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ednowicki

-- Alaska Trip, looking for advice --

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ednowicki

-- Alaska Trip, looking for advice --

 

I have a 2003 1150RT with 85,000 miles. It’s set up just right for me for long distance riding. I keep it well maintained and consider it reliable.

 

I’m intent on riding to Alaska this summer. Thirty days off from work. I want to go past the Arctic Circle on the Dalton Highway, all the way to Prudhoe Bay. My understanding is that the last 240 miles on the Dalton Highway should be taken on a dual-sport MC with knobby tires.

 

I am considering these two possibilities:

1) Fitting my RT with Z-Technik SS engine guards and when I get to Fairbanks, swap out my PR2’s for a more aggressive tire OR

2) Renting a light weight KLR 650 (possibly have to go to Anchorage) and pay $150/day for the rental.

 

I lean towards option (1) because of convenience and cost savings.

With that said:

* Is this a prudent decision?

* What tire would be recommended?

 

Thanks in advance for all your advice. -- Ed

 

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malcolmblalock

Gotta first say that I've not ridden the Haul road to Prudhoe. But I've ridden from NC to AK and back. I also have friends who've ridden to Prudhoe on stock bikes (two Vstroms and a Honda Shadow). And when they went, it was not dry; the road was wet and slick the entire way. All said that knobbies would have made it much easier, but all of them did it on street tires, and never went down. When I went, I inquired about renting a bike for the Haul road, but found that they would not rent a bike that as going north of the Arctic Circle. So, based on all of that, I think Option 1 is your only option.

 

Good luck, and let us hear how it went!

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G-Rex

I rode to Prudhoe Bay 5 months ago (August 2011), so I can definitely answer your questions.

 

I bought a KLR650, tore it apart, went over it with a fine tooth comb, put it back together, and 4 months later after shaking it down, took off for Alaska.

 

When you leave Fairbanks, you will be on solid pavement for 85 miles along the Elliott Highway, to the junction with the Dalton.

 

Once you hit the Dalton, you are 425 miles from Prudhoe Bay. Of that 425 miles, approximately 75% of it is gravel. Some of it is hard pack, and you can run 60 on it, but it's still gravel. You'll want the KLR north of Coldfoot (the 240 mile mark you mentioned), but you're going to want the KLR south of there also.

 

Is riding the RT up there a prudent decision? No. Can it be done? Yes.

 

If the road is absolutely PERFECT, it would be passable on the RT. However, perfect is unlikely. You would need a minimum of a 30 hour stretch of perfect weather to make it up there and back, and that's if you just go up there and turn around. Again, unlikely.

 

When I went up, I had great weather going up to Prudhoe. Rain moved in overnight, and I had 40 degree temps and rain for the first 200 miles heading south, along with 30 degrees and blizzard conditions coming across the Brooks Range for 30 minutes.

 

We hit a stretch of road that had turned into mud for 20 miles. It was about a 4" thick muck, and literally took us 3 hours to navigate on KLR's with appropriate tires.

 

13 hours up. 17 hours back. Watch the clock, watch your fuel. Take fuel. You will need it. Once you get on the Dalton, there is fuel at the Yukon River Camp and then again at Coldfoot. These are your ONLY options before Prudhoe.

 

Essentially, this is how I determined what to ride up. When I got to Fairbanks, I did *not* want to have to wait for the weather to be good or the road to be clear. With the KLR, it didn't matter what the road condition was, I could make it. If you have time to wait it out in Fairbanks, well, that's up to you.

 

Also, there is ONE public fuel station in Prudhoe. I'll look it up on Googlemaps and send you a link to the lat/long on the map so you can find it, because none of the damn locals know where it is, and it's a pain in the ass to find. Also, if you stay at the Arctic Caribou Inn, get there before 11pm. They are not manned 24 hours as you might expect of a typical hotel. The girl that works there gets mighty pissy when someone wakes her up at 1am. Don't ask me how I know.

