Canadian Arctic Winter Ride; Ice Roads and the Dempster Highway

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Northern Rob, Jan 10, 2009.

  1. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    I’ve been planning this ride for two years and am chomping at the bit to get going. This ride starts in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories on March 29<SUP>th</SUP> 2009. We ride through to Dawson City and take the Dempster Highway up to the Arctic Circle, Inuvik and the Ice Roads to Tuktoyaktuk for some kick back sun and fun on the fabulous Arctic Ocean coast.

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    We plan to start Mile Zero of the Dempster Highway on April 1<SUP>st</SUP> – April Fools day – which my wife says is very appropriate. (What does she mean by that?). I picked those dates to take advantage of the North’s unique weather and light. If you go too early in the season it can be really, really, really cold, windy and dark. After the spring equinox you get a lot more light - and with a bit of luck - less severe weather, but for a few more weeks its still cold enough to keep the ice strong and the roads open and safe.

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    The winter Ice road is the only road to Tuk, so if you want to ride your bike all the way to the Arctic Ocean on the Dempster, you can only do it in the winter.

    If you leave later in April, you run the risk of having the ice bridges close and you can’t cross the rivers on the way up to Inuvik. Or you’ll get stuck up in Tuk or Inuvik and have no way to get back home other than flying and shipping your bike back later in the summer.

    My goal for the trip is to have a lot of fun with a few of my buddies that are coming along, and to share the spectacular scenery of Canada’s north and its people with them and with you.

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    It’s as much about photography and enjoying the unique sights and people as it is about the ride.

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    I’m posting this because I’ve really enjoyed reading other folks ride reports and seeing their pictures. It helps me get through the winter riding season blues. And your ride reports, tips and pictures have helped me tweak my gear and think about the next rides I want to do. I appreciate it! So I’m hoping I'll have some good pictures and stories to share with you and give a bit back … good karma and all that… Also, I’ve got a few more issues that I would like your advice on, so hoping for some more of that great ADV RIDER help.

    Here’s what the ride isn’t about. I’m not trying to out-macho anyone. I'm not the least bit interested in knocking off Paul Mondor’s well earned crown as the Iceman or to outdo anyone. I’m not the best or toughest rider out there and I know it. I don’t have anything to prove. If the weather gets really bad, and things look unsafe we’ll stop or turn around.

    Bottom line, I’m not waving my fist at the gods in defiance, I am requesting safe passage for my journey.

    This ride has been done before on motorbikes - three times that I am aware of and probably a few more times that never got written up. But given the unique rich history and beauty of the area and its people, I think they deserve a more in depth story and photo journal being shared than I have been able to find from previous rides. I hope this trip can remedy that!

    I will be riding a modestly modified 2wd Ural Gear Up sidecar bike, have a 4X4 support vehicle, emergency satellite communication and camping/survival gear that I trust I will not need. Hopefully I’ll be over-prepared and over-supplied – but its good to be ready in case Mr Murphy comes waving his stupid law.

    Will post more soon…

    Cheers!

    Rob
    #1
  2. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Best of luck to you, Rob! At first I was a little envious and then I thought about how cold it is outside and I'm more than happy to leave the hard part to you. I'll just follow along from my couch!

    Very much looking forward to reading of your adventures - I know how much prep you're putting in to this. One thing you wn't be lacking at that time of year is sunshine - make sure your shades are quality ones.

    Right on!
    #2
  3. kootenay kid

    kootenay kid Lets Ride

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    Sounds great and I look forward to the Report.
    #3
  4. Sask_pirate

    Sask_pirate Been here awhile

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    we're rooting for ya... this is a worthy challenge trust all goes well keep us informed as tot he progress :clap
    #4
  5. Spicy McHaggis

    Spicy McHaggis Darth Peach's cracker...

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    Wish I could do this with you, you nut-job!!! :ricky

    Ride safe!
    #5
  6. ImageGuy

    ImageGuy Adventurer

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    I can't wait for your adventure to begin and to read your ride report and see the photos. Good luck!

    :lurk
    #6
  7. Tunngavik

    Tunngavik Been here awhile

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    That's sounds like quite a trip. When I first saw your post I thought you must be nuts to tke something like this on on a motorbike but then read you'll have a 4x4 support vehicle along.

    I lived up in Iqaluit for a few years and experienced a few storms that came on very quickly (even in April) where I could not even see my hand in from of my face (no word of a lie).

    I'm sure you'll be OK with a support vehicle and pelnty of survival and communications equipment. I've gone on a couple of 400+km trips on ski-doo in the arctic and as long as you pack for it then things are generally OK.

    I look forward to the ride report - I'm hoping to ride the Dempster sometime this summer. Good Luck!
    #7
  8. Spicy McHaggis

    Spicy McHaggis Darth Peach's cracker...

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    Gonna post a list of modifications you've done to the Ural??? Inquiring minds want to know...
    #8
  9. squonker

    squonker Eat my shorts

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    Yeah - did you convert yours to run on Vodka like Spicy did? (Or do they come like that from the factory?)
    #9
  10. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    Hi Squonker. And thanks very much for your help in preparing for this ride!

