2008 R1/R6 Forum East Coast Convention

Taking the Dragon by its tail


U.S. 129, better known as The Tail of the Dragon, slithers its way across the North Carolina/Tennessee border like a snake finessing its way around each tooth of an upturned garden rake. The road is a magnet for the both two- and four-wheel performance vehicles, tourists, Sunday drivers, bicyclists and cops. It’s also the convergence point for Yamaha enthusiasts attending the annual R1/R6 Forum East Coast Convention.

This past June McCoy Motorsports once again hosted what has become an annual retreat for Yamaha enthusiasts devoted to the tuning fork company’s performance-leading R1 and R6 motorcycles. It was, in fact, the sixth consecutive year for the Forum convention with approximately 200 R1 and R6 riders descending on southern Appalachia to attend.

The moto-centric event celebrates two-wheel culture via a week of riding, eating, drinking, merriment and more riding. There’s also a kindred element to the convention with the entire McCoy clan attending as well as family members and friends of Forum affiliates.

'Boredom has no excuses here.' 

Headquarters for the event is Fontana Village Resort. Offering a selection of bedroom cabins, rooms at the main lodge and camp sites, there’s accommodations aplenty for a variety of budgets and group sizes. When not riding a motorcycle, or for an activity besides motorcycle riding, the Village offers fishing, frisbee golf, mountain biking, horseback riding, miniature golf, indoor and outdoor pools, and boats and jet skis are available for rent at the marina. Outside the village you can pan for gemstones, take a train ride or go white-water rafting. Boredom has no excuses here.

The Village is also conveniently located a handful of miles away from the entry point of the Dragon – a nice warm-up ride that follows the contour of Cheoah Lake.

According to gossip, a couple months prior to this year’s convention Tennessee law enforcement hadn’t been kind to a group of moto-journalists attending a Triumph press introduction. Gossip said that one lucky scribe was awarded the opportunity of riding the Dragon in the back of a Tennessee State cruiser.

To some degree the gossip was right. Seems as though the Tennessee State Patrol was out to help financially compensate their state in this time of economic trouble by target fixating on sportbike riders and ticketing them from incredibly benign offenses to actions warranting a fine. But like Shane McCoy says, “you can sit around and pout about it, or you can adjust where and when you ride.”

The Real Feud
A Tongue In Cheek History Lesson

The Hatfields of Appalachia lore were a prudent clan of mountain folk compared to their antithetical rivals from the same rugged vicinity, the McCoys, who understand the benefits of a week-long shindig and employ the principles well. Like other misconstrued footnotes of American history, the Hatfield-McCoy feud wasn’t about a pig, a property line or a forbidden love affair, it was about motorcycles. That’s right, the Hatfield’s were America’s first motorcycle discriminators.

Before the existence of R1s or R6s, or Yamaha for that matter, the McCoys enjoyed setting aside the same period every year for a weeklong family get-together when they’d ride their coal-fired, steam-powered, wooden-framed two-wheelers during the day and at night uncork the moonshine, thrum the kettle bass, pick the banjo, fiddle and foot stomp.

The McCoy’s neighbor, “Devil Anse” Hatfield, for no apparent reason, hated those early motorcycles, and late one night took an axe and made kindling of the McCoys’ bikes, thus beginning an escalation in what was to become the historical feud.

One-hundred-thirty years later the McCoys continue the family gathering tradition in the form of the annual R1/R6 Forum East Coast Convention. According to legend, a large majority of Hatfield descendants became Tennessee State Troopers.

In close vicinity to the Dragon is Cherohala Skyway and Highways 28, 68, 72, 143 and 360, all of which lead to evermore winding and scenic roads. Taking a wrong turn onto a byway in this part of the country with no motorcycling benefits would truly be an incredible accomplishment.

For off-road enthusiasts there are nearby riding areas, and if you’re already trailering your streetbike to the event, you might as well make room for your MXer or ATV. Sadly, Chad Clifton, a McCoy Motorsports employee and an integral Forum member, suffered a back injury while dirt biking during the week of the event, and due to complications following his surgery he tragically passed away a few days following the event’s conclusion. In his posting on the R1 Forum, Shane McCoy briefly eulogized Clifton saying he was one of the greatest persons he’d ever met.

'Thursday night of the week-long-event is dedicated to the annual boat party – a celebration of excessive alcohol consumption.'

Thursday night of the week-long-event is dedicated to the annual boat party – a celebration of excessive alcohol consumption. Impromptu fireworks displays, over-turned tables, terribly off-key singing and getting thrown from the boat are all part of the festivities. Having attended the event the previous year I was sure to arrive in time to catch the ferry out to the houseboat in order to participate, and this year’s party certainly didn’t disappoint.

The culinary highlight of this year’s event was Irish Stew’s homemade sweet potato pie. Baked with tender care by Stew’s mother for the cost of one McCoy T-shirt it is undoubtedly one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten.

Due to a scheduling conflict at Fontana Village the event had to be pushed back a week, which had the Forum event unintentionally coinciding with another local annual event — the Honda Hoot. Interestingly, for all the seemingly biased focus by local law enforcement against sportbike riders, the only bikes I witnessed being hauled away from the Dragon on the back of flatbed this year was a cruiser and a tourer.

The conclusion of the event is the annual Yamaha banquet. Held outside this year on Shuckstack Road (an allocated park of the Village for Forum members) instead of inside the lodge, it’s akin to Christmas morning for motorcyclists. On the list of giveaways were sets of Pirelli Diablos and Dunlop Qualifiers, a GoPro Camera System, a front end stand from Redline, an autographed Yamaha Race of Champions lithograph and a host of other Yamaha donated prizes.

Next year’s event is rumored to have some new activities such as either a 50cc race or downhill Big Wheel race (Bring Your Own Big Wheel). While a Big Wheel race down the Dragon would be a blast, if it doesn’t happen that won’t keep Forum members away from celebrating their motorcycles of choice by riding them throughout the best paved-over portions of southern Appalachia. For news, updates and more information about this year’s event or for next year’s event, check out the R1 Forum or R6 Forum.

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