Tail of the Dragon opinion - Kawasaki Vulcan Forum : Vulcan Forums
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-18-2019, 06:32 AM Thread Starter
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Tail of the Dragon opinion

Opinions needed.


A little history first. I took a Motorcycle Safety Course last year and got my license. I bought a Vulcan 650 and put 565 miles on it before I upgraded 2 months later to a 900 Classic LT. I have a total of 3500 miles under my belt now on the combined bikes. I take mostly day trips with 1 overnighter. I have ridden with my wife on the back 6 or 7 times on the day trips. This Saturday, my wife and I are taking an advanced safety course for the purpose of giving my wife training on how to ride on the back as well as for me with her on the back. We always ride full armored up. I have a modular helmet and my wife has a 3/4 helmet.

The trip. We are taking a week long trip for our 25th anniversary in September beginning in Ashville, NC and heading west. We will be doing a loop through Tennessee, down to Georgia and back up to Ashville. Much of the trip will be spent in the Great Smokey Mountains. Early on in the trip, the famous Tail of the Dragon road sits. I have read up on the 11 mile course. I have read the speed limit is 30 mph, has no intersections, people come from around the world to ride it, and is beautiful. I have also read that there are pulloffs to let faster vehicles pass, there are a lot of switchbacks, not to cross the double yellow line, and there is a memorial for broken motorcycle parts there.

The questions. Would you recommend we do this? Is it too technical for my level? Am I getting in over my head? Is this what motorcycle riding is all about and I would be a fool not to do it? Thoughts?
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-18-2019, 06:51 AM
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Its a USA road and not a race track for the crotch rockets if you don't mind a$$ holes pushing up behind you then do it at your own pace. Its probably more busy weekends and if theirs a group ready to take off wait for them to go and enjoy your time their. The only thing that might be a skill level problem (if your very new to riding) are the switch backs and you'll probably hit lots of them elsewhere before going on the dragon. I live in MASS and we do not have switchbacks but when i travel south it seams like it's illegal to build a road without one so after a few you get the hang of it. I'll also be spending a week down their in a few weeks and absolutely will be on all the good bike roads they have to offer and now that i ride a Voyager with a passenger and I'm no longer a spring chicken i will also be going at my own pace to the dismay of the people behind me.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-18-2019, 06:59 AM
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The Tail of the Dragon was my first long distance trip after getting back into riding after a 20-25 year "rest". I did it with my 900 which was a blast on it! It can be challenging but remember... your bike only goes as fast as you twist your right hand! Myself and two others went mid-week, when we were told there would be much less traffic (which was true). We took our time and never had anyone behind us. We saw several police vehicles so pretty much everyone was going the speed limit or less. The only obstacles we encountered were that vehicles, including motorcycles, would cut corners coming from the opposite direction. So you need to keep alert for them. The trees make it difficult to see around some turns. There are plenty of places to pull over to let others pass if need be, plus there are some nice pull-outs for scenic views.

Be sure to stop at Deal's gap and view the shops on both sides of the road. Of course, don't forget the Tree of Shame for photo ops. Just don't contribute to the "collection". Some of the switchbacks are pretty tight, so make sure you hit them in the right gear. Riding two up will make them more difficult and being in the wrong gear will screw with you!

While there, if you can fit it in, do the Cherohala Skyway. Awesome scenery, the road's in great shape (just did it again last year) and with lots of great sweeps.
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-18-2019, 07:01 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Mike.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-18-2019, 07:02 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks CarGuy. the Cherahola Skyway is in our plan. Can't wait to take a picture with that metal dragon I saw.
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-18-2019, 11:02 AM
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The Dragon is not as bad as most would have you think. It's a lot of curves very close together, but I have been on lots of roads that were far more difficult to negotiate. If you have been on mountain roads with lots of tight curves, then you should be OK, if YOU think you are ready.

Don't go on a weekend, though. You will piss off a lot of people if you go your own pace and that pace is pretty slow. If someone faster comes up behind you, pull off at the first available paved pull off and let them by. Car, truck, or bike.

Watch out for cars! People like to run the Dragon on 4 wheels, too. I was run off the road by a Mini Cooper who took a curve too wide. Totaled my bike. There was a club and dozens of Minis on the Dragon that day. I think they all thought they were auditioning for "The Italian Job" and many were not up to the role.

Take your time and ride your ride. Show courtesy to others. Don't let anyone force you into taking it at a pace you are not ready for.
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-18-2019, 03:03 PM
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[QUOTE=3jcrew;3040372]Opinions needed.

As long as your spouse likes twists and turns on a bike -

Do it, definitely. It will be a favorite motorcycling memory. Use the transmission's gears to help control your speed through the turns (there are 318 of them, if I remember correctly). My first time was 2-up, on a '95 Gold Wing - it was a workout, but a Blast! Did it in a Sebring convertible once, not as thrilling, but still fun😉
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-18-2019, 06:21 PM
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Whenever I've been on a group ride, they want to do some twistie ride be it Angeles Crest, Bear Mountain, Glendora Mountain, Rock Store. I am the worst twisties rider EVER. I always wind up being the last one up the hill and last on the way down too. My point is ride your own ride and the more you do it the better you'll get. Also, use the turnouts and don't be a hotdog.
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-19-2019, 05:02 AM
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Hey 3j, I hope you're gonna spend a little time on the blueridge pkwy, and may I suggest hwy 151 just a little north of mount pisgah. you might want some food somewhere along the way, the Moose cafe is highly recommended, get you a jar (or two) of their applebutter. you wont regret! !

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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 07-19-2019, 08:05 AM
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When I had my 900 I rode the dragon many times. I found that I could put it in 3rd gear and just ride. I didn't have to worry about shifting. There's one switchback, not too far in on the TN side, where I went into 2nd, then back to 3rd as soon as I came out of it. I grew up in the county where the dragon resides in TN, so I'm pretty familiar with it. Like others have said AVOID IT ON WEEKENDS! Oh, and be sure to smile for the photographers set up all along the route.
And by the way, you have more miles and experience than I did the first time I rode it, and it was raining.
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Last edited by T Gibbs; 07-19-2019 at 08:14 AM.
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