    Squonker has been kind enough to share his expertice and be one of my "consultants" for the ride. And who better to ask about the condition of the ice roads and the stuff I need to do to prep the support vehicle than a real ice roads trucker! Appreciate it! And Squonker, I really enjoy reading your ice roads trucking thread. Keep it coming!

    If you haven't had a chance to read his ice roads thread, its here > Yellowknife ice trucking .
    #10
  11. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    kootenay kid, Sask_pirate, Spicy, ImageGuy, Tunngavik, thanks for tuning in and your words of encouragement!
    #11
  12. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    Hi Spicy.Tell you what, I'm finishing off some more mods in the next couple of weeks and then I'll post something more complete... But big picture...

    For heat/protection from cold; heated grips, hippo hands, lap apron and of course a fairing.

    Armour; for the front of the tub, oil pan bash plate, beefier armour around left cylinder head. Its not quite armour, but I upgraded the front brake line to braided stainless steel.

    Gas range; another external tank. I'm toying with the idea of a fuel cell or custom larger tank, but since I have a support vehicle, I think I'd sooner spend the money on a round of beer and pizza with my buddies.

    Electrical: More lights, easy to reach fuse box, more electical outlets for heated clothes and camera gear etc., another battery

    Gauges: I want a better idea of whats going on with the motor than the stock bike, so tach, volt, oil temp, cylinder head temp. Probably overkill.

    Tires. Kenda Ice knobbies with Aerostitch studs.

    I'll do a better job of this later - with pics - and when the ride's over I'll let you know what I think was a waste of money.

    I know you're itching to do this ride too Spicy!
    #12
  13. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    Funny that you should mention that! They do come with vodka from the factory! I was at Ural Northwest last Friday working on the bike with Mark. I could hear the owner Stephen laughing as he was ordering the Russian First Aid kits from Europe. The distributor wanted to know if he wanted them shipped to the States "as is" from Russia - with the stock bottle of vodka and cans of fish included with the Russian first aid supplies - or to take that out to avoid customs import hassels!

    So if you've got an original Ural First Aid kit, you can have a shot of vodka and fish while you bandage your cut thumb on the side of the road! Can you see Honda doing that? :rofl
    #13
  14. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    Before we go any further, it would be really bad manners for me not to give a very, very big THANK YOU to Paul Mondor – The Iceman. Paul gave me hours of help on things I needed to do to prep the bike and myself. This guy is a class act!
    :bow
    For those of you that don’t know Paul, he rode a bike solo and unsupported across <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Canada</st1:place></st1:country-region> in the winter - not once but twice! The first time was on a bike, the second time was on a sidecar bike and he went through <st1:place w:st="on">Labrador</st1:place> with -60 weather.
    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    If you haven’t seen his story, here are his two ride reports – a great read!
    <o:p></o:p>
    1. Coast to Coast <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Canada</st1:place></st1:country-region> in winter??
    2. Trans <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">labrador HWY</st1:address></st1:Street> in Winter
    <o:p></o:p>
    If you like Paul’s ride reports, I understand that he’ll have a book out soon with more of the good stuff, so watch out for it.

    <o:p></o:p>
    Paul, thanks for figuring all this stuff out and sharing it with us. You “plowed the road” ahead for a lot of the rest of us winter riders.
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    #14
  15. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    i was just viewing a ride report from Australia... sunny, red sand... looked like it was nice and hot...

    and you PM me to move this thread to the RR forum.. sure thing :vardy

    :lurk
    #15
  16. Nanuq

    Nanuq Aventurer by Trade

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    Good luck!:D
    #16
  17. thetourist

    thetourist Just passing thru

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    Good luck.

    The far north is spectacular in winter. I've driven to Tuk by car. I saw the most spectacular sunrise of my life on the ice road. Post lots of pics.

    Don't freeze your niblets. :lol3
    #17
  18. AKDuc

    AKDuc Alaska Born Ducatisti

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    Most excellent!

    Sounds like you've got a great plan.

    Also sounds like a lot of fun.

    Best of luck, Mark H.
    #18
  19. Northern Rob

    Northern Rob Con Brio!

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    Hi, guys would appreciate help on this problem if any ideas...

    How do I keep my camera and camcorder warm so that they're handy while riding and keep operating? I hear the batteries die quickly and the cameras don't work well when you get -10 -20 etc.

    Any ideas or anyone got this figured out already? I think I have enough power to run some more heated gear but what?
    #19
  20. jwalters

    jwalters Farkle Proliferator

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    1. Not sure how big the camera is, but camping on cold mountain faces, anything we wanted unfrozen in the morning we sleep with. Could you keep the camera on an inside pocket of your coat?

    2. How about getting a Gerbing heated vest just for the electronics? Do not wear the vest, but wrap up your electronics with the vest and put it in a saddle/tank bag. (kind of like a heating pad of sorts) That would have to keep it warm enough and within reach?

    Problem is, when you take them out of their warm container, and expose them to the cold air, the lenses are going to fog up. But maybe you can find that sweet spot that is warm enough for the electronics to operate but cold enough to minimize this effect.

    #20