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  1. #1
    Active Member spyder01's Avatar
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    Default Unpaved roads in the Smoky Mountains

    I am planning some rides for this coming season and am wondering if anyone has ever done rides on unpaved roads in or near the Smoky Mountain National Park or lower Blue Ridge Parkway area.There is a company that sells maps of this area(americaridesmaps.com) including the unpaved roads showing easy and harder trails.I know my 2017 RTL is not a dirt bike but I did install the so called missing belt guard.Just want to know if its possible riding two up or a total waste of time to even try.I do have extensive off road experience.
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    Very Active Member jaherbst's Avatar
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    I personally would not recommend it. i.e. Rocks in belt even with the Missing rock Guard, poor traction from loose gravel, sand and mud holes. Dust off the old dirt bike if you feel the need.

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  3. #3
    Very Active Member Fatcycledaddy's Avatar
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    I hit a couple of dirt roads when out that way last year. Would not recommend it unless you have a bumpskid. I do not have one, but it is the next thing on my list. There were a couple of times I could not avoid the frunk from contacting the ground, even at crawling speed.
    Also, some of the things they call gravel, I call boulders.
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  4. #4
    Active Member spyder01's Avatar
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    I was thinking I would get a bumpskid.Ive already ground out just going into driveways.I wonder if anyone has ever hit the bumpskid and gotten damage to the frunk or the supporting structure beneath.Ive only got like 4.5" of clearance and the bumpskid may decrease that by 3/8".
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    What i have seen over 10 years is about a dozen belts ruined by gravel finding its way between the rear pulley and belt. The tiny ones, little shale pieces, often from tarred/chipped surfaces or fine gravel roads get thrown up by the rear tire, fall onto the lower travelling belt, get rolled between the rear pulley and the belt, then ultimately poke a hole in the belt. Any hole in the belt will eventually cause the belt to tear/break. I'd think really hard befor I'd take it off road.

  6. #6
    Very Active Member Chupaca's Avatar
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    Default Agree...

    Not the best and most of those roads are not maintained so it is a gamble to venture out on them. Have to be something really special and worth the risk to see or do that can't be done any other way. Have been on some, not by choice, and worried the whole time making it a miserable few miles....
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    Default I wouldn not

    Sorry for the duplicate
    Last edited by Fire34; 01-16-2019 at 11:16 AM. Reason: Duplicate
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  8. #8
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    We just relocated to east tennessee there are plenty of beautiful roads down here that are paved, and the scenery is even better but unfortunately you have to keep your eyes on the road.
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    Go for it. Many of these unpaved roads are in very good shape and I have rode several two up on my RT. Use common sense and if the road starts to get ugly it isn't a big deal to turn around and go back. Some of the roads are not much more than single track roads suitable for a 4WD vehicle which I avoid on the RT, but many are nice smooth roads and the reward can be some fantastic scenery. Sure there is a chance of having a problem, but there is also a chance you will walk into the kitchen, grab your chest and fall over dead as well. Get the maps, do a bit of internet research, and one of the best ideas is talk to the locals. Most important of all is have fun and be careful.

  10. #10
    Very Active Member DGoebel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spyder01 View Post
    I am planning some rides for this coming season and am wondering if anyone has ever done rides on unpaved roads in or near the Smoky Mountain National Park or lower Blue Ridge Parkway area.There is a company that sells maps of this area(americaridesmaps.com) including the unpaved roads showing easy and harder trails.I know my 2017 RTL is not a dirt bike but I did install the so called missing belt guard.Just want to know if its possible riding two up or a total waste of time to even try.I do have extensive off road experience.
    I agree, go for it if you want to. But be prepared. I rode my 2013 RTL One Up on many miles of unpaved roads in that area last year with no problems. I DID however install the Missing Belt Guard and the Air Ride Rock Armour before taking that trip which included 50 miles of flat unpaved roads into and out of the Northwest Angle of Minnesota at the start of the trip. I didn't have the bumpskid, nor did my riding buddy on his '12 RT, but I gotta say the one 20 miles of unpaved roads from Tennessee's State Line Recreation Area (Near Tellico Plains) to Murphy NC took us an hour.
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  11. #11
    Active Member spyder01's Avatar
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    Is the air ride armour hard to install?
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    Very Active Member DGoebel's Avatar
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    Not on my '13. Did it myself in garage with a HF lift and jack stands.
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    Very Active Member JayBros's Avatar
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    I have both a bump skid and missing belt guard. Nevertheless, I don't normally plan dirt/gravel roads unless the distance is short, like a mile or two. and even when that's done I stop and do a visual check of the whole belt and rear sprocket.
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    Active Member Jarred's Avatar
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    Bumpskid will help but if you want to avoid damaging the Bumpskid & front end, I highly recommend BajaRon Shock Adjusters. They lift the front end a bit and prevents that “nose dive” when u hit the breaks hard. Personally, I’d ride those roads w a Ryker Rally but not a Spyder. Does sound like fun though.

