybe. I barely missed getting tickets this time. Coming down off the Angeles Crest Highway (Route 2) at twice the speed limit I made a snap decision to pull off and get a photo just before a trooper rounded the curve ahead of me. I would have been nailed. Coming up behind a car on the Maricopa Highway (Route 33) east of Ojia saved me a second time. My luck and license wouldn’t last with a bike like this. But on rare occasions, maybe I’ll do it one more time!

Wayne and Jackie in Santa Barbara

Wayne and Jackie in Santa Barbara

Special thanks to Andy, our companion, photographer, and a great rider! He made this trip come together.

I can't thank Andy enough for making this trip so outstanding!

I can’t thank Andy enough for making this trip so outstanding!

For more info see –  http://www.rentaducati.com

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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, comprehensive, 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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Motorcycle Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway – Commuter Zones

Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway - commuter zones

You have no clue you’re passing through some sizable cities on a Blue Ridge Parkway ride  – 10 minutes ride from a parkway exit puts you in the heart of Asheville, NC, a fun place to visit!

On a 469 mile long Blue Ridge Parkway ride you will pass through two cities – Roanoke in Virginia, and Asheville in North Carolina. Each has its “commuter zone”.

In both cities, the parkway weaves along the east edge of town then curves around to the south, though barely a hint of the surrounding neighborhoods are visible. Riding along you never see a downtown area at all nor any indication you are near a sizable city. It’s part of the magical illusion of a Blue Ridge Parkway ride. The views have been well protected over the years.

What’s a Commuter Zone?

There will be a handful of exits relatively close together as you pass through one of the cities on the Blue Ridge Parkway. For locals, the Blue Ridge Parkway is just one more road to get through town, a shortcut. A lot of local traffic hops on it to save time and zip an exit or two to the road they want.

photo-no-gas-sign-on-blue-ridge-parkway

This sign is a legacy to when gas was available on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It should now read “No gas next 400 miles”. There is no gas on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take advantage of close gas stations to the parkway in the commuter zones.

What you need to know about Parkway Commuter Zones –

Expect more traffic and more aggressive traffic in the commuter zones on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Locals are hopping on the parkway to save time and they may push the speed limit.

The speed limit drops in some areas and it’s more heavily enforced in the commuter zones. The Asheville commuter zone of the Blue Ridge Parkway went to 35 mph last year to try to slow down the local traffic. Watch for the signs.

Enforcement is heavier near cities, especially in commuter zones. More traffic means more resources assigned to deal with it. Watch your speed whenever you feel you are getting into a populated area. You can also expect more attention near popular areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

ranger on the parkway

Watch your speed and be alert in the commuter zones

Here are some places where I tell myself to roll back on the throttle when riding the Blue Ridge Parkway:

  • From the Start of the Parkway  in Virginia to Humpback Rocks
  • Peaks of Otter area in Virginia, near Buchanan
  • From 221 exit to 221 exit near Roanoke
  • Linn Cove Viaduct area near Blowing Rock
  • Moses Cone / Julian Prince Park near Boone
  • Altapass Hwy north of Spruce Pine / Little Switzerland
  • Crabtree Falls area
  • From Craggy Gardens through Asheville
  • The southern section of the parkway into Cherokee

Be aware of and alert for these commuter zones near the cities along the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are few signs on the road, but if you see any indication you are approaching a congested area be alert and ready to deal with increased traffic with a different agenda than you.

7 map Blue Ridge Parkway + The Dragon set

7 map Blue Ridge Parkway + The Dragon set

Get the maps!
http://shop.americaridesmaps.com/Blue-Ridge-Parkway-The-Dragon-Package-BRP12.htm

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.Facebook

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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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Motorcycle Rides In Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area

Let’s get the obvious out of the way right now so we can enjoy the rest of the story, “There are more great Motorcycle Rides in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains than anywhere else”. You knew it was coming, and now being said, we can move on.

photo-view-from-room

We had a nice view from our room at the posh 4 Seasons Resort in Scottsdale, AZ.

We flew into Phoenix, stayed in Scottsdale. 

