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  #1  
Old 6 Aug 2013
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Ten Do´s and Don´t of the Dalton Highway, Alaska

Tips by Phil Freeman



414 miles of frost-heaves, broken chip seal and grated dirt surfaces, the Dalton Highway has its challenges. On a good day, you can ride it wide open. On a bad day, you can go home in a helicopter.

Every year motorcyclists are killed on the Dalton Highway. This road offers the rider the adventure gamut. Almost half of the highway is paved or chip sealed. The other half can be smooth or baseballs. There are relatively no places to stop along the way: no gas, no convenient stores, no McDonalds. There are stretches of up to 245 miles without gas. You are literally riding through pristine wilderness. There are no tire shops or police stations. A wrecker to the Arctic Circle from Fairbanks is a $1,600 bill. Dalton Highway, mile marker 300: Welcome to the food chain.

I was riding north on the Dalton Highway during one of my tours. It was raining and I was on a section of chip seal, which is english for sh#tty pavement and an 18-wheeler was headed toward me. Between us was a pothole the size of a Volkswagon Beatle full of water. I could barely see the truck, the road and everything else. I crossed the semi just as it hit the pothole, sending me literally a child's play-pool amount of water crashing into me. Along with the muddy water were bits of road: concrete, rocks...and as this stuff was dripping down the inside of the my face shield, I laughed out loud. Here I was, going down the road at about 50 miles an hour in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE and I could not see a thing! I thought to myself, "This is no ordinary road."

After many trips up this road, I put together a list of dos and don'ts when riding it. Here it goes:



1. Don't: Put Weight Up High

Pack your bike with care. On the Dalton, you are going to hit 700 yards of terror. The road is going to be so slick you lose all traction, and every little thing in your favor is precious. Keep your center of gravity low. Anything heavy in your gear should be at the bottom of your panniers, strapped to your bike low, or discarded altogether. A classic example of over packing are the motorcycle campers who have so much stuff, and they need to put it somewhere. Then, the tendency is to pack it high on the bike. Big mistake.
For the riders on the BMW 1200 Adventures, this rule also applies. I have talked to a handful of riders on these beastly steeds that have topped off their 9 gallon tanks, only to hit a slippery section on the highway and go down. This usually means parts of the bike and rider get broken. My advice to them is to fill up their tanks with only 7 gallons, instead of topping it off.

On the Dalton, no matter how you plan and what the weather, you can always have a mile of terror. Talk to one rider and they breezed up and down it, enjoyed 70 degree temperatures, and the ride was easy. Talk to another with the same weather conditions, and they hit several road construction areas where a grater and a water truck are working together to make your life a sloppy misery. As long as you bank on a greasy mile of muck, you should be prepared for the Dalton. There is a chance you will not encounter muddy conditions, but chances are you will, so come prepared.



2. Do: Choose your Tires Wisely

Long distance tourers have a dilemma: Do I pick a knobby tire or less aggressive tire? Since you are destined to hit a sloppy section on the Dalton Highway, you should be aware that there are two main schools of thought I have come across regarding the Dalton when it comes to tires. Some say knobbies, and some say 70 -30 tires. Both work and have their limitations and to be honest, much of it comes down to rider skill. Knobbies are great for the Dalton Highway. This is the surest way to prepare for the water truck or mother natures over-watering program. The only problem with knobbies is that you will have to plan ahead, since if you are riding up the highway on your own from the continental USA, you will most likely run them down before you get there. Because of this, an outfit called Adventure Cycle Works out of Fairbanks was started. You can send them your tires, have them waiting and put on before you start your run to the Arctic Ocean. Once you are on your way back down, you can have them taken off. So, a little extra time and money spent in Fairbanks will insure that you as much grip as possible for your Arctic Ocean journey.

