Non Tech: Wagon on the Dragon

Bit of fun here: last week I headed to North Carolina and Deal’s Gap, aka Tail of the Dragon as I was sick of hearing friends talk about how great it was. 318 curves in 11 miles is their tagline, if you love cars or motorcycles you must check it out. People regularly travel from all over the East Coast to it. You are guaranteed to see a huge amount of exotic motorcycle and cars – more than likely you’ll see a few clubs out there en-mass; we saw 40+ Miatas. Please be careful on your first runs, fatalities do happen and it always seems to be out-of-towners. On the bright side the last motorcyclist to die went off an 80 foot cliff-face, so at least he an awesome view on his way out, much better than piling into an ugly truck like below. Seriously, like the Nürburgring take it easy on your first few runs.

There are many photographers on the route who take photos of all interesting cars and bikes to sell them online, the most popular being Killboy and Dragon Slayer Photos. Police on roads like this are normally semi-tolerant, all biker/ fast car roads I know are Policed heavily on weekends but I have never seen a speed trap; they are pretty lenient but if you start passing on blind bends, ride with a ‘hidden’ tag etc then expect some attention from LOEs.

What about the Wagon? It is my wife’s ‘07 328iT and our fifth factory-delivered BMW – for good reason too, small BMWs rock! Normally I’d take my car which has a manual-box and grippy summer tires so expected to be disappointed with the auto-box and stock run flat tires. Surprisingly I was impressed with this stock setup, the tires communicate what is happening very, very well – going too hot into a bend results in modest understeer that is incredibly easy to control. Admittedly I had put a little extra air in the tires to stiffen the sidewalls, and of course the grip level is no where near a good summer tire; still I think 95% of the public will be happy with the handling in an emergency situation. Especially after this ride in the new three series when returning to the US in a couple of years it will be is a hard choice between a 335i with OZ rims/ summer tires/ coil-overs + FZ-6 for weekends OR a Honda Civic commuter + Ariel Atom for weekends. This is the Ariel Atom, I’d start with the smaller engine, 0-60 in 2.6 seconds is surely a total rush but I like Terra Firma…

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