It’s hard to describe the freedom experienced from the seat of a motorcycle. There’s nothing quite like the air on your face, power at your wrist and growl of a motorcycle exiting a turn. Whether you ride a cruiser, bobber, sportbike, café or a hog, there are certain rides that call to every rider.
Sweeping corners, scenic overlooks and mountain twisties are meant to be experienced on two wheels and the Roanoke Valley provides plenty of opportunities to kick it down a gear and take off into Virginia’s Blue Ridge.
There are a number of great routes to consider. With the nation’s most famous roadway stretching through the region, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers rides of varying distance and scenery that keep motorcyclists coming back year after year to enjoy. The stretch of "America's Favorite Drive" that winds through Virginia’s Blue Ridge offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy a 70-mile stretch of beautiful Parkway scenery.
As an added bonus, this section includes two of the most visited Parkway attractions, Explore Park and Peaks of Otter.
If it’s small town charm you seek, riding Route 11 introduces riders to our area’s most charming towns. Before Interstate 81, Route 11 was the main north-to-south thoroughfare through the western portion of Virginia. The small towns that line the country highway along the way still display every bit of American charm that motorcyclists will enjoy on their ride from town to town.
A trip from Roanoke to Floyd is always a welcomed retreat, and incorporating this beautiful route into your next ride through the region is a must. As you leave the city limits, head south on Route 221 towards Bent Mountain. The brief, but exhilarating, ride up the mountain lives up to the name. Long-sweeping turns and tight twisties work their way up the mountain in a fluid fashion. As a bonus to riders, it’s two lanes all the way up.
Continuing along Route 221, you’ll have the choice to hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Adney Gap, milepost 136. However, we recommend sticking to Rt. 221 for another 30 miles to visit Floyd.
Known as much for its laid back demeanor as it is for the authentic mountain music found daily inside the Floyd Country Store, Floyd is the perfect lunch stop. From Floyd, riders can jump onto the Parkway at Tuggles Gap and take an incredibly scenic 40-mile ride back to Roanoke.
While it can be a challenge to select just one ride out of the surplus of opportunity, there is a ride that stands out as a shining example of what riding in Virginia’s Blue Ridge is all about.
Downtown to out-of-town in 10 minutes. It’s that proximity from downtown cruises to mountain rides that keeps motorcycle riders coming back to the region for annual road trips.
Case and point, the Route 311 loop. It’s no exaggeration to say that this ride includes something for every rider and riding style.
After a quick brunch downtown, hop on your bike and ride to exit 141 on Interstate 81. Jump on 419 north and turn right onto Route 311 north. This is where the fun begins.
In no time, 311 greets riders with a series of twists and turns up Catawba Mountain. As you crest the mountain use caution, the peak is an extremely popular pull-off for hikers embarking on the Appalachian Trail’s McAfee Knob hike and can be quite busy.
As you pass Catawba, traffic dwindles significantly, opening up the road for a safe and relaxing ride. Continue along 311 for another 13 miles and enjoy the beautiful farmland and mountain scenery. As speeds slow to 35 mph you’ll enter New Castle and see Route 42 to the left. Turn now if you wish, but for those interested in more mountain curves and a buffalo sandwich payoff, continue through New Castle towards Paint Bank. The 16-mile trek to the quaint one intersection town is more than worth the route extension and you won’t mind backtracking to New Castle. Trust us.
The ride up and back down Potts Mountain headed to Paint Bank is thrilling and truly impressive. Riders new to the mountain should be cautious of closing apexes and tight first gear turns, and take it slow on their first run.
Pro-Tip: Winter conditions can take a toll on the road, so use caution in early spring when the road will have some rough spots and loose gravel from snow removal.
Once you’ve traversed the mountain and twist your way down the western slope, it won’t be long before you pull into the Paint Bank General Store parking lot. An increasingly popular stop for motorcyclists, the general store and Swinging Bridge Restaurant inside offers southern charm, scratch cooking and buffalo burgers for all who stop in.
Once you’ve had your fill, hop back on the bike and head back to New Castle, enjoying Potts Mountain for a second time! In New Castle, you’ll take a right onto Route 42 to stretch your bike's legs along the rural route until ultimately running into U.S. 460 in the New River Valley. Take the four lane rural highway east through Blacksburg, past Christiansburg, and through the small towns of Elliston and Shawsville before returning to the City of Roanoke once again.
From a relaxing Sunday cruise through small-town America, to mountain loops twisting along rural highways, our region is home to some of the best motorcycle rides in Virginia, and this is just a sampling of what’s out there.
Click here to learn more about motorcycling in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, and be sure to sign up to receive our e-newsletter to keep up with all of the latest events (excuses) to visit the region!