Tail of the Dragon - Motorcycle Tour

Posted by Spencer Kulow on

There are tons of roads in the USA, and you can ride a motorcycle on pretty much all of them. But, there are some riding roads that are a cut above the rest. People speak of them in reverence, and it’s a rite of passage for you to ride down them yourself.

You’ve probably heard of most of these, but we at Flash to Open want to dive a little deeper into the importance of these roads. We’ll give you some history, some folklore, and some culture, but most importantly we’ll tell you why you should ride every single inch of these rare feats of pavement.

Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap

It needs no introduction. Possibly the most famous road for motorcycle riding there is, Tail of the Dragon is an 11-mile mountain pass crossing the North Carolina-Tennessee line.

This portion of US-129 is dubbed Tail of the Dragon as its many twists and turns are said to resemble a dragon’s tail. Said to have 318 curves, this road is especially notable because it runs along the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This means there is no development along the road. This means no roads branching off, so riders don’t need to worry about cars pulling out in front of them.

While there are some scenic views along the road, stick to Skyline Drive or other roads if sightseeing is your goal.

Tail of the Dragon is famous for the challenging ride, and your focus should be navigating the turns (many of which conveniently are banked like a race track). Be prepared to stress-test the suspension on your bike, and we pray you’re not riding a hardtail.

The Dragon has some legends surrounding it too…many say it’s haunted after all the lives it’s taken over the years. Other say it was an old Cherokee battleground, and later a burial site for Confederate soldiers. Even wilder still, there are rumors of riders being buried along the road who refused to pay an angry landowner’s toll. We won’t speak to the truth of these, but we will say the stretch of road is definitely hallowed.

The speed limit used to be 55mph…in 2005 it was sadly (yet also safely) reduced to 30mph. More cops have recently started to patrol the Tennessee side as well. That being said, many will tell you the Tail was the best ride of their life. Don’t take our word for it, though – see for yourself.

Some fun information about Tail of the Dragon:

  • Featured in the movie The Fugitive with Harrison Ford, and Thunder Road with Robert Meachum
  • You can stop and take a break at the Tail of the Dragon store – you’ll know it by a big metal dragon in front
  • Tail of the Dragon is called Tapoco Road in NC, and Calderwood Highway in Tennessee
  • On the Dragon is a tree dubbed the “Tree of Shame.” Parts of motorcycles and cars that didn’t make it through the Dragon are hung on that tree (none of the drivers on those particular vehicles were seriously injured)
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