Searching online, I came across statistics regarding the infamous Tail of the Dragon in Deal’s Gap North Carolina.
Per the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, there is an average of 95 accidents per year (auto and motorcycle), however, there was a substantial increase last year with 143. But, those numbers will likely increase when the last two months of the year are accounted for.
The overwhelming majority of accidents are motorcycle related with 545 motorcycles involved out of 708 total accidents, and fourteen of the sixteen fatalities included motorcycles.
Now, the reality is I have made clear numerous times, not only in prior blogs, but in my book 25 & 18 Riding Cross Country, that I’m not a fan of the Tail of the Dragon. I don’t need statistics telling me what I already know from riding 318 curves in 11 miles.
When I arrived late afternoon to the Dragon’s Tail, I did a quick ride through and continued to the Foothills Parkway since I needed to find a place to spend the night. I ended up in Pigeon Forge, riding in the dark down US-321 (that was fun by the way). The next day I returned via the same route which seemed no different than riding the Dragon’s Tail and I recommend it. Once I arrived at Deal’s Gap, I visited the obligatory Tree of Shame which was a sharp reminder of the dangers of riding the Dragon where motorcycle parts are hanging from the tree. Several parts were from head-on collisions.
At Deal’s Gap, the first thing I noticed was motorcycle riders could not handle the slight incline in the pavement from the gas station that leads up to the road. Those that did, either duck walked across one lane to the other, straightened out their motorcycle before they left, or if they rode straight out, then did so my jumping into the opposite lane of oncoming traffic. Three motorcycle riders dropped their bike in less than fifteen minutes. If that’s how you ride, you have no business riding. If you don’t hurt or kill yourself, you may your passenger or another rider. Don’t be stupid or selfish- either could lead to a deadly result.
Besides the lack of basic motorcycle riding skills, I saw a lot drinking going on at Deal’s Gap. It was lunchtime, bad time to be there, and that resulted in my decision on skipping lunch and getting out as fast as possible.
Now, besides basic riding skills a rider should have and this isn’t going to be a blog on proper riding technique, how to survive the Dragon is simple enough: ride at your level. That’s it! It’s not complicated!
Don’t try to be cool and take corners fast, leaning into the curve when you don’t know how to do that in the first place. If you lack experience and still jump on the Dragon, then at a minimum, go below the speed limit which is 30 miles per hour. And keep a safe distance from the motorcycle or car ahead of you.
Do this, and you will be fine, but the problem is most don’t do that. Fact is, I know a riding group out of Miami that went there once, and these ten Evel Knievel wannabee’s went down, one of them twice. They didn’t post that on Facebook, but another rider I know did from his ride there this past summer, and it was obvious a turn came up on him fast, he lost control, and the motorcycle didn’t slide a 100 feet down the embankment thanks to the trees.
As always, there the adrenaline seekers who want that ultimate rush and ride at night when they don’t even know how to ride during the day. I know someone like that. You would think after two accidents resulting both times in a coma he would know better. Again, stupid and selfish- he has a wife and children.
I no doubt took my time riding the Dragon. Why not- this isn’t a race. People can make fun of me all they want, fact is, there is a good chance I ride better than that person and ride better than anyone else they know. I don’t throttle with my ego, I throttle with common sense. There is a time and place for everything. Want to do hairpin turns at a high rate of speed? There are tracks for that. You aren’t alone on the Dragon which should be one of your first considerations. Just look at the pics of this blog.