5 of the Best Twisting-Turning-Heart-Pounding Motorcycle Roads in the USA!
For the love of curves...
For many riders, myself included, curves are to a ride like dessert is to a dinner. Curves energize motorcycle riders. With every curve you need to set up your turn, pick a line, look through the turn, lean enough but not too much, quickly switch back and forth from the throttle to the brakes, upshift or downshift … its both a science and an art … it’s the main reason why many of us riders very specifically choose to travel on 2 wheels instead of 4. And so, for these type of riders, there's nothing quite like a twisting-turning road. Below, I've put together a listing of some of the most notorious twisty motorcycle roads in the USA ... roads that are so great that not only the locals enjoy them but riders come in from different states (and sometimes even different countries) to enjoy.
This is a twisty-lover's paradise...
The route is officially known as California Route 36 but referred to by many motorcycle riders by the road sign you'll see at the start of the ride - "Twisty Road Next 140 Miles!." The original submitter clearly was in love with this road's technical challenge as he said: "most likely the craziest elevation changes you will ever see ... truly resembles a rollercoaster in spots ... this road is 140 miles of twisty heaven, I'm not kidding!! very good road surface, though it does get a little rough in spots farther west, and the center line briefly disappears for a few miles farther west . lots of places without guardrails, and long drops, so be careful!!! every road will seem very trivial after you ride this!"
California Route 36 lies about 300 miles north of San Francisco
It starts out in Red Bluff California which is located in the Sacramento Valley and situated at a mere 400 ft above sea- level and then as you head west you quickly climb into the Klamath mountains and travel for most of the journey above 3,000 feet and actually break into 4,000 feet above sea level at one point. For comparison sake, arguably the most famous twisty motorcycle road in the world is the Tail of the Dragon (AKA Deal's Gap). The Tail of the Dragon’s claim to fame is that it packs “318 curves into 11 miles.” However, one of the riders who provided an extensive review of CA 36 on MotorcycleRoads.com, stated that he and his wife counted the turns and they came up with over 900!!
What motorcycle riders are saying about CA Route 36
"One super ride from mile 0 to the end. The description given in the "Road Quality" section is spot-on. This is one road you will definitely remember and want to ride again. The route takes you through several elevation changes, through farming and ranching country and treed mountains. Always interesting and good scenery when you can take your eyes off the road, which isn't frequently if you are moving along. This road has over 900 bonafide curves, my wife counted them. The curves are truly curves, not like most of the 318 curves on the "Tail of the Dragon". If you counted the curves on this road like the "Dragon" you would probably have over 2500-3000 curves. This road takes several hours and you will definitely want a cool one when you stop for the evening."
"The sides of the tires on my Vmax were sponges by the end of this ride it was awesome. I stopped about 50 miles in for gas (Vmax Of Course). I'm going to ride this again at least 3 or 4 more times this year. The ultimate ending was riding down Avenue of the Giants. Can it get any better than this? And then on to Highway 1 all the way to Santa Cruz.... If you like to ride these imo are some of the best rides in this country. Texan in California for a while..."
The most controversial road in this collection
... because pavement conditions are particularly dynamic (due to the brutal winter months causing frost heaves), is "The Mad River Glen." The unfortunate reality is that many, many roads in the northeast suffer from harsh winter conditions and often exhibit frost heaves which causes challenges in trying to keep the road surfaces maintained. Without these conditions many Vermont roads would be world class in terms of scenery and twists & turns. One of the most notorious rides in all of the northeast is Route 17 — The Mad River Glen.
Vermont's Mad River Glenn - Route 17 lies about 30 miles southwest of the capital, Montpelier, VT.
So assuming you can tour this road when it's pavement status is acceptable, you'll be treated to a near unbeatable collection of curves & elevation changes along with beautiful country and travel through the Camel's Hump State Forest..
What motorcycle riders are saying about VT Route 17
"This is indeed the finest super-twisty riding in VT - many travel from throughout the NE on weekend rides to enjoy it. To do this properly, one should really begin at the junction of t 17 with 116 in Starksboro, and ride over the Gap, then right onto German Flats Road, right again at the Sugarbush Access Road, to end at the base of Sugarbush's Lincoln Peak, Reverse and repeat."
