I have been not only fortunate to HIKE all over the Western Part of North Carolina, but I also have had the privilege of riding ‘two wheels” [Motorcycles] thru WNC. And I can honestly say after riding all over the United States, this area is special.
Let’s start with a couple of facts; the “Dragon” in my opinion is overrated and over trafficked – if you must do it, do it during week day and be sure you are an experienced rider. It has over 300 turns and I have seen bikes dropped from riders in front of me. Also, know I ride a Tiger 800 [or a Aprilia Shiver] so I prefer lighter adventure bikes. I have had a Harley and they are fun as well, but living in this area with so many hills and turns and being only 5’9 and 170lbs, I found the comfort and ease of a smaller bike better for me AND I can take it on gravel or dirt.
What I will tell about this area, is always be safe and keep you eyes on the road cause the turns come quickly and its easy to get caught looking at the beauty of the mountains.
There are some great rides, but like hiking, I prefer to get off the beaten path. Hwy 9 from Black Mountain to Bat Cave is a great short ride and if you want to get there from Asheville take Old Fort Rd from Hwy 74A south all the way and hang a right on HWY 9 towards Lake Lure. Most of those roads all have fairly new pavement too.
I talk about this ride, adventure bikes and a great spot to stop along the way on our latest podcast with EuroSport Asheville.
I typically do a camping weekend off the bike out past Bryson City, NC with some buddies. There are some great roads out there –Route 28 of off Route 19 in either direction. We typically cut off and head east back towards Franklin and that road has almost no traffic. If you go west, you will head towards the “Tail of the Dragon” and I actually think the ride to the “dragon” is better than the dragon. Rte 129 out that way along Santeelah Lake is pretty awesome too. Oh yeah, don’t forget about the Blue Ridge Parkway!
I typically ride that a bunch in November after the leaf watchers go home and there is no traffic!
I can’t give all my secrets away, but bring plenty of water anddon’t be afraid the stop and take it all in once and awhile. There are plenty of great places to stop all over the area. My favorite might be the Filling Station in Bryson City, NC – best sub within a 100 miles; but be adventurous! It’s a pretty “motorcycle” friendly area too.
Western NC has great riding and places to stay all over. The weather can change quickly and its always 10 degrees cooler at the higher elevations – I keep extra gear and always have a rain jacket in my side bags. There can be plenty of Po-Po’s on the main routes too so be mindful. It’s such a great area to ride [once you get out fo the immediate Asheville Area] so have fun and BE SAFE!