70-30 tires are not mud tires, but are designed to displace it and keep traction. Both Metzler and Avon put out very good, long lasting tires. I am a real fan of the Avon Distanzia, which is a good street tire, but really shines when the conditions start to go sloppy. And, you can get 6,000 miles out of the rear.
There are times on the Dalton when the mud is so thick, especially in a road construction area, that you will lose your grip, no matter what tire you have. Do not be surprised when this happens. Just get on the pegs, drop a gear to gain torque, and put a little throttle on....



3. Don't: Go without an Emergency Plan

The Dalton Highway runs through the most remote parts of North America. There is no infrastructure up there to deal with accidents. If you get into an emergency situation, chances are, you are going to have to get yourself out of it. There is heavy truck traffic up and down the highway, and they do help riders quite often, but do not rely on it.

Bring a Buddy: With a second rider, at least you can formulate a plan of extraction without feeding mosquitos off to the side of the road without a plan!
SPOT: bring a spot device, especially if you are riding alone, so at least your friends and loved ones will know where you are and can help you, albeit belatedly.

Bring a Sat Phone: This is by far the smartest solution. If anything should happen, you can at least start fixing the problem immediately. The sat phone saves time, worse injury and life. There really is no good reason not to have one if you are going to travel in this remote corner of the world - especially alone.
Have Tools: (See #10)



4. Do: Make sure to have Dirt Riding Skills

The Dalton is not the place to start to learn how to ride dirt. I have seen too many gung-ho riders take their unprepared bikes up there, only to receive a strong thwarting from the conditions. Some bikes come back broken, some come back on the top of trailers. Some of these bikes never run again. The truth is, the rider did not have the skills for the terrain. Some riders seem to think that since the highway exists on a map, and looks like any other road on the map, it must be like any other road. Wrong. If you did not grow up on dirt bikes, race competatively, or take an off-road course and practice, then this road can be over your head. If you do not know to get on the pegs and give it the gas when things get creamy, then you should not be on the Dalton at all. This road will throw everything at you, and your mistake can cost you thousands of dollars or worse.

Before you ride it, be sure to know how to handle your bike in gravel, deep gravel, and mud. Practice fire roads at home and dirt tracks. Spin that back tire and get familiar with acceleration....these are the tools you need to master before going up the Dalton safely.



5. Don't: Forget about Fuel

The Dalton Highway has 245 mile stretch without fuel. Most 5-gallon tank bikes will not make this if the rider is going over 60 m.p.h. Therefore, bring a small, two-gallon fuel container and strap it to you bike for your ride north out of Fairbanks. You won't use it until Coldfoot, but you will be glad you brought it! Running out of gas on the Dalton is a bummer, and usually includes voracious mosquitoes...to be avoided if possible!



6. Do: Clean your Radiator and Air Intake

The consistency of dirt on this highway is like clay. They mix the road surface with Calcium Chloride to keep the dust down in the summer. It also acts as a natural hardener so when the road surface is dry the heavy truck traffic forms it to have the characteristics of pavement - when it is dry. When wet, a thin layer of mucky clay begins to cake onto your bike. Once it sticks to your engine, it heats up and dries like ceramic. Once this happens, you can't get it off, even with a chisel. To be sure, once you ride the Dalton, your bike will never be the same - that stuff will never come off your bike completely. This muck will cover your engine and causing it to heat up. It will also clog your radiator, your air intake and if gone unchecked will cause your engine to severely overheat, to the point that it will stop you in your tracks. I picked up a Japanese rider who had this happen to him, and he has spent a couple of miserable nights out with his mosquito friends.

To counter any problems, find a hose in Coldfoot on your way up and down...and see if you can find one in Deadhorse. This is not an easy task, but you'll find if ask nicely, you will be able to clean out your radiator and air intake in that lonely outpost.



7. Do: Choose the Right Bike.

Many riders figure that they can take their comfortable cruiser up the Dalton. This works well, until you hit that 700 yards of terror. A couple of years ago, some adventurous Harley riders chose to take on this highway after the annual HOG rally. What happened after that was a disaster: some of the riders were air-vaced out and some of the bikes never rode again. Though there are riders that make it all the way to Deadhorse on their large street bikes, many will tell you that they would not do it again.

