BMW Offers the Best Way to Ride the Tail of Dragon


by Michael Satterfield - Updated 12/28/2021

Some of the best motorcycle roads in the world are in the Blue Ridge Mountains that straddle the states of Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas. The Blue Ridge Parkway, Nantahala Byway, and the legendary Tail of the Dragon are here and have long been popular with motorcyclists from around the world. If you are fortunate enough to live within riding distance visiting the winding roads of  Appalachia is something that can be done over a weekend, but for those of us who live west of the Mississippi or in the Northeast, just getting to and from the region can eat up the bulk of your vacation time, which is why BMW's arrive and ride motorcycle tours are the perfect way to make the most of your motorcycle adventure in the South.

The tours are based out of the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina, home to the BMW U.S. Rider Academy which offers both performance and safety training programs for motorcyclists of all levels of experience. The two and three-day tours are offered for riders who are comfortable enough to be out on the open road for a few hundred miles a day. With on-road or off-road options you can select a tour that is more dirt trails than blacktop, I was invited out for the on-road version of the tour. 


As far as motorcycle road trips go, the "Arrive and Ride" nature of this trip makes it a perfect getaway for someone with a busy schedule. Literally, everything is included, other than your riding gear and your travel to Spartanburg. Getting to Spartanburg is easy, with direct flights to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, or you drive in from Charlotte or Atlanta. The tours draw riders from across the US and around the world. international riders will need an international motorcycle license. Unlike many driving and riding experiences, BMW tours offer riders full coverage for any damage to the motorcycle while on the trip, so you can ride with peace of mind, medical coverage still would fall under your own personal health insurance so make sure that is up to date, just in case. 


We headed out in the morning pointed towards the North Carolina border, the roads are mostly two-lane country roads that are draped across the mountains and valleys, the views as you climb to the top of the Blue Ridge Parkway will take your breath away, I will admit the natural beauty can be distracting, but the tour stops at the best points for photos along the way, so you don't have to worry about  missing out on photo opportunities. Following closely behind is a BMW X5 towing a trailer with spare bikes, water, snacks, and luggage. Having the chase vehicle means you don't need to worry about packing just for a motorcycle trip. The tour is designed to allow the riders to focus on the ride and the experience, the rest of the details are taken care of. 


A highlight of the tour is a visit to the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. The museum is home to over 300 motorcycles, nearly endless motorcycle memorabilia, unique cars, and other interesting forms of mostly motorcycle powered transportation. A stand out in the museum is a motorcycle described as the rarest American made motorcycle in existence a one of a kind, hand-built, motorcycle that was hidden away in the early 1900s only to be discovered again in the 1960s and purchased by motorcycle legend Bud Ekins. The tour stops for about an hour, but it will leave you wanting more, as you could easily spend days exploring all of the exhibits. 


By the end of the first day, I found myself at the base of the Tail of the Dragon, one of the most legendary roads in the USA, 318 curves in 11 miles. Pulled over in the parking lot, we get a short briefing from the BMW instructors who are leading the group, with a few tips for riding the road, the main one, is go at your own pace, enjoy the ride, and remember it's not a race. The first run through Deal's Gap takes us from North Carolina into Tennessee, taking the tour into its third state of the day. We regroup on the other side and prepare to ride back down the Dragon a second time before heading to the lodge where we would be staying for the night.


After our second pass on the Dragon, we regroup and head towards the Snowbird Mountain Lodge. Perched on the top of a mountain overlooking a beautiful valley the Snowbird has been providing luxury hospitality to guests since 1941. The classic rooms offer modern comfort with timeless style, after a four-course dinner and some great conversation, I headed to bed, falling asleep to the sounds of nature. Depending on the seasonal availability, BMW works with a handful of select properties like the Snowbird Mountain Lodge. 


After breakfast, we hit the road again for another full day of riding, eventually winding our way back down to South Carolina ended at the BMW Performance Center. The trip is hard to put to words, in just a few days I had made new friends, learned more about myself as a rider, and taken back with me valuable lessons that I will apply to rides in the future. I also can't wait to get back and explore more of the natural beauty and technically challenging roads of the Smokey Mountains. 



Tours run April-October and start at $2,099 for a Two-Day and $2,699 for a Three-Day tour. Prices include, fuel, food, lodging, and snacks. You are required to bring proper riding attire, footwear, helmet, and gloves. 

For more information or to book your own tour CLICK HERE.


Additionally, you can opt to purchase images from your trip up the dragon from the photographers who are stationed up along the route, Killboy captured some great images of my ride.