It’s a weird way to make a living. Darryl Cannon and the photographers of Killboy.com are out there standing in the woods every weekend, and most weekdays from March through November. What started out four years ago as a weekend business has grown into a cottage industry-without the cottages.
Today, Cannon and partners Keith Norrod and David Spotts vie for prime position with other shooters to click about 500,000 digital frames per year of heroic cornering action on the tight, serpentine pavement of Route 129, straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina.
Most are images of anonymous riders arcing serenely through the wooded curves of the Smoky Mountains. Those hero shots can be had for $5 a pop on Cannon’s Web site (www.killboy.com). But a tiny percentage of photos are far more jarring. These are the hapless riders who ran out of road, skill or adhesion-sometimes simultaneously.
“When MotoGP goes full-dress, Valentino Rossi is gonna be my bitch!” Despite carrying oh-so-much extra speed into the bend, this sport-tourer earns bonus points for sticking with it and attempting to make the turn. That usually beats standing it up and clear-cutting the forest. Usually.
For our edification and amusement, the Killboy guys have graciously provided us with a treasure trove of back-road mayhem, compiled over the course of four years of intensive shooting. For the record, none of our subjects here went home in a body bag, or even in an ambulance. So marvel and learn, secure in the knowledge that all these poor bastards lived to crash again.
And since unlucky victims of Deal’s Gap get their commemorative crash photos for free from Killboy.com, they’re effectively cashing in a $5 discount on new plastic, leather and aluminum. That and a bottle of Bactine should take the sting out of it.
How does an 11-mile piece of pavement become a destination for riders and sports car drivers from coast to coast? Deal’s Gap’s convulsive asphalt (posted for 30 mph) squirms though amazing scenery, and the local traffic is light. That certainly qualifies it as a fun road, but like Paris Hilton, much of what makes Deal’s Gap famous is its fame. Riders from as far as Florida and Colorado have been known to pull all-nighters to show up here midday, make a few bleary passes and then collapse in the Deal’s Gap Motorcycle Resort, the Two Wheel Inn or any of a long list of local motorcycle-friendly motels.
But this is a public road, not a racetrack. The Killboy team says that a sense of community keeps this little slice of paved heaven from turning too ugly or getting so rowdy the police are forced to shut it down. The regulars try to keep things running smoothly, sometimes to the point of serving as self-appointed traffic control. Most weekdays, about a half-dozen semis weave through the contorted turns of The Gap, sometimes blocking the entire road negotiating the tighter turns. It’s not unheard of for Deal’s Gap regulars to escort trucks through just to keep oncoming traffic from coming upon them without warning. Think of it as a co-op version of Racer Road.
For the riders who love this road, crashes bring unwanted attention. So does behavior that rankles the locals who use this thoroughfare for transportation instead of recreation. Cannon says egregious “douche bagging” is frowned upon, and for the people who live to ride this road, minimizing the mayhem is a top priority.
10 Top Ways NOT To Crash
1. Learn the road.
2. Stay on your side!
3. Leave room for oncoming jackasses who don’t stay on their side.
4. Forget about your rear brake on the pavement.
5. Forget about your front brake on the roadside gravel.
6. Know where to pass-if you pass at all.
7. Don’t turn across the centerline to get to the shoulder.
8. Memorize those turns riders/drivers frequently blow.
9. Respect the Dragon. Or the Snake. Or whatever canyon road you ride.
10. No “douche bagging.”
And so our hero bends confidently into a smooth right-hander, one-handing it while waving a greeting to the camera. Milliseconds later, the crashbars begin to live up to their name and lever the tires off the pavement. Suddenly the breezy comfort of that sturdy cotton wife-beater seems like a bad idea. Cannon says “That guy got a major strawberry just below his armpit. He was the ‘fast guy’ of his riding group and was in a big hurry to get back on the road before his ‘less-skilled’ friends showed up.”