Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Most Dangerous Roads Are In Your Head

The Smokey Mountain Rider writes today about US Hwy 129, referred by many as "Tail of the Dragon" or "Deals Gap"...

Truth is, motorcycle riders crash here due to their own expectations. The Tail of the Dragon near Deals Gap is so hyped as a challenging and dangerous motorcycle ride people believe they have to make it one.
And I would agree with that, and I think most riders do too.

Here in Southern California, much is made about "Ortega Highway", CA 74, running between Lake Elsinore and San Juan Capistrano. There's a couple of stretches running up and down a mountain range, and down through a steep canyon, where many motorcyclists have died.

Yet, there really isn't anything dangerous about Ortega Highway at all.

And something similar could be said of Palomar Mountain Road (County Hwy S6), also in Southern California, though it seems like far fewer accidents are reported on this road than Ortega Highway, even though Palomar is far more twisty and tight.

I think it's because each accident on Ortega Highway is given a spotlight due to the reputation the public has given it. And because of that reputation, newspapers continue to highlight the accidents, especially if it involved a motorcycle, and those reports only fuel the reputation.

Many women riders around here are afraid to ride Ortega. I've actually listened to some women tell me that. But once they've finally summoned up enough will to ride it, they're overcome with excitement to know that they conquered their fear, and are eager to tell everyone, "Hey guess what, I rode Ortega Highway!"

There is no such thing as a dangerous road. It's all in how you ride it that makes it dangerous. True, you could ride safely and still get creamed by someone else, but then again it's still not the road's fault.

If you're riding over your abilities, then I doubt you're having fun. Somehow, somewhere, peer pressure is causing you to ride that way.

And when enough people get killed on the same stretch of road, we end up fearing the road instead.


  1. Great post!!!! Living out here in Georgia I have rode the Dragon numerous times and there have been a few tail clenching moments. I have also seen folks ride WAY past their abilities and suffer the consequences. I have found that there is no trophy's at the end of the road and that broken bones really are not that great. It's not the road but the rider.

  2. I agree. I live very close to the Tail of the Dragon and try to go ride there about once a month (when the weather permits). I have seen some dangerous riding, but I stay around the speed limit.. More about the Dragon is at

  3. I like your post. I rode the Tail twice in July 2008. The four of us in my group was a little disappointed, not really in the road itself, but that it was not like we expected. There are so many great roads in that area that by the time we got there we felt we had practiced so much that the Tail was just another road.

    I like your blog and I am linking to it from my blog (hope that is OK).

    I posted about the Tail of the Dragon also.

  4. I am now intrigued by the Ortega Highway that I have slightly changed the route of my tour later this year to include it. Thanks for highlighting it.

    About a week before I get there, maybe I will put a comment on this blog to see if anyone wants to ride it with me? I should get there at aound the end of October, near the end of my trip.


  5. Thanks for mentioning Smoky Mountain It's nice to descover your site. I'll be back.

  6. I ride ortega every morning at 4:50am to work. By the time I get to work I've got a smile on my face.

  7. not nearly enough has been made about Ortega Hwy.. and this article is pure crap.. more motorcyclist blood has been spilled on Ortega than ANY OTHER place on earth.. pure and simple. It is a great road, and a great road to ride fast on, but there is no margin for error, and if you make a mistake, you need some luck... love it a little, and acknowledge the greatest motorcycle road on earth... it's like Chuck Yeager, it doesn't have to jump up and down and say "I'm the bad ass", it just is..

  8. The Ortega is twobroads to me: Fun as I enjoy riding it for what it is --a really nice road for a weekend ride. And utilitarian as a connector from the I-5 to the I-15. The rider who commented about tlriding it at zero dark thirty on hos way to work would also tell you of the great ride- exhilerating or casually smooth- on a Sunday headed to Tom's Farms. The Ortega/74 is a classic road that al types of motorcycle enthusiasts will enjoy.

    Yes: There are an awful lot of bole wrecks- mostly sport bikes- where the accident is related to speed or failure to control one's bike.


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)