 

So, to that end, I would say taking your RT isn't much of an option. The mud up there is more of a fine pumice, and it will get places that it shouldn't, and will eat at things it shouldn't. I'm glad I took what amounted to a *throw-away* bike rather than my RT.

 

Lastly, and this is critically important. If you are the kind of person that fixes your bike with a trip to the dealer and a credit card, this may not be the trip for you. Not trying to tell you not to go, but be prepared. I've been riding for 18 years, and very mechanically capable, and that trip took every ounce of knowledge I had in me to make in various ways.

 

I'm sure you have more questions. Ask them. I'll answer whatever I can. Everyone's opinions will vary of course. This is mine, and it is still very fresh on my mind.

 

 

 

 

Edited by G-Rex

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G-Rex

And to drive the point home, a couple of photos..

 

My Aerostich is black for reference, and there was a 1/4" of mud CAKED on it. I ruined 3 face shields from the mud, and wiping the mud off, as it scratched them to the point I could not see good at all.

 

Before.... this is just north of the Brooks Range on the way north.

 

IMG_3121.jpg

 

And on the way back south after all the mud, rain, and blizzard...I'm on the far left of the picture. My best friend on the right.

 

IMG_0978.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by G-Rex

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Selden
-- Alaska Trip, looking for advice --

 

I have a 2003 1150RT with 85,000 miles. It’s set up just right for me for long distance riding. I keep it well maintained and consider it reliable.

 

I’m intent on riding to Alaska this summer. Thirty days off from work. I want to go past the Arctic Circle on the Dalton Highway, all the way to Prudhoe Bay. My understanding is that the last 240 miles on the Dalton Highway should be taken on a dual-sport MC with knobby tires.

 

I am considering these two possibilities:

1) Fitting my RT with Z-Technik SS engine guards and when I get to Fairbanks, swap out my PR2’s for a more aggressive tire OR

2) Renting a light weight KLR 650 (possibly have to go to Anchorage) and pay $150/day for the rental.

 

I lean towards option (1) because of convenience and cost savings.

With that said:

* Is this a prudent decision?

* What tire would be recommended?

 

Thanks in advance for all your advice. -- Ed

At ~$800 for Ztechnik guards and a set of tires, I'm not sure that approach is any less expensive than $150 a day for a rental.

 

Each approach has its merits, and which is "better" probably depends on the weather. If you catch a dry spell, PR2s should get you to Prudhoe and back without any drama (other than dust). In Tok, I ran into a guy who had done it on a GL1800. However, if it rains the entire way, the Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay is a whole different story.

 

Here's another way of looking at your problem. If, despite all planning, something goes wrong, and you can't ride the RT out from Prudhoe, what's your plan B to get home? Channeling Dirty Harry, you're thousands of miles from home, and you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?

 

reartire.jpg

 

 

If you have the leg length, renting a DP bike with appropriate tires strikes me as the less risky approach, and possibly more fun than wrestling 700 pounds of motorcycle and luggage over 850 miles (round trip) of the Haul Road. And, when you get back from Prudhoe Bay, your RT will be waiting for you, in just as good a shape as when you left it in Fairbanks, and ready for the ride back to the lower forty.

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Whip

It all depends on the weather. You could do it on a Harley Road Glide if the weather is nice. If it the rains you will wish ya had a jeep.

 

 

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G-Rex

This link shows where the fuel pumps are, at point B obviously. :)

 

Prudhoe Bay Fuel - Tesoro Alaska

 

If you drop the pin for Streetview, look to the west from the road behind the two trucks. You will see a small building with a blue and yellow "Tesoro Alaska" sign above the doors. Basically, you walk inside that room, swipe your card, go back outside, fill up, walk back in to get your receipt, and enjoy the ride south.

 

BTW, the price per gallon is not listed on the pumps or anywhere else. You won't know the price until you get your receipt. Reason: It doesn't matter, they are the only public game in town and you have no choice. FWIW, when I was there, it was $5.39 a gallon, which was average for 87 on the Haul Road. Oh yeah, if you're wanting/expecting premium, forget it. 87, diesel, or nothing.