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    Here are a few Gravel roads I would not recommend except on an enduro type bike.
    Joe Brown Highway. AKA Unicoi Turnpike from Coker Creek off TN 68 to the Hiwassee Dam Turn Cutoff. Attempted on motorcycle a few times and turned around both times. Did it in the car and found I was glad I didn't get too far on the bike.
    Witt Road. A gravel road that runs from TN 68 near Tellico Plains. it runs a close parallel to TN 68 but it is rough, seep, and you have to forge 6 streams: have done on car a few times. It is 8 miles through the Cherokee Forest wilderness. You can see bikes trying this road on You Tube.
    Tn 32 from the US 321 cutoff in Cosby is a very twisty road: I think better than the Dragon, but with a twist. One you have to watch for lots of road debris from trees, rock, etc. It is paved all the way to the NC State Line and the Appalachian Trail. Here it becomes Mount Sterling Road and for 1.2 miles it is gravel. Light mostly. I have done it on motorcycle many times. Waterville Road will take you back to I-40 to exit 451.
    If you are brave, you can continue on Mount Sterling road: which roughly parallels I-40, and it will drop you into. Cataloochee. It is about 14 miles, but takes over an hour on a motorcycle. Once in Cataloochee, you find paved roads. Eventually the paved road ends and you have to take the Old Cataloochee Turnpike/Cove Creek Road back 3 miles on a gravel road until you reach pavement again. Then it is another 7.5 miles back to US276/Jonathan Creek Rd near I-40 exit 20 in NC.
    The Cataloochee trip, IMHO, is the best as road within the park is in pretty good shape and gravel is not thick at all. One thing though. Seasonal closing of the road is common in winter. but if it is open, you get to see large herds of Elk within Cataloochee as well as well preserved homes and farm building from when this was a farming community.
    Here is another. NC State Highway 197. Although it is paved on both ends, from Exit 15 on I-24/US19 to Burnsville at US 19E, In the middle through the mountains it is the only NC State highway that is still gravel within the Pisgah National Forest in Buncombe County, NC. It is a 4.5 mile stretch. I have done this on motorcycle several times. It was not thick gravel.

    Hope this helps some. Oh. No not tried these on the new spyder, not until I get the missing belt guard anyway

  16. #16
    Active Member spyder01's Avatar
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    Great post,now Ill have to check these out.
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    Very Active Member Grandpot's Avatar
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    I have done extensive 4WD in that area . A high clearance vehicle is really what you need if going off the paved roads. The ruts and holes come up in the most unusual places and sometimes need to be driven through instead of around.
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  18. #18
    aka: akspyderman ARtraveler's Avatar
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    It is all going to come down to being your choice.

    Broken belts do not happen very often...but watch out for Murphy's Law.

    I have had two...one going down a gravel road to explore a campground. And once in my driveway when I got stuck backing out of the garage for the first ride of the year.

    The driveway episode cost me $500 with tow, belt, and labor.

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  19. #19
    Active Member WisconsinDavid's Avatar
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    What do you do when...?
    During a ride around Lake Superior, there were several sections that were torn up and graveled due to road construction. Some of these stretches were miles in length. One in a blasting zone looked more like a goat path than a road, but only for a short distance. I felt white knuckled on my Harley, but really felt badly for the bike rider on the 10 speed trying to find a way through with his little tires. The Harley was belt driven and never encountered a problem with it... owned 3 of them - Sportster, Low Rider, Ultra Classic.
    Have any of you encountered roads like that and what did you do? There were no other roads to side-track to. There was really only one way to loop around the Lake. This summer we are planning to go back, but this time from Sault Ste Marie, across the top of Huron and out into Eastern Ontario, CA. It almost sounds like I should leave the Spyder in the garage for fear of the belt and trouble if we encounter gravel, which there is a lot of up there ... or find another ride. That will be my first long ride since purchasing the RS last fall at the end of the riding season here in WI.