My suggestion is that you leave your street bike for the street, and ride a dirt-oriented motorcycle on the Dalton. All of the BMW GS models do well up there and any 650 cc dual-sport style bike will be the most appropriate.
The dilemma for many long distance tourers is sacrificing the comfort of their street machine for the long miles it takes to get to Alaska. Why do that for just the couple of days it takes to ride to the Arctic Ocean? A safe solution for this is to ride to Anchorage and rent a motorcycle for that portion of the trip. Both MotoQuest (Motorcycle Rentals, Tours and Self-Guided Adventures | MotoQuest) and Alaska Motorcycle Adventures (Home Alaska Motorcycle Rentals) offer this service. You can take your street bike to them for storage, and rent a well-equipped adventure bike for that portion of your adventure.



8. Don't: Push It

Most accidents I have encountered on the Dalton involved the most insidious of enemies: fatigue. The nature of the Dalton Highway plays into the hands of this very dangerous condition. There is no where to stop, no places "to see"... so the rider keeps on going. During the long summer days, the rider on vacation who has drawn up an aggressive schedule to "see it all" in Alaska will not stop until the sun goes down. In the land of the Midnight Sun, this won't happen for a couple of months!! Therefore, these riders push themselves to the brink of exhaustion...and then a little more. This is when a rider loses a second of concentration, drifts to the soft shoulder of the road, and then gets flung into the bushes. It does not take much for a rider to completely change their trip and life on this road.

To avoid this, I recommend that riders budget 4 days from Fairbanks to Deadhorse and back. Stop in Coldfoot or Wiseman for the night on your way north and on your way south. Stop in Deadhorse for the night and get some rest. I have come across too many accidents of even experienced riders who have made the ride from Coldfoot to Deadhorse, only to turn around and try to make it back to Coldfoot that evening. This is when the danger of fatigue is at its peak. The north slope of Alaska is not a place to run the risk of an accident. You are best off spending the $200+ for a night at a hotel in Deadhorse and getting your rest. This road taxes your senses and your ability to concentrate.

Be smart: don't push it at all.



9. Do: Be aware of Truck Traffic

The main purpose for the Dalton Highway is for the oil companies to be able to service the oil fields at the Arctic Ocean. Large 18-wheel trucks are constantly running this road. Until a few years ago, these trucks were the only vehicles allowed to ride past the Yukon River. The culture of trucking in this neck of the woods has not changed much from those days: the truck owns the roads. When you are riding there, you need to adhere to a new set of rules and become very aware of the effect large trucks have on your ride to the Arctic.

Here are some skills you will need to develop:

When you cross a truck on dirt: Hunker down behind your windscreen. These trucks are throwing rock - sometimes the size of baseballs - and you need to protect yourself. Do not ride with your face shield open. Keep as much of your body behind a protective surfaces as possible.

Let trucks pass. Many of these trucks are empty after delivering their supplies and are trying to make time. They run at speeds of up to 90 m.p.h.!! Keep vigilant in your rear view mirror for these monsters creeping up on you. To be sure, you will be passed! The shoulders of this road are extremely soft, and will throw you into the bushes. So, when pulling over to let them by, don't slow down too much, and do not get too far off the side of the road.

Be aware of where you park. This highway will be empty for up to 30 minutes at a time. No traffic makes a rider complacent. Add a herd of caribou and the rider wants to stop and take a picture. At the time of parking, no one is around, so you choose the road as the parking lot. Then, (and this has happened) two 18-wheelers come from opposite directions and will need to pass each other right where you parked! There is simply no room for your bike to be there, and this is when things get tricky!
If you ever stop along the Dalton, make sure to pull completely off the road. Otherwise, you may get an ear-full from an Ice-road trucker in the Coldfoot parking lot! (or worse)



10. Do: Outfit your Ride

Bring the tools necessary to get you out of a pinch. Be able to take off your tire, replace an inner tube, patch a hole, plug a hole, take your bike apart, put air into your tire...All the things you wish you had brought seem to come to mind when your bike fails. Take time and prepare beforehand. Be able to take of your tires and repair them and fix problems that may arise. I always bring a manual foot pump, tool kit, tire spoons, hex set, and a syphon hose.