 

A word of caution! The pumps obviously aren't used very frequently, so water does accumulate if not used. Watch what you pump CLOSELY. Smell it. I got 2 gallons of water in the fuel that caused me an hour of headache in the middle of the wilderness an hour after leaving Prudhoe Bay.

Edited by G-Rex

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Selden
A word of caution! The pumps obviously aren't used very frequently, so water does accumulate if not used. Watch what you pump CLOSELY. Smell it. I got 2 gallons of water in the fuel that caused me an hour of headache in the middle of the wilderness an hour after leaving Prudhoe Bay.

Two GALLONS??? I'm curious — how on earth did you manage to clear that mess? :lurk:

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G-Rex

Well, after pulling the fuel tank, spark plug, and air filter to make sure I was getting fire and air, I drained the float bowls and said "Hmm...this doesn't smell like fuel."

 

After that realization, I dug into my bag of tricks and got the siphon I brought along, and proceeded to suck out the 2 gallons of water back into the fuel can I had emptied into the tank 20 miles prior to the troubles.

 

Like I said above, gotta be able to take care of yourself up there. Nobody will do it for you. :)

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frenchwv

This is all great info. Thanks G-Rex. I was up there in September last year and made an attempt to reach the Arctic Circle on a rented GS. I discovered that September was too late in the year. I got about 60 miles north of Fairbanks and had to turn around. Even the mighty GS doesn't handle well in slush and snow. I want to go back and make it to Prudhoe Bay, but will do it on a rented bike.

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ednowicki

All,

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my post.

 

My take away from your collective advice is… If I get lucky, the RT will get me through. I don’t consider myself particularly lucky and most likely will rent a KLR in Fairbanks or Alaska or buy a used one in the area and get it shipped back home afterwards.

 

G-Rex, do you think you can post some advice/words of wisdom regarding making the round-trip trek from Coldfoot to Deadhorse? In particular; how many days round trip (2 nights, 3 days)?, advice on packing for that leg of the trip, etc.

Ed

 

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xoomerite

I rode to Prudhoe Bay on my R1200ST with Metzler Z6 tires in June of 2010. You get used to the gravel. The mud is the mud.

 

From Coldfoot to Deadhorse is 240 miles. Fuel in Coldfoot, fuel in Deadhorse. Take some fuel, unless you are absolutely dead certain that you can make 240 miles. There were public, borrowable gas cans at Coldfoot.

 

We talked to some who were going to make the run up and back in one day. That sounded rather heroic to Mike and me. We planned to have a safe trip, allowing for delays, and take a day each way.

 

If you want to take the tour to Prudhoe Bay, you have to call ahead 24 hours in advance to set it up. A security check is required.

 

We camped just north of Coldfoot on the way up. Primitive, mosquitoes. On the way back, we camped at the roadhouse in Coldfoot. Just set up in the grass. Restaurant, showers, hot meals. Yeah.

 

You cannot camp at Deadhorse. Polar bears eat caribou and anything else they can find.

 

Your bike will be dirty in ways you could not imagine, in places you did not know. Fabulous pressure washer at Adventure Works Motorcycles in Fairbanks.

 

Stay at the college in Fairbanks. You cannot beat the price and accommodations.

 

Great trip.

 

Chris

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na1g

First bit of advice: GO!

 

Ride your RT to Fairbanks or Anchorage. There are a number of rental shops in those cities with a variety of bikes. Most popular seemed to be BMW 800s, properly tired. Fairbanks is closer to where you want to go and the roads are excellent up to there, so the RT will be fine, and you can cut your rental by a day.

 

Bring several gallons of bug repellent and don't stop to pick-up any hitchiking bears.

 

Last: enjoy!

 

pete

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Whip

...or you could spend your time seeing all that great things in AK and not spend 4 days up and back to no where.

 

Our 2007 trip.

 

I would not bother with the Arctic Circle if I went back. There is so many things we didn't get to do because of time.