"I did this run this past weekend having no idea what I was about to endeavor but as an adrenaline junkie and 2 wheel lover, let me tell you, it was FABULOUS!!! Better than fabulous!!! The roads were well maintained and the turns at 50-60, yup it will get your heart pumping! To give you an idea, I dragged my primary a time or two!!! Yes my bike is lowered, but knee pucks were a thought as I wound through these roads. (made me miss my sport bike a bit)... It is a "must add to my bucket list" kind of ride!!!!!"
"Discovered this road completely by accident June 2009 on Honda Valkyrie. Haven't stopped talking about it since; will return ASAP. Do need to be extremely careful as mentioned and in spring---this can last well into June here---the frost heaves can present a completely different set of hazards and thrills. Husband is still "proud" that he managed to knock my prosthetic leg OFF on this drive. Instead of the "Mad River Glen----Ski It If You Can" bumper stickers of old we should get new ones that read---"Mad River Glen--- Ride It If You Dare" "
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Many of the best twisty motorcycle roads in the entire midwest, lie in a remote region of southeast Ohio and this route is the king of them all!
The original submitter, describes the route as: "Beautiful isolated farms with rolling hills. You'll be driving next to and through some of the Wayne National Forest ... lots of very challenging twisties as the road line the crests of rolling hills ... an amusement park for sport and sport touring bikes. NOT a novice road. One should attempt this road with extreme concentration!
The Triple Nickel (OH Route 555) lies just southeast of Columbus, OH
Like many of the roads above, riders come in from many states to take on the challenge. The area has tons of great roads to ride including the 555, 329, 144, 78, 312 — just pick a few and stay all day! The 555 is hilly and has the most twisties. Often compared to the Tail of the Dragon, this route has similar curve counts with most agreeing that it has about 300+ curves in its 30 miles (as compared to the Dragon that brags of packing 318 curves in its short 11 miles).
What motorcycle riders are saying about Ohio Route 555
"I just rode the Triple Nickel yesterday and I have to say it lives up to all the hype...great ride! It actually starts at Rt 7 (by the Ohio River) and rode it all the way through to Zanesville. In a lot of ways, it is more challenging than the Dragon. The Dragon's curves are more extreme (although 555 has some extreme ones of it's own) but the Nickel's got a lot of sharp hill crests where the road changes direction from where you think it's going to go; once you crest the hill. The road is also patched in a lot of spots, with the aforementioned cinder, especially between 78 and 37; which is about a 1/3 or more of the ride. I was hammering through it, but had to slow down through that stretch as it was just too risky to run hard. Fantastic scenery, low traffic, and a few small towns to pull off in. I can't wait to ride it again!"
"What a ride .Left Cleveland 5 am heading south w/4 other riders. The other riders were retired AMA VP,AMA PRO RACERS,7 1 RETIRED RACE WRENCH (JUST IN CASE ) After a good breakfast at Waffle house We blasted down to Dover then took a few country roads to 555. we let the the sport bikes take the lead and for a good reason. the Harley Dresser & VTX aren't the most agile in the curves. I followed the H-D and for the next 30 miles I scraped and ground more parts on my VTX that are not supposed to scraped then ever be for as for the other guys well lets say they just disappeared. the day was sunny & perfect . The road was perfect. WHAT A RIDE THE TO THE ROAD HOUSE FOR A STEAK."
Although not very well known, the northwest corner of Arkansas is a twisty lover's paradise!
Northwest Arkansas hosts a number of very popular motorcycle roads including the route that is known by a great nickname – “The Pig Trail.” The roads in this area wonder through the beautiful Ozark Mountains which are characterized by lush forests, rocky outcroppings, roads that twist and turn under a canopy of trees often following the path of rivers or streams. These roads pull in riders from all over the country and have generated a bit of a cult following in the motorcycle riding community.
Arkansas Route 23 lies just east of the Arkansas/Oklahoma border
About 35 miles east of Ft. Smith Arkansas you'll find where Route 23 intersects with I-40. The route travels directly north from there but does anything but provides a straight path as the road zigs and zags its way through the Ozark National Forest.