Accessorize your bike. Make sure it can take rocks and fall over and not get hurt. Protect your engine on the sides and underneath. Protect your hand guards. Make sure your pegs do not get slippery. Make sure you seat fits your body. Do everything you can to make that bike you ride comfortable, well balanced and able to take a hit. You will be glad you did.

Outfit the rider. Wear protective water resistent/waterproof gear that can withstand a temperature range from freezing to 100 degrees F. Waterproof boots and gloves are essential.

These are the basics if you want to have a safe and memorable trip as far north as you can go on the North American continent. Your health and safety, of course, come first. Your lust for adventure will not be stopped. In fact, it should be encouraged! Just take a couple of these steps to make sure you get home safe and sound and have the time of your life. Ride safe!

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  #2  
Old 6 Jan 2014
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Thanks Phil

Hi Phil,
After 5 months I'm surprised that there have been no replies to your post. I would like to thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences on this challenging road.
On the 2013 summer solstice I made it to the circle which was my main goal. I would have liked to have made it to the Atigun Pass but I didn't press on due to suspect weather.
I'm in the lucky position of being able to have another attempt in 2014. I experienced the water trucks and graders so I know what to expect there. It is just a case of riding to the conditions. There are just a few things I will change. To reduce my load, I dropped off my rack bag and hid it in the bushes at the start of the Dalton, and I worried about it being found and stolen. There is already enough to think about on the Dalton, so next time I will leave it in Fairbanks. I will also get a head mosquito net, they were that bad at the circle that I could not face pitching the tent for a sleep. I will also pay more attention to the weather forecast. The weather had been perfect for days, which I think had lulled me into a false sense of security, but a small front came through when I was at the circle which worried me and it would have been nice to know what was forecast.
They were just little things, but they affected decisions I made.
Regards,
Mark.
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  #3  
Old 7 Jan 2014
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Awesome post; yet another road is added to the list
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  #4  
Old 17 Jan 2014
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Thanks for this excellent post. Riding this road is on my bucket list. the post has only made me more determined. Question is, do I ride the KLR or bring my KTM Adventure over from the UK!??
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  #5  
Old 23 Jan 2014
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Great Post

This is great info. I've heard much of the same advice previously, but have never seen it so well put in one place.

Thanks,
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  #6  
Old 23 Jan 2014
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Excellent advice from Phil. As someone who's used his services and been half way up the Dalton I can highly recommend Phil and Motoquest to anyone thinking of heading up there. He knows his stuff.
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  #7  
Old 25 Jan 2014
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Prudhoe Bay ride photos 2010

Great info, Phil.
We did the ride in 2010 and were the first riders for the season. Very cold up there then, -5ºC. The KLR650 did a great job, but definitely needed heated hand grips. Lou. Photos at:
https://picasaweb.google.com/1080577...gg_Prudhoe_Bay
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  #8  
Old 29 Jan 2014
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Dalton Highway

Around which dates are recommended as best to ride the Dalton up to Deadhorse?
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  #9  
Old 31 Jan 2014
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Dalton highway

I shall sleep with the post, great info.
I will be there in July on the KLR from Edmonton.
Thanks
Stan
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  #10  
Old 2 Feb 2014
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Alaska Highway to Deadhorse

Really good info Phil, everything you recommend is spot on. I've done the ride to Prudhoe Bay once in 2008, spent my 68th birthday enjoying nothing less than a monsoon somewhere north of Atigun Pass. That was on the way south out of Deadhorse. On the way up the weather was sunny with miles of unlimited vision, exactly opposite and just a couple of days difference. For myself it was the ride of a lifetime, one I'd love to do again, especially the camping part. [See pic below] Marion Creek Campground is a bit north of Coldfoot, a great place to stay, maybe check out the wild life.

