So, you are making your first of what is sure to become many trips to the Dragon. You are probably excited and perhaps a little bit nervous. That is understandable – 318 curves in 11 miles! Ask any “Dragon Slayer” and they will tell you that there is nothing like the first time.
There is also no reason any average rider cannot enjoy a memorable ride through the mountains and avoid any addition to the tree of shame. Just follow these 10 basic tips…
Before you hit the road…..
Tip #1 – The Dragon is not for first time riders. Unless you have at least 2,500-4,500 miles on your bike you might want to enjoy some of the other local roads this visit (and there are plenty of them).
Tip #2 – Make sure your bike is ready. Make sure your tires are inflated to specs and you have a full tank of gas. Before heading up here, whether you are riding the Dragon or not, have your bike serviced. If any tires or brakes are “getting close” now is the time to change them.
Tip #3 – Make sure you are ready. People are on the Dragon at all hours of the day (including cars). Try to plan your day accordingly. If you can help it, make sure you are fresh and ready to ride. If you have been riding all day to get there, take a break, then tackle the Dragon. The Dragon will require you to have all your senses and attention.
Tip #4 – Put on the Armor! Even your best Dragon Slayers have the right gear. Boots, Jeans, Helmet, and Gloves are usually the minimum. Many rocket riders have full racing gear. I don’t care what kind of bike you ride, the pavement doesn’t know the difference or care if you have a $3,000 import or a $75,000 racing bike – it hurts either wayTip
#5 – Go your own pace. Some people ride fast, some ride at a slower speed. Stick to your own comfort zone. Don’t push yourself to keep up with friends or other riders. You will all end up in the same spot –better with great stories than road rash because you were riding outside your abilities.
Tip #6 -Turn your head. Ok, you probably remember your original bike instructor telling you this when you got your motorcycle license but it is certainly true around here. Your bike goes where you look. You don’t have the time to site see on the Dragon and you don’t have the luxury (unless you are on the back) to stare at your current spot in a corner. Turn your head and look where you want to go. Sometimes you may be looking well over your right or left shoulder – that is when you will know you are doing it right.
Tip #7 – Slow down BEFORE the corner. Hey, more basic stuff, but you won’t have a lot of time to slow down in a corner (remember, if you apply breaks your bike goes upright – kind of hard to keep turning huh?). Slow down into the corner and accelerate out.
TIP #8 – Stay on Your Own Side. For God’s sake, stay on your own side of the yellow line (and watch for others that don’t!)
TIP #9 – Practice Safe Passing. While no passing is safe passing, at some point someone will want to pass you. This is not a reflection on you and we are all out there for different experiences. Bottom line – let them pass! Accidents happen because someone thinks they own the road or are “going fast enough” and won’t let someone by. Even the best Dragon Slayers will let a bike pass. The best way to let someone pass is to, after a corner, move over to the right side of a lane and slow down. Waive them by. I don’t recommend pulling off the road. Other than the “lookout” or the “store” most of the pullouts are gravel and can create more headache than they are worth.
If you want to pass someone make sure they see you. I like to wait for the wave (see above). Never, never, never pass on the right or go between bikes. I know this seems like obvious stuff but I never said there were not stupid people on the Dragon as well.
Tip #10- Lastly, say “Cheese.” There are plenty of people shooting photos on the gap. You can log on to their websites and purchase a photo of yourself slaying the Dragon. You will see them on the side of the road when you come around a corner. The best photos are usually the ones where you look at the road, not the photographer – but you decide.
That’s it. Follow the 10 tips above and you will not only have a great experience, you will also join a long list of people that are hooked on not only some of the best riding around but also the ability to show a slight smile when someone asks if you have ever ridden the Dragon at Deals Gap.