    Thanks, Dave

  20. #20
    aka: akspyderman ARtraveler's Avatar
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    Good question Wisconsin.

    Have done the Lake Superior Circle Tour. Happily, when we did it there were no hazards like you mention.

    There will be times when you will encounter "roadwork" on a trip. Those who come to AK get a lot of that.

    The answer seems to be to slow down a bit so as not to throw to many rocks around. Driving through mud is another situation though. I have turned around rather than riding through miles of mud. That back wheel will slip and slide. It's all about the bravery quotient.

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  21. #21
    Active Member WisconsinDavid's Avatar
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    We hit it on the northside, between thunder bay and schreiber and then over on the northeast between Wawa and Sault Ste Marie. Glad you saw that scenery too, It is a beautiful ride. Our trip was a four mooser... we measured in moose and not in miles! Thanks for the advice. I'm still new to Spyders. I have Lamont's highway pegs to put on and Spyderpops heat deflector, when the heart of WI winter has gone past. My group of four amigos will ride again in early June.

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    Ok, so this thread has migrated from dirt roads in the Smoky Mountains to riding around Lake Superior! Not a problem for me since I grew up in the U.P. of Michigan, AND own a small home and property in the Smoky's! I have ridden extensively in both areas. There are so many absolutely beautiful paved roads in NC and TN, that I have never felt the need to venture off road on my motorcycle. I do have friends who have done the trip to Townsend on the unpaved road, but they were in a 4 X 4....not sure when, if ever, I will get bored with the paved roads...but that's just me...

  23. #23
    aka: akspyderman ARtraveler's Avatar
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    I think the thread is still on subject...if we consider that all have mentioned driving on dirt or construction type roads.

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  24. #24
    Very Active Member Fatcycledaddy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WisconsinDavid View Post
    What do you do when...?
    During a ride around Lake Superior, there were several sections that were torn up and graveled due to road construction. Some of these stretches were miles in length. One in a blasting zone looked more like a goat path than a road, but only for a short distance. I felt white knuckled on my Harley, but really felt badly for the bike rider on the 10 speed trying to find a way through with his little tires. The Harley was belt driven and never encountered a problem with it... owned 3 of them - Sportster, Low Rider, Ultra Classic.
    Have any of you encountered roads like that and what did you do? There were no other roads to side-track to. There was really only one way to loop around the Lake. This summer we are planning to go back, but this time from Sault Ste Marie, across the top of Huron and out into Eastern Ontario, CA. It almost sounds like I should leave the Spyder in the garage for fear of the belt and trouble if we encounter gravel, which there is a lot of up there ... or find another ride. That will be my first long ride since purchasing the RS last fall at the end of the riding season here in WI.

    Thanks, Dave
    I do not have the belt guard, or the bumpskid (yet). But in all of our riding we have had many many roads under construction, and out west it could be many miles at a time. Most of these are nothing but sand and gravel, and one time on ND I was driving slow, so the brine truck watering to reduce dust, pulled onto the road in front of me. He proceeded to dump brine on the high clay content gravel, it became greasy slick, and the Spyder got COVERED in slime.
    The next stop after getting out of the construction was a good car wash.
    In all of these trips down gravel roads, I have never had a problem with a belt. A couple of large ridges and boulders did drag under the front, I saw them in advance, moved what I could, and went over them VERY slowly. If you drive carefully paying attention, you should not have a problem.

    I however, do not drive down those types of roads by choice or trip planning, but only when that is the only way to get to where I need to go.
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  25. #25
    Active Member WisconsinDavid's Avatar
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    Yes, my point throwing in the Lake Superior loop was riding some pretty long expanses of gravel up there in road construction areas, but that trip was on a belt driven harley ultra. I haven't had experience with my Spyder RS on graveled construction, as it is as new to me as I am to it. I don't know the reason the harley belt drive is not a problem in gravel compared to the sypder... but am concerned about a potentional belt problem out in the boonies. What then? I did buy the Spyderpops missing belt guard and will install it before the summer season, but hear even with it, gravel is a problem. It sounds like the Ryker's shaft drive is a huge improvement because of that issue. Thanks for the information everyone!

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