While many riders fantasize about riding cross-country to reach those far-off destinations, I’m so over that. Droning along on the interstates through days of monotonous and uninteresting landscape is a waste of time and tires to me. With just 6 days of travel on my calendar, it would have taken 8 just getting there and back on the bikes. Once again, we flew in and rented a motorcycle to maximize our quality riding time.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A balloon ride

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A balloon ride really helps you appreciate the harshness of the desert and the general landscape.

Phoenix is a city of 1.5 million people who choose to live in a scalding moonscape unfit for sensible human habitation. Endless months of triple-digit temperatures preserve the volcanic origins of the region as if it was a recent event in geologic time. The rocky remnants of those ash-spewing calderas rise on the horizons like mountainous islands peeking above a deep, deep, rolling sea of gray-brown boulders, rocks, and dust. The entire region is one big blast and fallout zone.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Spines, thorns, prickles, barbs

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Spines, thorns, prickles, barbs, horns, needles, spikes, everything wants to hurt you!

5% humidity deprives most living things any chance of thriving.  Oxymoronic “river” signs mark parched sandy gulches where runoff collects for a few short minutes before re-vaporizing for the next few weeks – or months. Most every living thing is so bent on survival it threatens all others with spines and needles, fangs and venom to keep them at a distance. Nature has obviously posted the “Do Not Enter” sign.

A long motorcycle ride looping north from Scottsdale

We stuck to local sights the first day, visiting Cave Creek for lunch, and Natural Bridge to the north. The next day, we followed 74 northwest to US 60, then veered north on 89 near Wikenburg. The ride to Wikenburg was pretty miserable, just dry empty desert, highway traffic, vast open spaces.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Natural Bridge, AZ

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Natural Bridge, AZ, one of the side trips worth taking.

Route 89 soon climbs through a nice section of switchbacks to gain some elevation. The terrain gets a little more green and hospitable and the riding improves as the road seeks the better passage between the rolling hills. Riding along you are taunted by the “No trucks over 50 ft length X miles ahead on 89”, and when you finally pass through Wilhoit the ride gets nice and curvy and fun.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A break near Prescott.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A break near Prescott. Returning the phone calls that come in while I'm riding.

89 then passes through the town of Prescott which so interested us, we discussed the potential for basing there for a future trip. It seems to have a lot to offer. North of Prescott, we veered east on 89A for the best section of road I found this trip – the mountainous portion known as the Mingus Highway.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Jackie gets ready to descend from the Mingus Highway

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Jackie gets ready to descend from the Mingus Highway through Jerome, the best section of road this trip. Really put the softail through it's paces here!

The Mingus Highway twists and carves through the elevations much like the roads I so enjoy at home in the Smoky Mountains, though the arid scenery could easily convince you it’s a canyon ride in California. Exiting north, the roads plunges down from 6000 foot heights passing through the tiny hamlet of Jerome, clinging to the edge of the slopes nearly a mile above the valley below. A popular stop, we could not afford the delay, though next time it’s worth exploring.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - How pretty is Sedona?

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - How pretty is Sedona? Approaching from the west, this is the least scenic of the 3 routes into town.

We passed through Clarkesdale and Cottonwood, to reach the apex of our days ride – Sedona. As beautiful as it was, Sedona was just our lunch stop today, a first visit for me. Surrounded by the red rock monuments, the destination town is a vortex for tourists and caters to the crowds who flock there.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Cruising through Sedona

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Cruising through Sedona, the town is surrounded by the red rock formations on every horizon.

The ride turned south out of Sedona onto one of the most scenic rides you’ll find as Route 179 winds between the colorful rock formations to Oak Creek. Once you pass the casino at the edge of town, the road runs through unremarkable desert to intersect Interstate 17 and we continued south on the highway for a distance.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Some of the best and easiest views are right along Route 197 south of Sedona.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Some of the best and easiest views are right along Route 197 south of Sedona.

We turned east when we reached Route 260 and started climbing into the higher elevations and more interesting and scenic riding. Temperatures dropped as we climbed to 7000 feet and entered the high pine forests. Route 260 became Route 87 as we continued south through the small towns of Strawberry and Pine, and the larger sprawling town of Payson.

Motorcycle rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Sedona is a popular destination for motorcycle riders for obvious reasons.

Motorcycle rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Sedona is a popular destination for motorcycle riders for obvious reasons.

