As a local I'm about 2 hours from the Dragon and spend a lot of time riding in the area. The Dragon is a beautiful and fun ride and everyone should ride it and get the t shirt HOWEVER all the hoopla attracts a lot of fools and there are a LOT of good riders taken out by dumbasses every year. If I ride it at all l make it a point to ride it weekday mornings only. Weekends are out of control.
The Iron Horse is a great place to stay and there is a ton of exceptional roads in the area. Trust me, there are a lot of roads better than the Dragon that aren't celebrated at all. That's where you will find me.
I could not agree more. I've ridden in that area pretty regularly for about 10 plus years. Each time we went down there folks wanted to know if we hit The Dragon
and the answer was always no. When asked why it was because there are too many stories of too many people doing silly things on that road. With so many other good roads in the area that are rarely or ever talked about it did not make sense to go to a road with a 30 mph speed limit which is often heavily enforced and can have heavy and or dangerous traffic.
Three years ago I worked it and other popular roads into our trip to the region. We head down a week or two before Memorial Day and hit the popular areas during the week to avoid busyness.
As many say, the Cherohala Skyway which leads to the Dragon is an exceptional road with great views and has a proper 50/55 mph speed limit. The problem was that even on a Wednesday at around 9:00 a.m. two weeks before Memorial Day the place was swarmed with bikes. That 50 mph speed limit had the cruiser boys feeling good and there were probably 20 which had crossed the center line and were headed right at me with their eyes bugging out of their heads because they apparently had never ridden roads with corners and found it was much harder to turn going 70-80 mph. By the mid point of the Cherohala I had to pull over because I was so rattled at the number of Harley guys who could not control their bikes and ending up in my lane.
When we reached the store at the start of the Dragon we stopped, some got the obligatory t-shirt and I observed several bikes coming out of trailers with slick tires on them and other bikes that had run the Dragon a few times prior to our arrival and in need of fresh slicks getting the fresh rubber on. I told our guys we'll just go with the flow of traffic, observe the speed limit, get through the Dragon and leave the heroics to others. We could have passed but soon would have found ourselves behind another car we'd need to pass in a risky manner so we just sat back and rode.
About 1/3 of the way through we had already been passed by maybe 20 bikes, five of which passed on the outside of a left hand turn. About 2/3 of the way through traffic came to a stop. A Multistrada rider found himself under a dual axle trailer. The riders who were with him said the trailer crossed into their lane, the truck and trailer driver said the bike crossed into his lane. Either way, the guy was in terrible shape. I mean the kind of shape that makes it hard to swing your leg back over the saddle and continue the rest of the 2,000 miles we had to ride to get home. After about 2 hours of EMTs and law enforcement helping the fallen rider he was scrapped up enough to get traffic flowing again and we rode in somber silence for a while when traffic started to move again.
There are all kinds of folks who ride the dragon and have a great experience. Many have limited to no traffic and no law enforcement and just enjoy the heck out of the road. I think I'm glad we did it to have checked it off the list but I don't think I'll return again. However, as you can see from the photo's posted in this thread, many ride it and many love it. Just go into it knowing how hit or miss it is what you'll encounter. Time of year, time of week and time of day can all impact what you can expect but as we found, that is not a foolproof approach.