Thanks for a great post, every rider considering this adventure will benefit by your info.

LL75

Onward Into the Fog...on a sidecar of course!
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Ten Do´s and Don´t of the Dalton Highway, Alaska-img_3606.jpg  

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  #11  
Old 20 Mar 2014
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Exactly Phil. Thank you. Riders read AND heed ! You are not the top of the food chain here . . . weather, mosquitos, bears and truckers are.

I live in Fairbanks and worked in northeast alaska 1999-2012. Did annual summer duties at the Coldfoot visitor center. Ride alot of bikes including BMW GS but commuted on a dr650 with TKCs. Met riders with wilderness in their eyes and riders with WTF in their eyes. It always depended on temperment, preparation and chance . . . and chance favors the prepared mind. Flat tires, rock hits and smiles are a given. You don't need to carry extra gas . . . the long walk with mosquitos WILL do you good (8->)

You will always remember this ride . . . i still make an annual trip or three. See you on the path.

Do yourself a favor . . . check out Adventure Cycle Works services. They are good people.

PS Dempster Hiway is a better ride
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  #12  
Old 16 Apr 2014
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Hi Phil, thanks makes remember me traveling along Dalton HWY. My experience was very easy comparing all yours recommendation. I left with my BMW GS ADV from Fairbanks with new all road tires and got very good weather and road conditions regarding the road constructions. Got to Dead Horse early afther noon and because was so expensive to sleep there I decided to ride back to Fairbanks but got darker and I camp along the road close to a lake and I have the unforgettable solo nite in a tent with a bottle of a red wine!!!
I see after reeding all you comments that was very looky!!!!
King regards.
Motosolo Wasabi
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  #13  
Old 17 Jun 2014
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Phil is experienced. Listen well. The year I went, they had a dry spring and skeeters were not much issue. Had the head net, but never used it. The road is another experience. I hit about 2 miles of road after a passing cloud had wetted it good. No trucks had been through to wring it out. To make it up a hill, I had to use every trick I know, from years when I rode on snow and ice, to keep traction. At the top, I was tense and wanted to stop for a breather. When I touched either brake the wheel immediately locked up. I was going real slow and put my feet down to stop, but could not get enough traction to hold up the bike, so I let the clutch out and continued. Then came a downhill with a curve and long deep banks to fall down if I failed. Here again I was using every trick I know to keep speed down. About 5 minutes of pucker time.
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  #14  
Old 23 Jun 2014
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Tips by Phil Freeman

Soooo, I may be a few years late, but thanks a million for your great write up of the Dalton Phil

I shall treat it as a 'bible' in our preparations
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  #15  
Old 18 Jul 2014
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Too true....Dalton dialogue

I need to read the how to post area. See if this works. Just did the Dempster and did just what you said. So simple.....yet simple is not always easy. As a boy scout we were taught "be prepared". Applies here. Thought you might like this Motorcyclists repair Arctic Circle sign, July 2014! - YouTube What kind of shape is the sign on that side? Thank you for sharing. Wildbill

Quote:
Originally Posted by MotoQuest View Post
Tips by Phil Freeman



414 miles of frost-heaves, broken chip seal and grated dirt surfaces, the Dalton Highway has its challenges. On a good day, you can ride it wide open. On a bad day, you can go home in a helicopter.

Every year motorcyclists are killed on the Dalton Highway. This road offers the rider the adventure gamut. Almost half of the highway is paved or chip sealed. The other half can be smooth or baseballs. There are relatively no places to stop along the way: no gas, no convenient stores, no McDonalds. There are stretches of up to 245 miles without gas. You are literally riding through pristine wilderness. There are no tire shops or police stations. A wrecker to the Arctic Circle from Fairbanks is a $1,600 bill. Dalton Highway, mile marker 300: Welcome to the food chain.

