2011 Yamaha R1/R6 Forum Convention at Deals Gap
Celebrating 10 years of the Yamaha Deals Gap convention
Graves Motorsports’ Media & Technology Director Shane McCoy chronicles his experience at the 2011 Deals Gap Convention.
Take some extraordinary riding, gathering of old friends, meeting new friends and seeing Yamahas of all shape and sizes, combine with a little bit of tradition and you have all the reasons the R1-Forum.com / R6-Forum.com / Yamaha Deals Gap Convention is still going strong after 10 years!
Each year this event centers on what is arguably one of the best motorcycle riding roads in the world. Deals Gap, commonly known as “The Dragon”, starts in North Carolina at the “Cross Roads Over Time” (better known to locals as the “CROT”) - Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort. The world famous 13-mile stretch of road (whose state designation is US-129) quickly crosses over the Tennessee state line for the remaining 12 miles. The infamous Deals Gap is most known for the excellent riding. With 318 curves in just 11 miles there is never a dull moment, especially with the mountainside scenery. Deals Gap is a motorcyclists’ paradise and one of the many reasons “Why we ride!”
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Though I’ve been organizing this event nearly since its inception ten years ago, every single year I manage to leave with a new experience from riding not only Deals Gap, but the hundreds of nearby roads and places to visit. Over these last ten years my kids Trevor (11) and Paige (13) have grown up spending a week each summer in the area and both have endless memories full of fun times. Among their favorites was the ride in 2006 when SPEED TV came out to shoot an hour-long Deals Gap-centered episode of the show called Superbikes (which also included a trip to my family’s race shop) - the kids ended up getting some TV appearances! That show brought the R1-Forum.com / R6-Forum.com / Yamaha Deals Gap Convention into mainstream television.
Looking back at past events reveals countless magazine articles and online stories about Yamaha’s yearly pilgrimage to Deals Gap. There have been national motorcycle launches, Yamaha demo rides and stunt shows and you never know what famous sponsors or riders might pop in for a visit. The annual ride offers a multitude of experiences. A lifetime’s worth of stories, nightly campfire socializing, sushi lunch rides, white water rafting, house boat parties and the world famous “frosty” milkshakes rides are just a small taste of past highlights.
As in years past, Graves Motorsports was the “title” sponsor of the 2011 event and with that sponsorship came some wild bikes and awesome participant activities. Graves’ owner Chuck Graves showed up ready to ride with a special bike; the 2010 WERA National Endurance Championship winning Yamaha R1 that had been converted from race machine to a street bike! The insanely trick, hand-built motorcycle featured more racing tricks and technology than the pages of this article can cover! But rest assured you will see more of that masterpiece in upcoming magazine and online features soon. About the Deals Gap event Graves said, “It has been a really great time interacting and riding with the R1 and R6 forum members at this event. I look forward to it every year.”
The Graves crew was well represented on this year’s Deals Gap adventure. Chuck and I were joined by Weston Gleave, WORKS racing parts specialist and Tyler Kirk, Graves’ film specialist. I spent the week riding the street version of the endurance bike; a 2009 Yamaha R1 sprinkled with all parts known to Graves and a few other featured companies. We put the street bike to good use during the event, filming product installations on Dynojet Secondary Fuel Controllers, Zero Gravity windscreens and Spiegler brake lines. All can be seen on Graves Motorsports’ YouTube page.
Monday and Tuesday were spent filming and riding Deals Gap and the surrounding roads. At any given time you’d find small groups of people riding different routes in search of relaxing or spirited adventures. When Wednesday rolled around it was time to head out for Yamaha’s Eastern Distribution center in Kennesaw, Ga. where we had been invited to attend Yamaha’s 2011 U.S. Technician Grand Prix hosted by David Trombley and his staff from Yamaha Motor Corporation.
Every two years Yamaha holds the U.S. Tech GP contest by selecting the top three Yamaha service technicians in the United States and testing them in a real world, working environment to determine who is best. The Tech GP contest not only raises the bar for the level of quality services that Yamaha dealership customers receive, it is also an opportunity to recognize the behind-the-scenes technicians that fix our bikes and keep us riding (for more info on the best Yamaha Tech competition check out http://www.yamaha-motor.com/).
Our large group, led by Team Zyvax Racing’s owner J.B. Layman, road through the Cherohala Skyway, into the Blue Ridge Parkway and down to Kennesaw for a tour of the Yamaha facility. The tour was followed by a Yamaha sponsored lunch and an introduction to the GP Tech finalists. Aside from the incredible tour of the entire operations including the distribution areas, Yamaha gave away some fantastic prizes, including grab bags full of Yamaha swag to everyone on the tour.