Progressing south from Payson on Route 87 the road gains another lane then gradually leads you down from the heights and back out into the Sonoran Desert returning to the city. We covered a little more than 400 miles on this loop ride, the longest of the trip.

 A nice loop ride east of Phoenix / Scottsdale

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Riding 188 south is a nice cruiser

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Riding 188 south is a nice cruiser ride that includes sections along Theodore Roosevelt Lake

I saw this ride described as a great “cruiser” road and I’ll concur with the assessment. It’s easy riding with nice scenery and relatively little traffic. Route 87 north led us through the gentle sweeping curves that climb to the high desert. We made up names like “boulder city” and “the cactus jungle” to describe distinct areas along the route, and rolled through the essentially treeless national forest to reach Route 188 and turn southeast.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Turning on to Route 188

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Turning on to Route 188. When you're from the Smoky Mountains, a straight road is a rare sight deserving of a photo!

Route 188 formed the long side of the triangle we rode on this loop. More gentle flowing two lane curves through the dry hills lead to a long ride aside cobalt blue Theodore Roosevelt Lake. It’s pleasant and relaxing riding with the nice contrast of scenery and color.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Very pleasant ride along Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Very pleasant ride along Theodore Roosevelt Lake. Jackie and I pause for a cool drink and to admire the bridge.

Along the way, we stopped at Tonto National Monument to see the historic cliff dwellings. It’s a steep walk up the trail and I wouldn’t wan’t to do it on a hot day, but we enjoyed our visit and the sights.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Tonto National Monument has historic cliff dwellings

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Tonto National Monument has historic cliff dwellings with a steep hike, but it's a great stop along Roosevelt Lake.

We turned onto the third leg of the triangle, Route 60 in Claypool, and started west toward Phoenix. We passed through miles and miles of massive mining operations and the mountains of tailings, then entered a wonderfully scenic canyon near Top-of-the-world. The steep drop through the spectacular rocky cliffs dumped us at the edge of a vast flat desert basin and a long arrow-straight drone back to the city. We covered about 250 miles on this day.

Sedona Highlights – what to see on a short visit

Sedona is one of the most scenic towns you’ll visit in the southwest, surrounded by towering red rock monuments on every horizon. We spent a day exploring the area and here are my suggestions on how to get the most out of a short visit.

Route 89A approaches town from the west, then exits north. Route 179 junctions with Route 89 in the heart of town leading south.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Looking west on Route 89A from Sedona

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Looking west on Route 89A from Sedona

Approaching town from the west on 89A, to get one of the best views ride to the top of Airport Road. The view from atop the mesa overlooks the entire town and panorama of breathtaking geography.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - one of the best overlooks of Sedona

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - For one of the best overlooks of Sedona, ride up to the top of the mesa on Airport Road. Wow!

North of town, 89A follows Oak Creek Canyon along the river. The deep canyon is forested with tall pine trees that partially obscure the views of the towering cliff walls and you wind you way north. The road gets tighter and tighter than makes a dramatically step climb through a series of switchbacks to top the rim at over 6000 feet. it’s worth the ride to see and experience. Once atop the canyon, 89A continues to Flagstaff and connects to Route 66.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the rim of Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the rim of Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona. Follow it into Flagstaff and connect to Route 66.

The easiest way to see the red rocks in all their splendor is to ride down Route 179 south from Sedona. I wouldn’t bother with the Red Rock Loop Road, it’s not as scenic as touted and there is an unpaved section near the middle – more effort than reward. Use the pullouts at the monuments for the nice views and don’t miss a ride up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross for some great views and photos.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the Chapel of the Holy Cross

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the Chapel of the Holy Cross just outside Sedona. A short drive with a nice view.

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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. 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 Friendly Places – The Lodge at Copperhead, GA

Photo - fall at the Lodge at Copperhead

The Lodge at Copperhead - motorcycle friendly, motorcycle centered

The Lodge at Copperhead near Blairsville, Georgia is THE motorcycle friendly gateway to the southern Blue Ridge Mountains.

Located on north Georgia’s premier motorcycle ride, The Gauntlet, The Lodge at Copperhead makes for an ideal base camp to experience the outstanding motorcycle rides in the surrounding mountains in a posh and relaxing setting where everything is focused on the biker’s needs and wants. It’s all here.

