Get Your Motor Running and Head Out on These East Tennessee Motorcycle Routes
With redbuds and dogwoods coming into full bloom, it’s time to hit the highways.
More and more, Tennessee enjoys a high ranking as a top motorcycling state. In the last five years, licensed motorcycle riders increased more than 14%, according to Tennessee Department of Safety numbers.
Ever wonder why East Tennessee is such a popular motorcycling destination? Simple answer. For one mile you are ambling along and soaking up the view, and the next mile you are powering through banked turns and roller-coaster dips.
Motorcycle riders in Johnson City drew up the Southern Dozen, a guide to Upper East Tennessee motorcycle routes. The Snake Ride crosses through Shady Valley and traces the shores of Watauga Lake. The Top of the Roan Ride lets you feel cool mountain air. The Music to Your Ears Ride connects you to the Carter Family and the Birthplace of Country Music, plus adds a stop at the burger stand where Hank Williams took his last meal. The Long Dam Ride leads you to five hydroelectric dams and through Cherokee National Forest.
“It’s all about the ride—the beautiful scenery, the curves to lean into,” said Brenda Whitson, executive director of the Johnson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, sponsor of the Southern Dozen.
The first edition of the Southern Dozen was written for a Harley owners group visiting Johnson City. The most recent edition includes more information, such local dining spots, great places to shop and where to find clean restrooms. The Southern Dozen website has videos and maps of the route, plus hotel packages with special rates.
“The distinctively different riding loops take riders through a variety of landscapes, from rolling farmland to mountaintops,” says Eddie. The loops all begin and end in Chattanooga.
Creating this travelogue for fellow bikers was a three-year labor of love. This volunteer project was presented to the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau. It website hosts the Bikers’ Dozen loops along with photos, maps, elevation graphs, time estimates and fatigue factor. Eddie suggests sightseeing spots, homegrown eateries and motorcycle-friendly hotels.
“I grew up in this area and know the roads,” says Eddie, a 35-year biker who made it his goal to make motorcycle enthusiasts feel at home in “our little piece of heaven.” Eddie, a civil engineer, organized about 80 rides during the six years he served as president of a local motorcycle club.
“On the more laid-back loops, I ride my Honda Magna VFR 750 cruiser. But on the curvy mountainous loops, I ride my Aprilia Tuono RSV 1000R sports bike,” says Eddie.
The Cumberland Plateau Loop offers the highs and lows of mountainous Marion, Grundy and Sequatchie counties. Eddie’s Choice Loop stretches across five counties and presents miles and miles of farmland punctuated with small-town charm.
The Tail of the Dragon, touted at “America’s No. 1 Motorcycle Road,” has 318 curves—many banked like a racetrack—in 11 miles. Eddie drew up a 258-mile loop that lands riders on Tail of the Dragon.
Recalling his first ride on the Dragon, Eddie relates, “Initially, I started out a little apprehensive. After all, I’d heard about this stretch of pavement. I quickly learned that if I just kept my eyes on the road and not get distracted or get sucked into racing, then I would be just fine.
“In this stretch, I found myself buried deep into motorcycle country and did the ‘low five’ literally hundreds of times before I parked my bike at the end of the day,” says Eddie, who then undertook some relaxing riding after the high-adrenaline Dragon. He gives it a “High” fatigue factor.
The Dragon’s Tree of Shame alerts everyone to the dangers of daredevil riding. The makeshift shrine—a collection of parts from crashed motorcycles—shows what happened to those bitten by the monster highway.
“Keep the rubber side down!” cautions Eddie, who emphasizes safety at all times. Tennessee has helmet laws to help protect riders from serious injuries.
“Thousands of motorcycle riders come to Tennessee every year to take in some of the most beautiful rides in the country. We’re delighted they’re here … and even happier that the vast majority protect themselves and their families by wearing helmets,” says Don Lindsey, Tennessee Public Affairs Director, AAA – The Auto Club Group.
Johnson City and Chattanooga aren’t the only East Tennessee cities promoting motorcycle touring. A guide called “The Long & Winding Road” shows off city lights, moonshine runs, Appalachian folklore and scenic overlooks of mountains and lakes. You will test your mettle in the Devil’s Triangle, a series of switchbacks along steep hillsides near Oliver Springs. The illustrated listing of six scenic rides is available from the Middle East Tennessee Tourism Council and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.
Motorcyclists can’t get enough of East Tennessee. So, come out and enjoy the most fun you can have on two wheels.