MT to AK need guidance

Discussion in 'Americas' started by runnin4melife, Oct 5, 2012.

  1. runnin4melife

    runnin4melife Been here awhile

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    I am planning a trip from Billings, MT to Alaska. I would really like to speak with someone that has done a trip of this caliber. I may also be doing it solo (yes I know it is not ideal but that adds to the mystique). I will be riding a highly modified BMW F800GS.
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  2. Pantah

    Pantah PJ Fan from Boston

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    What do you want to know? I've ridden the Alcan 5000 twice. 2006 and 2010. Both on the same KTM 950. I'm planning on entering again for the 2014 event, but on a smaller bike.

    It starts in Seattle and finishes in Anchorage. Lots of dirt roads usually.
    http://alcan5000.com/

    Weather? You'll get lots of rain and use your heated gear alot.
    Roads? I can offer a few dirt routes you could do solo.
    Gas? Expensive, but plenty along the way. Need about 175 miles range.
    Lodging? Well I know the places I stayed at.

    -P
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  3. runnin4melife

    runnin4melife Been here awhile

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    The Alcan would be awesome but I cannot commit to a timeline like that due to the military :cry I am mainly curious about dos, don'ts, must haves, wastes.

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  4. Pantah

    Pantah PJ Fan from Boston

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    OK, to me the great white north is no different than Montana where you live. The temps are the same until you get to the Yukon, where the wetness and cold sets in. My favorite roads are all dirt. They are:

    1. The South Canol. 130 miles
    2. The Top of the World. Maybe 100 miles.
    3. The Denali Highway. 140 miles

    I'd add a couple others, but you really have to be into it. Maybe look at the 2006 Alcan Itinerary for clues.
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  5. runnin4melife

    runnin4melife Been here awhile

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    Sounds great, I will be shipping the bike from the DC area. Current stationed there so it will be a moderate weather change. I plan on doing some research in the mean time such as items to bring etc... It will be an intense trip because I will have a modest time line and will require a lot of planning to get it to work out alright.:deal
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  6. LuluOfDenver

    LuluOfDenver The peanut gallery.

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    I just did Denver to AK on my F650GS. It was a blast! Do you have a route planned or approx daily mileage in mind? I'll log back on tomorrow and give you my 2 cents when I've got more time. :D
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  7. runnin4melife

    runnin4melife Been here awhile

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    I am looking at starting in Billings, MT because I have heard that is a great start location. Based purely on time I would like to do ~400+ miles a day (~2500 miles over 6-7 days), I am crushed by a 2 week schedule inherently so I will have to do a lot of driving just to make my timeline. I know that is not ideal either but because of my status in the military I may not be able to get more than 2 weeks, perhaps 3 but I cannot count on that. Adventuring on a time line like this is fun but it has its constraints.
    :dllama
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  8. Pantah

    Pantah PJ Fan from Boston

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    You can do 400 miles per day easy. But it's a long way. For planning purposes, I'd look at the Alcan5000 schedule for 2014. You won't be able to do the whole thing, though. The ride to Seattle from Anchorage is 4 days of hard slabbing 600 miles per day.

    I think the following would capture most of what the GWN has to offer.

    1. The pass north of Fort Nelson on 97 (Alcan Highway) to Watson Lake. Probably the prettiest ribbon of asphalt on the Alcan.
    2. The Robert Campbell Highway from Watson Lake to Carmacks (Hwy 4 and dirt)
    3. The Klondike Highway (Hwy 2) north to Dawson. Spend a half day poking around there. Dawson is a cool place.
    4. Take the ferry in Dawson to pick up the Top-Of-The-World highway (dirt) to link up again with the AK Highway at Tok, AK. Beautiful road and even if muddy had good traction.
    5. Denali Highway: Maybe 100 miles south of Fairbanks on Rt 3 you'll find the Denali Highway. This is a dirt road running east/west between the two roads that go south from Fairbanks. One goes to Anchorage and the other along the pipeline to Valdez. It is spectacular and quite lonely. It runs about 140 miles in length.

    I'm not sure you have the time to see much more. The route to see these places is about a 6000 mile loop from Seattle I think. That's about 15 days worth even if you throw in a couple 700 mile days.

    Tires: You'll need a decent front tire for the mud you'll likely face. You'll probably need to change out the rear in Fairbanks. In 2006 I used TKC 80 tires and they were awesome, but I had to change the rear in Dawson and the front in Watson Lake on my way back. In 2010 I used Mefo Explorers and they made the whole loop (7200 miles), but the front was terrible in the mud. If I were to do it again, I'd use a Mefo Rear and an extra TKC 80 for the front.