While there are many motorcycle friendly places along the road, few rise to the caliber of The Lodge at Copperhead. The entire resort is centered on bikers and their needs.

photo- great room at the Lodge at Copperhead

Quality and comfort wait for you at The Lodge at Copperhead

Motorcycles and riders come first here. Michelle and her crew at the lodge are riders. They know what you like and deliver it.

After a long day on the road you want a nice place to come home to. The The Lodge at Copperhead delivers in spades. Motorcycles get the best parking, right up front. Walk in the front door and you’re immediately struck by the quality of the resort. The great vaulted room with it’s fireplace and comfortable accommodations invites you in, but the huge wrap-around porches soon draw you back outside to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the mountains.

photo - cabin at the Lodge at Copperhead

We stayed in the newest cabin - it was great!

After a quick look around, Jackie and I rode over to our cabin to get settled in. Michelle had put us in the newest of them and we loved it. The bikes went into the garage – how nice – covered and dry! The pine log cabins give you that rustic mountain feel with all the modern comforts you need, ideal for an extended stay. Enjoy the privacy, have a place to get away and just be together. Relax on the screened in porch, sit out on the large deck out back, or pull up a chair on the porch out front to watch the setting sunlight filter through the trees.

photo - Brad Betters tends the bar at the Lodge at Copperhead

Brad betters from The Biker Barn - imagine coming in from a tour and your guide morphs into your bartender. Sweet!

Once settled in, we walked back to the lodge to start the evening at the outstanding bar. Weekends mean entertainment at the lodge and tonight was the Halloween party. There’s always something going on, live music either inside or at the outdoor stage, and costumed characters already stalked the halls.

Brad and Lori Betters from The Biker Barn soon appeared, and Brad, fresh from a guided tour, slipped behind the bar to keep the libations flowing and the glasses topped. As most everyone has something in common, it’s a friendly place where it’s easy to meet others, talk bikes and rides, and enjoy the company of like-minded people. We braved the chill out on the porches for a while where several small groups clustered to share more intimate times with friends, but as it grew dark they migrated inside to join the festivities and a meal.

photo - dinner at the Lodge at Copperhead

Tonights special - a slab of fresh swordfish.

The menu is well rounded with a great choice of fresh seafood. Jackie had the swordfish special, a huge steak, while I went with one of the beef variety. It came cooked to order, and the meals were superb. Service was attentive and quick, without being intrusive – like it should be.

After dinner the Halloween party started in the great room of the lodge. We danced, enjoyed the costume contest, and when we’d had enough retired to the quiet privacy of our cabin the the woods.

Sunday morning brought a heavy frost. We left the warmth of our cozy cabin and enjoyed breakfast in the dining room at the lodge, then headed out to ride the best sections of The Gauntlet once the morning sun warmed things up. The sun was bright, the skies blue, and the last of the fall leaves made the fabulous riding on Georgia’s best motorcycle roads the perfect cap to our weekend.

photo - halloween at The Lodge At Copperhead

Dolly Parton (a.k.a. Michelle) judges the Halloween men's costume contest.

The Lodge at Copperhead is ideally located and easy to get to. It sits at the heart of my map of the Best Motorcycle Roads in the North Georgia Mountains. You’ll feel welcome, well taken care of, be surrounded by people who are excited and enthused about motorcycles and riding.

The resort gives you a feeling of community and belonging. It’s entertaining and relaxing. All your needs are anticipated and met. Whether your looking for a vibrant social experience, a place your group can enjoy time both together and apart, or would like a private couples weekend on the bike, The Lodge at Copperhead delivers.

The Lodge at Copperhead

The Biker Barn

The Gauntlet

Get the map here – http://shop.americaridesmaps.com/9-The-Best-Rides-in-the-North-Georgia-Mountains-GA007.htm

 

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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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 You’ll find The Lodge at Copperhead and all the other good biker roads on America Rides Maps #9 The Best Rides in the North Georgia Mountains 
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Motorcycle gear review – Liberty Sport Motorcycle Sunglasses

I’ve really come to like these sunglasses a lot. They easily adapt for motorcycle riding and the inserts make a big difference. The lens quality is superb. I don’t leave the house without them anymore.