Testing of the Tech GP finalists continued on after our departure and into the week, concluding their competition as special guest of the Graves Yamaha race team at the Barber Superbike Classic AMA Pro Racing event in Birmingham, Ala. An awards presentation was held at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum where finalist Eric Romanowicz was named the winner.
After leaving Yamaha’s Kennesaw facility, our group-ride continued on to north Georgia to preview a new racetrack facility there called Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP). We were given an inside look at the track and design and construction process. The tour included drinks, snacks and great door prizes! As an added bonus our group was given a special invite to host a track day weekend at the start of our 2012 Deals Gap event! Our ride back after the tour was a great refresher on how to ride in the rain. Despite the downpour, everyone made it back from the ride safe and sound and ready for some dry clothes.
Thursday was an open riding day and I spent Friday riding the gap and then going on a four state ride with a small group.
Our final ride started Saturday morning with an early breakfast at the Deals Gap Store. As breakfast ended riders in the group headed to Deals Gap’s “Mud Corner” and did some camera riding for 129Slayer.com’s photographers. Motorcycle.com sponsored photographs of all R1 and R6 riders from Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately this year’s annual group photo at the overlook was thwarted by rain.
Saturday’s festivities weren’t completely lost to bad weather. When skies cleared the group met at Fontana Village for a Yamaha Motor Corporation sponsored BBQ complete with ribs, pulled pork and assorted sides and then desserts compliments of Colvin’s catering. Following the BBQ, lucky winners received limited edition hardback MotoGP Championship books featuring Jorge Lorenzo’s 2010 Championship winning season. Other prizes included free 129Slayer.com photographs from Motorcycle.com, Zero Gravity Yamaha R1 and R6 windscreens, R1/R6 brake line kits from Spiegler and tires provided by Mountain Motorsports’ Conyers, Ga. location. This year Graves Motorsports stepped up in a big way by providing technical support, product installation clinics and videos of the various events (including installation tutorials). Lucky winners that participated in rides and different activities throughout the week were treated to rearsets, axle tools, motorcycle stands and coupon vouchers, just to name a few.
As everyone made preparations for their departures, the usual goodbyes and see-you-soons could be heard along with the swapping of contact info among new friends. Bike-loading and packing-up routines sounded off yet another successful year of Yamaha-loyal riders coming together to do what we love. The most commonly asked question that night was “Where do I sign up for next year?” Stay tuned to R1-Forum.com and R6-Forum.com for the 2012 event info!
There are literally hundreds of riding possibilities available to every Deals Gap Convention attendee so I thought I’d highlight some of my absolute favorites:
• Cross Roads Breakfast Ride – Riding Highway 28 through 15 miles of lakeside scenery ending at Deals Gap Motorcycle resort. I recommend the French toast for the win! Then followed up with a few passes through The Dragon (11 miles each way) and don’t forget Highway 28’s awesome ride back.
• Bridal Veils Fall (a four state ride!) – Starting at the Deals Gap overlook (top of the gap mountain view lookout), take Highway 129 to Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort and following on to Highway 28 past Fontana Dam and into Franklin. Staying on 28 you will pass the Bridal’s Veil waterfall. This spot will allow you to actually pass under the falls themselves. A must see and a picture favorite spot! Continue on 28 through the mountainside town of Highlands, N.C. This will take you into Georgia in the Pine Mountain area, then into South Carolina near Walhalla where we turned around for the ride back. All in all it is roughly 116 miles each way and breathtaking!
• Kat’s Restaurant Skyway Ride - Take Highway 28 to 129 then onto 143 in Robbinsville, N.C. Follow to 165 and the Cherohala Skyway. This “mile high” ride finishes with a food stop on the river at “Kats” in the Tellico Plains. This was also the base route to our Yamaha group ride on Wednesday.
Fond memories of another epic week full of motorcycle adventures; this is Why I Ride! GMS
Graves Motorsports is a leading motorcycle sport bike parts and accessories manufacturer. Graves Motorsports produces exhaust systems, fender eliminator kits, frame sliders, velocity stacks, engine case covers, engine performance and the leading resource for Dynojet Power Commander + accessories. Graves Motorsports has two locations: Van Nuys, Calif. and Kennesaw, Ga. http://www.gravesport.com/ . Videos discussed in this article can be found on the Graves Motorsports Youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/GravesMotorsports
Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort – http://www.dealsgap.com/
Spiegler USA – http://www.spieglerusa.com/
Zero Gravity - http://www.zerogravity-racing.com/
Mountain Motorsports - http://www.mtn-motorsportsga.com/
Special Thanks to Dan Quintero event administration! See you next year to register for the 2012 Yamaha Convention being held June 3-9, 2012. See http://www.r1-forum.com/ or Contact Nantahala Village http://www.nvnc.com/ and ask for Jessi (group discount rates apply under Feb. 2012).