I was riding north on the Dalton Highway during one of my tours. It was raining and I was on a section of chip seal, which is english for sh#tty pavement and an 18-wheeler was headed toward me. Between us was a pothole the size of a Volkswagon Beatle full of water. I could barely see the truck, the road and everything else. I crossed the semi just as it hit the pothole, sending me literally a child's play-pool amount of water crashing into me. Along with the muddy water were bits of road: concrete, rocks...and as this stuff was dripping down the inside of the my face shield, I laughed out loud. Here I was, going down the road at about 50 miles an hour in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE and I could not see a thing! I thought to myself, "This is no ordinary road."

After many trips up this road, I put together a list of dos and don'ts when riding it. Here it goes:



1. Don't: Put Weight Up High

Pack your bike with care. On the Dalton, you are going to hit 700 yards of terror. The road is going to be so slick you lose all traction, and every little thing in your favor is precious. Keep your center of gravity low. Anything heavy in your gear should be at the bottom of your panniers, strapped to your bike low, or discarded altogether. A classic example of over packing are the motorcycle campers who have so much stuff, and they need to put it somewhere. Then, the tendency is to pack it high on the bike. Big mistake.
For the riders on the BMW 1200 Adventures, this rule also applies. I have talked to a handful of riders on these beastly steeds that have topped off their 9 gallon tanks, only to hit a slippery section on the highway and go down. This usually means parts of the bike and rider get broken. My advice to them is to fill up their tanks with only 7 gallons, instead of topping it off.

On the Dalton, no matter how you plan and what the weather, you can always have a mile of terror. Talk to one rider and they breezed up and down it, enjoyed 70 degree temperatures, and the ride was easy. Talk to another with the same weather conditions, and they hit several road construction areas where a grater and a water truck are working together to make your life a sloppy misery. As long as you bank on a greasy mile of muck, you should be prepared for the Dalton. There is a chance you will not encounter muddy conditions, but chances are you will, so come prepared.



2. Do: Choose your Tires Wisely

Long distance tourers have a dilemma: Do I pick a knobby tire or less aggressive tire? Since you are destined to hit a sloppy section on the Dalton Highway, you should be aware that there are two main schools of thought I have come across regarding the Dalton when it comes to tires. Some say knobbies, and some say 70 -30 tires. Both work and have their limitations and to be honest, much of it comes down to rider skill. Knobbies are great for the Dalton Highway. This is the surest way to prepare for the water truck or mother natures over-watering program. The only problem with knobbies is that you will have to plan ahead, since if you are riding up the highway on your own from the continental USA, you will most likely run them down before you get there. Because of this, an outfit called Adventure Cycle Works out of Fairbanks was started. You can send them your tires, have them waiting and put on before you start your run to the Arctic Ocean. Once you are on your way back down, you can have them taken off. So, a little extra time and money spent in Fairbanks will insure that you as much grip as possible for your Arctic Ocean journey.

70-30 tires are not mud tires, but are designed to displace it and keep traction. Both Metzler and Avon put out very good, long lasting tires. I am a real fan of the Avon Distanzia, which is a good street tire, but really shines when the conditions start to go sloppy. And, you can get 6,000 miles out of the rear.
There are times on the Dalton when the mud is so thick, especially in a road construction area, that you will lose your grip, no matter what tire you have. Do not be surprised when this happens. Just get on the pegs, drop a gear to gain torque, and put a little throttle on....



3. Don't: Go without an Emergency Plan

The Dalton Highway runs through the most remote parts of North America. There is no infrastructure up there to deal with accidents. If you get into an emergency situation, chances are, you are going to have to get yourself out of it. There is heavy truck traffic up and down the highway, and they do help riders quite often, but do not rely on it.

Bring a Buddy: With a second rider, at least you can formulate a plan of extraction without feeding mosquitos off to the side of the road without a plan!
SPOT: bring a spot device, especially if you are riding alone, so at least your friends and loved ones will know where you are and can help you, albeit belatedly.