Liberty Sport – www.libertysport.com

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Wayne Busch
Wayne Busch – Cartographer
– 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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SportBikes4Hire.com – I Spend A Day With a Customer. What fun!

Wayne – had an absolute blast riding with you today. Your knowledge and these roads add up to a experience that should be had by all that like freespirited riding. I’m glad that I rented the Aprilla from Greg @SportBikes4hire.com and that he told me about you. I will tell all my riding buddies back in PA about my excellent experience and I highly recomend your maps or you as a tour guide or both. WOW I had fun. Thanks much  – Jim M.,Riegelsville,PA

Photo - logo on windscreen

SportBikes4Hire.com offers one of the best experiences you can find on a motorcycle.

When I first heard about SportBikes4hire.com I, and others, were skeptical. Turn loose someone you barely know one of these “crotch rockets” on some of the most challenging roads in the world?  It sounds like Julia Child’s favorite Halloween recipe for death, carnage, and mayhem.  Thoughts quickly conjure up grisly scenes and visions of bikes in pieces. After more than a year in operation, it turns at such is not the case. Quite the contrary, the clients of SportBikes4hire.com end up with the experience of a lifetime.

Photo - Sportbikes4hire

I met Jimmy and his rented Aprilla Mille in Brevard on a beautiful Smoky Mountain Saturday morning.

It all came about quite suddenly. Friday evening I got a call from Greg asking how one of his customers could get a hold of some of my maps. Evidently the guy had no clue about any of the local roads and needed help. He was making a short visit to family south of Asheville, saw the add for SportBikes4hire.com and couldn’t resist the opportunity. I asked Greg to give him my cell phone number so I could suggest some roads. Jimmy called me later that evening.

We talked for a little while, and I gave him a list of roads. As I ticked them off I kept thinking to myself, “I can lead him to the major roads, but he’s never going to find the real gems without getting hopelessly lost, and without knowing something about the roads he could quickly get in trouble.” While he’d have a GPS, it wouldn’t do the job and he’d end up missing out.

Photo - on the ride

Jimmy quickly adapted to the bike and the warmup ride went well.

I asked him to give me a call in the morning when he was ready to head out. Maybe, just maybe, I’d run down and bring him some maps. I even hinted I might ride along with him. I had my concerns. What if he was a bumbly and had no business on a bike like this on these roads? What if I took him out, pushed too hard, and he got hurt or worse? I needed to sleep on it.

Saturday morning was one of those early fall days in the Smoky Mountains that postcards feature. Still warm, skies blue and clear of morning fog that so often blankets the valleys, I was sipping coffee on the porch when the cell phone tweeted. What the heck. If nothing else I’d have a nice ride over and back to meet him and give him the maps if he didn’t size up. I threw on my gear and headed for the high ground.

Photo - Stopped in Rosman for the first break

By the time we reached the first break in Rosman, it was obvious Jimmy knew what he was doing. Time to bump it up.

We met in a shopping center parking lot in Brevard. Time for the quick assessment. He had the right gear – good. The bike, a 1000cc Aprilla Mille was impeccable and fitted with top equipment (save the GPS which had been zip tied on in a decent jury rig). Jimmy was used to riding a BMW K bike so he was accustomed to handling the power. He was honest and humble in describing his abilities and experience – all good. When I asked for next-of-kin contact info he didn’t flinch. And he’d admitted never ridden a full on sport bike. Let’s go.

Photo - out on the ride

Approaching the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoying the fresh pavement on the climb.

I led him out south of Brevard on some roads to let him get his bearings where I could watch in my mirrors to see how he was adapting. No problems. Turning south I bypassed one side road at the last minute thinking it was a bit much to throw at him this soon. We turned west and started on another great road that would start to put him to the test. He did well. Cautious where he needed to be, but willing and able to use the bike where he was comfortable. I stopped in Rosman to see how he was doing.

He was having fun and getting comfortable with the bike. It was a good choice for these roads. I was having fun. Time to kick it up a notch.

Photo - shot from motorcycle while riding

Look Ma, no Hands! Pitching through the curves while snapping photos.