What motorcycle riders are saying about AR Route 23
"My Fiance' and I have been going to Arkansas every year since 2006. Each year we take a 4 day stay and find different routes to ride each day. Last year in 2010 we took a ride from Hot Springs to Eureka Springs taking the Pig Trail. This was by far the best ride we ever had in our entire lives. I'm talking curves, curves and more curves! The trail is very shaded so wear a light jacke,it is was nice and cool in the mountains. All the twist and turns will give you a great workout. My fiance's shoulders were sore on the next day. He said it was the best workout he ever had. If you are ever in Arkansas you must take this route. It's a riders dream!!!!! Don't let not be on a motorcycle stop you from riding the trail; go in whatever you are driving. It's beautiful!!!"
"Yet another great ride, brought to you by Arkansas mountains. The most fun I've had on 2 wheels. Serious up and down grades, and some good switchbacks (some 10mph or less). BIG smile all the way along! If you continue on 23, be aware it does get a bit rough toward the end."
This list wouldn't be complete without the most famous twisty motorcycle road in the USA
Straddling the border of North Carolina and Tennessee is this world famous & notorious route that goes by many names - The Tail of the Dragon, Deal's Gap, US-129 or simply - The Dragon. The route is the only one on this list that has a quasi-official curve count at 318 ... that's over 300 curves packed into its short 11-mile tour ... that's on average a twist or turn every 182 feet. Given that the posted speed limit is 30 MPH for most of the ride that means on average you'll be going into a new turn EVERY FOUR SECONDS!!
In fact the road is so curvy and has become so famous that the number of crashes, accidents, injuries and fatalities annually, have forced local authorities to lower the speed limit twice in recent history ... it was 55 MPH up until 1992, then lowered down to 40 MPH the very next year in 1993, and finally lowered yet again in 2002 down to its current 30 MPH limit.
"I have been going to the Dragon every year since 1997. Have done it will over 150 times. Any one who is newer to motorcycling should not ride the Dragon or other roads in the area. You will be a danger to yourself and other bikers. To many times I have gotten behind a inexperienced rider who does not know how to ride a curve or counter steer who goes to slow for safe riding and will not pull over. This is when the Rice Rockets get impatient and will try and run you off the road. Bit of advise if someone is faster than you please pull over and let them pass. I always will and it makes the ride more fun to ride at my pace. With that being said the whole are has some of the greatest motorcycle roads to can ride for weeks and not run out of curves. If you want scenic beauty go to Colorado here all you will see is trees. I hope to retire in 7 years and I have a place 60 miles from the dragon so I can ride every day if I choose."
"Still one of the best rides in the nation for bikes. The scenery is great and the road surface is excellent. Took this ride before in June of 2010 on a weekend. Way too many sport bikes riding stupid but the only crash I saw was Harley rider and his female companion. A Goldwing almost crashed into me in a curve crossing the center line. So, maybe the sport bikes were not so bad after all. I took the trip this time in Dec. 2011 and it was great. Very few bikes at all and all of them serious safe and skilled. The Deals Gap Resort is closed during the winter months but Robinsonville NC has everything you need. I have made the trip from OK to the Dragon twice now and it is well worth it."
The route's Uncle Sam given name is US Highway 129
The route lies in a very remote section of the far northwestern portion of North Carolina and into southeastern Tennessee and truth be told, most riders associate "the Dragon" to be in North Carolina but it only a small portion of it actually lies in North Carolina ... the bulk of the short 11-miles are in Tennessee about 60-miles due south of Knoxville, TN.
What motorcycle riders are saying about the Tail of the Dragon
"I have ridden the Dragon about 6 times, and it is still one of the best roads to test your skills on. NOT for the weak of heart, our group has taken novice riders on this road, but they are warned to be very careful, and DO NOT push their skill level . . . ride your ride and enjoy the experience!!
I hope you found this guide to be informative. For more articles like this visit my collection of other popular motorcycle road articles or for more information on these and other great motorcycle roads in the US and abroad, visit MotorcycleRoads.com.
Founder & Editor, MotorcycleRoads.com