 

L

Edited by Whip

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OoPEZoO

My old man rode his Goldwing GL1500 up and back. He is 100% blind in one eye and has no depth perception. He did fine. The downside was that even though he didn't put the bike down, he still had to replace just about every piece of plastic on the front of his bike. The only thing he didn't replace was the actual fairing. Cracked both of his fog lights and the headlight. The rest of it looked like it had been sand blasted and left large pits in the material. He said the trip was 100% worth it, and wants to do it again. Only next time he wants to take 3 months instead of 1. That was back in maybe 2000-2002. He is still riding the same Goldwing, and has been to just about every corner of the USA since then. Its still running strong, but still shows the scars from that trip.

 

Personally, I wouldn't ride an RT the whole way up. Not because I don't think the bike or I could make it.......but more because the bike would never be the same again. You would end up with dirt and mud up into places you would never get it out, and most likely do quite a bit of damage to the fairing.

 

 

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Krakken

Last June/July I rode from SoCal to the Dust 2 Dawson ADV rally on my 08 R12GS. I carried all my camping gear, plus two Blitz 1 gallon containers on the passenger footpegs. It was a solo trip, but hooked up occasionally with other riders along the way.

 

Made the run up to Inuvik on the Dempster and had great conditions (both weather and road) until I made the first river crossing, then the road works began. Summer is the only time they can work on the roads up there, so expect modest delays, but chewed up dirt/gravel roads. It got damn soft at times, and I was thankful for the TKC-80's. I couldn't imagine doing those roads on my RT. The worst part of that road, though, was after crossing the Arctic Circle I encountered a crosswind the likes I'd never experienced before. Had the road been asphalt, it would have simply been another thing to deal with, but the gravel on the firm surface made riding a straight line a major effort. The road is actually a big berm built on top of the permafrost, with a 30 to 45 degree dropoff on either side. The wind kept pushing me toward the edge, so I had to hang off the lee side of the bike with only my thigh on the seat. Butt completely off the seat, leaning it into the wind just to keep a straight line. This lasted for 35 miles at a speed of 20 to 30 mph. Hard work. Saw a small RV nearly topple over as the driver struggled to keep the rig upright. I was glad for the wide bars of the GS for leverage, but had I been on an RT I wouldn't have been able to continue. Saw two road bikes (was too exhausted to see exactly what) turn around and head back. On the trip back, I encountered the same conditions in the same area. Exact same story, only hanging off the other side.

 

The Dalton up to Deadhorse wasn't as dramatic, but it did rain a lot. Steady rain for much of the north slope, snowing over the Atigun Pass, and the calcium chloride they spread on the dirt road to keep the dust down in dry weather turns greasy in the wet. Again, thankful I was running the TKC's. Back in Fairbanks, I met some very unfortunate gentlemen who tried to make it on RT's, and one on a HD. They all went down hard. The HD was totaled, the RT's suffered damage bad enough they had to order parts to continue. One man suffered a separated shoulder, the other had two broken ribs.

 

The former senator from, I believe, Alabama died last year returning from Deadhorse and was found near his HD. Don't know exactly how he died.

 

Do not take the roads or conditions lightly. Lots of people make these trips every year, so it obviously can be done, but plan for the worst and know your limitations.

 

BTW, I experienced an incredible ride and would do it again in a heartbeat. Just have the proper gear.

Edited by Krakken

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Glenn Reed

Krakken, good write up, especially comparing how it was on the GS compared to your RT.

 

Just for the sake of accuracy, it was Alabama's former Governor, Bob Riley who had the accident, and he is recovered and already planning his next motorcycle trip.

 

Original Story

 

Follow Up

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Krakken

Thanks for the clarification, Glenn. It was a story I'd read in the local paper there, and I'm sure the former Governor would be pleased to quote Mark Twain "The report of my death has been greatly exaggerated" :grin:

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Francois_Dumas

Great thread!

 

I've been to Alaska once..... flying. Seen Prudhoe on discovery Channel and Whips photos.

 

I'll go back... flying again :-)

 

Good luck on the trip and looking forward to more pictures !

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