We spent another few hours zipping through some of my favorite roads, old and new, with a little bit of everything thrown in. Spanking fresh new asphalt, crumbly bumpy back roads, first gear hairpins and high speed sweepers, one lane bridges, a break on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Jimmy soaked it up and rode with a controlled enthusiasm that showed he was aware of his comfort zone yet able to enjoy what the bike had to offer.

Photo - motorcycles at Devil's Courthouse

We made only one brief visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a break at Devil's Courthouse. Everything else was on more challenging roads.

We were both smiling when I left him 30 miles or so from where we started with directions to follow US 276 back to our meeting place. It was a good day riding. I’d do it again. I hope he comes back.

Photo - tank with logo

The Aprilla is one of many choices. For today's ride, it was one of the best.

SportBikes4hire.com offers a great service. Fly in and they meet you at the airport. They’ll bring the bike to you all ready to go. It’s an experience that you’ll treasure and a chance to ride a great bike on the best of roads. When you consider all the time and expense of hauling or riding your bike here, it’s a superb option – heck you can make it a quick weekend trip. Find a cheap airfare and come on. Spending some time in the mountains and want a day to get away from the family and do something exhilarating? This is it.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

 

– 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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Tire Testing on the Dragon at Deals Gap – Michelin Power Pure

Photo-Deals-Gap-Motorcycle-Resort

The Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort - NC starting point for riding The Dragon

Opinions on what makes a good tire range across the scale. Some favor durability, others performance, while many put price at the top of the list. Where you fall on the spectrum depends on your riding style. Most riders put little thought into it except when purchasing, and for the typical rider a set of tires last the full riding season or longer. Once they’re on, they are mostly forgotten until the tread disappears and things get squirrely.

Photo-bikes-at-deals-gap

Even on a rainy day, bikes line up at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort.

Cruisers and show bikers need not read any further. The Michelin Power Pure tire is suited for Sports-Touring and the occasional track day on a sports bike. I suppose I can legitimately claim I am a professional rider, it is a key component of how I earn my living. 90%+ of the time I am on a bike I am working, and with the season on, I’ll be going through the rubber. I’ve burned through sets in a month of typical riding.

Photo-Fontana-Lake-view-from-NC-28

Rain clouds swirl over Fontana Lake in this view from an overlook on NC 28 approaching the Dragon.

I fitted this rear tire a little over a week ago, and with about 500 miles on it I can give a reasonable impression of its performance. I’ve still got some life in the Michelin Pilot Power  2C on the front, but I’m looking forward to replacing it to have a matched set. The Pure employs Michelins LLT technology eliminating any rubber that is not essential to performance, lightening and stiffening the sidewalls with additional aramid fiber. This reduces tire weight by a kilo making them lighter than the Pirelli Diablo Rosso or Bridgestone BT-106. As tires make up about 75% of a wheels inertial weight (tire/wheel/brakes) and a significant portion of unsprung mass, and thusly affect it’s gyroscopic impact on handling, Michelin claim its akin to fitting 3 kg lighter wheels.

Michelin-Power-Pure-tire-photos

Views of the new Michelin Power Pure tire following the days ride.

Holy math test, Batman, that sounds like some awful technical track talk, what’s it mean on the road? I was already impressed with the the tires handling on dry roads though had been holding back during the scrubbing-in process. Satisfied I’d worn them in enough, I set out to test their wet road handling and what better place than the Dragon at Deals Gap.

The Dragon at Deals Gap with it’s 311 turns in 13 miles is currently not the ideal place to push any limits. The north end of the road remains closed due to a rock slide. A gate has been placed at the south entrance and a Tennessee State Trooper sits on the state line as a reminder to behave. Another patrolled the far end of the road this morning picking off offenders as fast as he could write citations. Any runners would be snagged at the gate by the sentry stationed there. They literally have a captive audience and it’s like shooting fish in a barrel – you will get popped. I knew it was no place to get jiggy.

Photo-Trooper-at-the-dragon

Due to the rock slide, the Dragon is open from 8AM- 8 PM. A fence at the south end is manned by a Tennessee State trooper acting as sentry.

