• Tail of Dragon Photo courtesy of Sam Owens
    Sam Owens and his companion Gail Flynn ride the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, North Carolina.

Fall 2018 Mountain Traveler

Freedom on 2 wheels

North Georgia is made for motorcycle rides

The North Georgia Mountains are beautiful in the fall, no matter how you choose to view them.

But there is something special about experiencing them from the seat of a motorcycle.

Sam Owens, who lives in a campground in Cleveland, has ridden motorcycles for more than 40 years. Lately he rides a three-wheeled Polaris Slingshot, which provides a similar experience but with greater safety.

Owens called the North Georgia Mountains “a playground of beautiful roads to enjoy a great motorcycle ride.”

“Mountain roads are the key element to enjoying the ride experience on a motorcycle,” Owens said.

Graham Crosby moved to Northeast Georgia specifically for the “world class riding.”

“I’ve been riding something with two wheels for 50 years,” Crosby said. “Some of the best riding in the country is right here in the North Georgia mountains.”

Crosby said two popular rest spots for cyclists are Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi at the top of Blood Mountain on U.S. Highway 129 and Two Wheels Only campground in Suches.

“Food, lodging and camping are available, but you have to be on two wheels, no cars,” he said of Two Wheels Only.

The “Blood Mountain run” Crosby mentioned is one of Owens’ favorites. The route travels north from Cleveland on U.S. Highway 129, past Turners Corner at U.S. Highway 19 to the top of Blood Mountain.

“There is a parking lot with an outfitters shop for hikers of the Appalachian Trail there,” Owens said. “There are restrooms, and lot of other riders to chat with while they take a break.”

The route continues down the north side of Blood Mountain toward Blairsville. After a stop at Sunrise Grocery Store near Vogel State Park, the rider loops back toward Cleveland or Helen, right on state Route 180, then three miles to Richard B. Russell Parkway for another “most awesome motorcycle adventure ride.”

That route passes several overlooks as well as Dukes Creek Waterfall, and the rider can continue to Helen or Cleveland.

Owens said you need the same skills to ride a motorcycle that are required to ride a bicycle.

“You add a 65-horsepower motor, and you have a real adventure that will give you a real rush when you ride a mountain road,” he said.

Owens recommends riders take a motorcycle course before he or she attempts mountain roads.

“Mountain roads are much different than riding on flatland areas without curves,” he said. “Curves on the mountain roads present a whole new environment and require skill to handle safely.”

Owens said a rider must be totally focused, and able to read the road conditions ahead of the curve.

“Each curve must be planned ahead to know how much speed to enter, braking needed and acceleration out of curve, to experience to most exciting ride,” he said. “As you lean into a curve, you receive an adrenaline rush that makes you want to do another. The curves are spaced very close together and makes all a great experience.”

Owens pointed out group riding requires more skills than riding alone, including knowing safe distance between riders, staggered riding of lanes and proper speed for keeping up with group. He said if one rider in the group isn’t behaving properly, it gives the group a “speed-up, slow-down” affect, which is “not a fun ride.”

People ride motorcycles for many reasons, including the excitement of the ride and the beautiful surroundings. One of the best parts for Crosby, however, is “the people you meet along the way.”

“I have lifelong friends that I met in some random place on a ride to somewhere,” he said. “It’s a community that takes care of each other.”

Northeast Georgian

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