West Virginia: Ride the High 5

Text: Florian Neuhauser • Photography: Florian Neuhauser

Northeast West Virginia is a treasure for motorcyclists, with mountains, vistas, and curves galore. Hardy, Grant, Pendleton, and Hampshire counties banded together to create a map called Ride the High 5 that shows all of the best roads, accommodations, and area attractions. I knew the most famous stretches of scenic roads already, but locals always know best, and thus I learned about several new roads.

This round-trip tour connects the routes dubbed Mountain Madness, River Tour, and Valleys and Ridges. Zane Elrod joined me on this backroads exploration aboard his Yamaha FJR1300, which was a great match to my KTM 1290 Super Duke GT. We initially met at RoadRUNNER’s first Touring Weekend event, back in 2006. Unfortunately, that annual event was usually the only time of the year I got to ride with him. It took many years for us to venture out on a bigger tour together! (Note to self: Life moves fast. Don’t wait until tomorrow.) 

The kickoff point to the West Virginia tour truly was a special one: We sat on the front porch of the North Fork Mountain Inn off Smoke Hole Road in Cabins, WV, at an elevation of 2,600 feet, and watched a massive thunderstorm move through. Smoke Hole Road is a hidden gem. It’s a road that has more twists and turns than a distiller’s copper condenser coil. The inn’s gravel driveway raised eyebrows at first, but it turned out to be an easy and short climb to the parking lot. Luckily, we had already explored Smoke Hole Road from the northern terminus at WV 28 to the southern end at US 220, because on our first day we saw a “Road Closed” sign as we turned onto 28. That was an intense thunderstorm that went through, as we were continually reminded on the first day. 

Mountain Madness 

US 220 is always a fan favorite. This day was a suited combination of fast sweepers broken up by small county roads with immense natural beauty. It’s always fun leaning it over at full speed, but not all day. The often unknown county roads—what some call “goat paths”—are great connectors and offer some relief from the fast pace of the 55 mph highways. 

A truck flashed its high beams, warning us to slow down. The next pickup truck went by without signaling, but we proceeded with caution, regardless. Just around the next bend, a rather big tree, about 10 inches in diameter, took up our entire lane. Riding well below the speed limit at that moment, we easily and safely passed the obstacle. 

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the November/December 2019 back issue.