Still, for wet weather testing it would work fine. Counting on herd theory, I knew the enforcement would be focusing on the worst offenders. So long as I kept it reasonable, I’d slip by. With wet roads I wouldn’t be breaking any personal records nor tempted to loft the front wheel out of corners. Mildly exceeding the limit on occasion and ignoring the fact the bike is fitted with brakes would get the data I sought.

The rain was light but steady and I hit a few decent showers on the ride out, but not the deluges I was looking for. NC 28 glistened with a fine sheen as I approached, but on reaching the Dragon I found the road nearly dry. An hour later I concluded my meeting at the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort and mounted up to do the ride.

Photo-the-north-end-of-the-Dragon-closedAnother sentry from the DOT waits at the north end of the Dragon. You can’t see the rock slide from here.

It wasn’t going as I planned. With the obvious enforcement, I resigned to simply cruising through the road to satisfy my curiosity of what was going on at the far end. The no brakes technique makes stretching the posted limit just a bit more than entertaining and I carved my way to the end and back. It felt as if the tires were fused with the pavement. Lean angle was endless. I never felt any drift, not the first slippage, let alone anything breaking loose. Powering through the corners was precise, and while I never really got on it with the throttle, it felt so casual and relaxing I had my share of fun. But then, I already knew these tires worked on the dry road.

Photo-the-rock-slide-end-of-the-Dragon

With a large turn around area at the rock slide end, riders congregate here to regroup and show the tickets they got.

Leaving Deals Gap I got what I was looking for. NC 28 was still wet and a little rain kept the conditions nearly perfect. All warmed up from the Dragon, I hit the wet road to see how things compared. It didn’t seem to matter. Barely having shifted my weight for the hairpin corner with a posted speed of 10 mph, I was actually relaxed enough to take my eyes off the road and glance at the spedo – 40 mph and I really wasn’t trying. When the next turn was posted at 35, I did the math and quickly decided I wasn’t willing to go fast enough to find the edge. These tires work in wet conditions – in spades.

Testing over, I started back on the four lane Smoky Mountains Expressway to go home. Within minutes I was bored, and when NC 28 south appeared, I could not control the urge to keep riding. Brad Tolbert, proprietor of the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort,  had let slip info about some back roads near Franklin and I just couldn’t resist investigating. Let’s face it, when the guy who runs the biggest outfit at Deals Gap suggests a good road, you listen.

Test back on, true conditions this time. Unknown roads, wet conditions, time pressure to get home, this was the real deal. I blasted through the back roads for more than an hour not sure which way to go, mostly by instinct, and linked together a fine ride. Mixed and broken pavement, gravel in turns, a few rocks dislodged by the rain, some mud wash, now this is what I do and that tire stayed fused to the road like it was integrated. Only once did I note a tiny slip, and when it broke loose on gravel it regained traction so quickly it was barely noted, and I can’t remember drifting the bike through a single curve.

Obviously this tire passes the performance test, it may be the best tire I’ve ever run in that respect. The next big question is durability and what happens when I’m forced to drone along on the endless highway to reach far away places. There’s no better way to waste good rubber than wearing out and squaring off the center of a good tire before you’ve used the edges. The soft compound comprises 40% of the edges of this tire, hence it’s performance (previously 11%). I’ll report back on mileage when it comes time to swap it out to determine how durable the harder compound in the center proves. If I can get more than 5000 miles out of it, I may have found my new tire of choice. Now if I could just get sponsored…

Photo-the-lean-marks

The "lean stripes" on the tire. Not only did every line show wear, but it was evident all the way to the edge of the tread. 100% use.

Addendum – I heard about a trend which started with some German sports bike riders. They would mark the edges of their tires with chalk to show who had the biggest bragging rights at the end of the day for having achieved the greatest lean angles. Where you typically find the direction arrow at the very edge of the tread which tells the mounter which way the tire is built to rotate, the Michelin Pure incorporates three raised bars parroting the practice. Usually, I wear my tires about to the limit of where the rotation arrow is. That last 3/8 inch or so never gets touched. In typical use, I would expect to maybe graze the first of the raised lines on this new tire. When I took photos this morning, I noted not only had every one of the three bars received wear, but it extended to the very edge of the tire. Without seriously trying or getting on a track, I had utilized 100% of the available tread. Achtung, Baby!

Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort

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