Bring a Sat Phone: This is by far the smartest solution. If anything should happen, you can at least start fixing the problem immediately. The sat phone saves time, worse injury and life. There really is no good reason not to have one if you are going to travel in this remote corner of the world - especially alone.
Have Tools: (See #10)



4. Do: Make sure to have Dirt Riding Skills

The Dalton is not the place to start to learn how to ride dirt. I have seen too many gung-ho riders take their unprepared bikes up there, only to receive a strong thwarting from the conditions. Some bikes come back broken, some come back on the top of trailers. Some of these bikes never run again. The truth is, the rider did not have the skills for the terrain. Some riders seem to think that since the highway exists on a map, and looks like any other road on the map, it must be like any other road. Wrong. If you did not grow up on dirt bikes, race competatively, or take an off-road course and practice, then this road can be over your head. If you do not know to get on the pegs and give it the gas when things get creamy, then you should not be on the Dalton at all. This road will throw everything at you, and your mistake can cost you thousands of dollars or worse.

Before you ride it, be sure to know how to handle your bike in gravel, deep gravel, and mud. Practice fire roads at home and dirt tracks. Spin that back tire and get familiar with acceleration....these are the tools you need to master before going up the Dalton safely.



5. Don't: Forget about Fuel

The Dalton Highway has 245 mile stretch without fuel. Most 5-gallon tank bikes will not make this if the rider is going over 60 m.p.h. Therefore, bring a small, two-gallon fuel container and strap it to you bike for your ride north out of Fairbanks. You won't use it until Coldfoot, but you will be glad you brought it! Running out of gas on the Dalton is a bummer, and usually includes voracious mosquitoes...to be avoided if possible!



6. Do: Clean your Radiator and Air Intake

The consistency of dirt on this highway is like clay. They mix the road surface with Calcium Chloride to keep the dust down in the summer. It also acts as a natural hardener so when the road surface is dry the heavy truck traffic forms it to have the characteristics of pavement - when it is dry. When wet, a thin layer of mucky clay begins to cake onto your bike. Once it sticks to your engine, it heats up and dries like ceramic. Once this happens, you can't get it off, even with a chisel. To be sure, once you ride the Dalton, your bike will never be the same - that stuff will never come off your bike completely. This muck will cover your engine and causing it to heat up. It will also clog your radiator, your air intake and if gone unchecked will cause your engine to severely overheat, to the point that it will stop you in your tracks. I picked up a Japanese rider who had this happen to him, and he has spent a couple of miserable nights out with his mosquito friends.

To counter any problems, find a hose in Coldfoot on your way up and down...and see if you can find one in Deadhorse. This is not an easy task, but you'll find if ask nicely, you will be able to clean out your radiator and air intake in that lonely outpost.



7. Do: Choose the Right Bike.

Many riders figure that they can take their comfortable cruiser up the Dalton. This works well, until you hit that 700 yards of terror. A couple of years ago, some adventurous Harley riders chose to take on this highway after the annual HOG rally. What happened after that was a disaster: some of the riders were air-vaced out and some of the bikes never rode again. Though there are riders that make it all the way to Deadhorse on their large street bikes, many will tell you that they would not do it again.

My suggestion is that you leave your street bike for the street, and ride a dirt-oriented motorcycle on the Dalton. All of the BMW GS models do well up there and any 650 cc dual-sport style bike will be the most appropriate.
The dilemma for many long distance tourers is sacrificing the comfort of their street machine for the long miles it takes to get to Alaska. Why do that for just the couple of days it takes to ride to the Arctic Ocean? A safe solution for this is to ride to Anchorage and rent a motorcycle for that portion of the trip. Both MotoQuest (Motorcycle Rentals, Tours and Self-Guided Adventures | MotoQuest) and Alaska Motorcycle Adventures (Home Alaska Motorcycle Rentals) offer this service. You can take your street bike to them for storage, and rent a well-equipped adventure bike for that portion of your adventure.



8. Don't: Push It

Most accidents I have encountered on the Dalton involved the most insidious of enemies: fatigue. The nature of the Dalton Highway plays into the hands of this very dangerous condition. There is no where to stop, no places "to see"... so the rider keeps on going. During the long summer days, the rider on vacation who has drawn up an aggressive schedule to "see it all" in Alaska will not stop until the sun goes down. In the land of the Midnight Sun, this won't happen for a couple of months!! Therefore, these riders push themselves to the brink of exhaustion...and then a little more. This is when a rider loses a second of concentration, drifts to the soft shoulder of the road, and then gets flung into the bushes. It does not take much for a rider to completely change their trip and life on this road.

To avoid this, I recommend that riders budget 4 days from Fairbanks to Deadhorse and back. Stop in Coldfoot or Wiseman for the night on your way north and on your way south. Stop in Deadhorse for the night and get some rest. I have come across too many accidents of even experienced riders who have made the ride from Coldfoot to Deadhorse, only to turn around and try to make it back to Coldfoot that evening. This is when the danger of fatigue is at its peak. The north slope of Alaska is not a place to run the risk of an accident. You are best off spending the $200+ for a night at a hotel in Deadhorse and getting your rest. This road taxes your senses and your ability to concentrate.

Be smart: don't push it at all.



9. Do: Be aware of Truck Traffic

The main purpose for the Dalton Highway is for the oil companies to be able to service the oil fields at the Arctic Ocean. Large 18-wheel trucks are constantly running this road. Until a few years ago, these trucks were the only vehicles allowed to ride past the Yukon River. The culture of trucking in this neck of the woods has not changed much from those days: the truck owns the roads. When you are riding there, you need to adhere to a new set of rules and become very aware of the effect large trucks have on your ride to the Arctic.

Here are some skills you will need to develop:

When you cross a truck on dirt: Hunker down behind your windscreen. These trucks are throwing rock - sometimes the size of baseballs - and you need to protect yourself. Do not ride with your face shield open. Keep as much of your body behind a protective surfaces as possible.

Let trucks pass. Many of these trucks are empty after delivering their supplies and are trying to make time. They run at speeds of up to 90 m.p.h.!! Keep vigilant in your rear view mirror for these monsters creeping up on you. To be sure, you will be passed! The shoulders of this road are extremely soft, and will throw you into the bushes. So, when pulling over to let them by, don't slow down too much, and do not get too far off the side of the road.

Be aware of where you park. This highway will be empty for up to 30 minutes at a time. No traffic makes a rider complacent. Add a herd of caribou and the rider wants to stop and take a picture. At the time of parking, no one is around, so you choose the road as the parking lot. Then, (and this has happened) two 18-wheelers come from opposite directions and will need to pass each other right where you parked! There is simply no room for your bike to be there, and this is when things get tricky!
If you ever stop along the Dalton, make sure to pull completely off the road. Otherwise, you may get an ear-full from an Ice-road trucker in the Coldfoot parking lot! (or worse)



10. Do: Outfit your Ride

Bring the tools necessary to get you out of a pinch. Be able to take off your tire, replace an inner tube, patch a hole, plug a hole, take your bike apart, put air into your tire...All the things you wish you had brought seem to come to mind when your bike fails. Take time and prepare beforehand. Be able to take of your tires and repair them and fix problems that may arise. I always bring a manual foot pump, tool kit, tire spoons, hex set, and a syphon hose.

Accessorize your bike. Make sure it can take rocks and fall over and not get hurt. Protect your engine on the sides and underneath. Protect your hand guards. Make sure your pegs do not get slippery. Make sure you seat fits your body. Do everything you can to make that bike you ride comfortable, well balanced and able to take a hit. You will be glad you did.

Outfit the rider. Wear protective water resistent/waterproof gear that can withstand a temperature range from freezing to 100 degrees F. Waterproof boots and gloves are essential.

These are the basics if you want to have a safe and memorable trip as far north as you can go on the North American continent. Your health and safety, of course, come first. Your lust for adventure will not be stopped. In fact, it should be encouraged! Just take a couple of these steps to make sure you get home safe and sound and have the time of your life. Ride safe!

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