    Weather: The best time of year is late August early September. That is why the Alcan5000 is scheduled then. But that doesn't really mean the weather will be good. It'll be warm until you get into the Yukon and then start to get cold. You absolutely must have a heated jacket liner and heated grips or heated glove liners. Your outer gear should be waterproof. You'll want to treat your boots and gloves with waterproofing like Moneysworth Best Liquid Silicon. You can get it at a boot repair shop.

    I think you need 3 pairs of gloves. I use MX gloves when warm, Roper gloves when coolish, and Black Diamond Mountaineering gloves for wet and cold. They are textile gloves with thin palms so your hands don't cramp. Can get them at REI. I carry an old pair of Grandoe ski gloves as spares too. They also have thin palms.

    Cramps: I get very painful muscle cramps on occation. I learned that happens when I get dehydrated. So I use a Camelbak always and a few pulls on that will chase off my cramps in about 5 minutes. It's best to avoid the whole thing by sipping a little every hour.

    I take a Biker's balaclava for under my helmet, but have only used it in 2006 when the temps were low 30's and sleeting.

    I take everything I need to change tires or repair flats roadside. Plus I practice in the comfort of my garage to avoid drama on the trail. Breaking beads and spooning tires can be tough if you haven't practiced. Neduro has a good video posted here somewhere that shows if you are forcing things, you have it wrong.

    My KTM had 200 miles fuel range which is plenty. The BMW 650 singles only had about 170 miles and for them it was sketchy. Never pass a change to gas up.

    I guess basically you need to be safe, able to fix flats, handle common mechanical issues, and be comfortable no matter what weather you get. Since you'll be solo, you might consider using a Spot II tracker. It's about $200 including the rescue insurance contract. I use one when travelling remote locations and my son used it in the Mexican 1000 race last April. Pretty handy when no cell service. Anybody with web access can see exactly where you are if you have it on.

    Dang, this got me all excited to go try that Alcan thingie again!
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  9. runnin4melife

    runnin4melife Been here awhile

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    Great considerations! I have been considering a lot of these items for a while. I will be doing a 36 hr IBA Bun Burner this January from Rockville, MD to San Antonio, Tx as a mild form of equipment check. I will not be running the TKCs due to unnecessary wear/tear on them but I figure a ride of this distance will provide a good measure of endurance and issues that could arise in a long distance journey even though it is relatively benign. What about an intermediate tire like a Heidenau K60 to increase longevity but also make it capable of modest off road?
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  10. Pantah

    Pantah PJ Fan from Boston

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    The Mefo Super Explorers I used are the tube type versions of the Heidenau K60 I believe. I think they come out of the same plant. Are not your rims spoked and require tubes? If they are you might as well use a tire designed for tubes. On the other hand, maybe it doesn't really matter.

    In any event the Mefo's went 7200 miles. I had a couple Pirelli take-offs with me but I never used them. I would imagine the K60's would get similar mileage. The trick is to run them at 40lbs. I didn't believe it when people told me, but I tried it and it worked.

    Like I said, though, I want a knobby on the front next time. But the Mefo tire never put me down in the mud, and it was very good in the dry dirt or gravel. So perhaps the K60 or Mefo for you would suffice. You won't likely face any slop unless you try the South Canol Rd between Ross River and Highway 1 at Johnson's Crossing. Well,,, if you tried the Dempster or the Haul Road, you can get some slop in spots.
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  11. runnin4melife

    runnin4melife Been here awhile

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    The F800 has spoked rims which require tubes. The TKC 80s are actually tubeless tires and havent had any problem with that. The biggest consideration with tubed vs tubed tires in my experience is that your tube does not build up too much friction to disintegrate so if the sizes mesh it is usually fine. I have ran tubes in tubeless tires on a variety of bikes.

    I tend to run my TKC 80s at higher PSI which helps a lot on the road in terms of longevity. The front can def go a lot father than the rear so that was why I was considering the Heidenuas, but if I take a spare set of TKCs I should be just fine (that and have a few locations that have them in stock as well.

    I definitely like the TKCs so in the interest traversing any given terrain (safely) they may just stay on.

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  12. LuluOfDenver

    LuluOfDenver The peanut gallery.

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    I left in e middle of May for my trip. According to locals all along the way, this past winter was the longest they had experienced in as long as anyone could remember. Even keeping that in mind, it wasn't bad. However, north of Lake Louise I hit rain, at least some little bit EVERY SINGLE DAY until I got to Fairbanks. Most days it was just riding in and out of patches, but I did hit three solid days of rain and it was cold. Cold.

    The only heated gear I had was a pair of Gerbings gloves. I bought them at the last minute and was truly thankful to have them. I also had handlebar muffs I put on when it was really raining to keep my gloves/hands dry. I suppose that sounds girlie, but I am a girl AND when I ran into other motorbikers who had just run through the same rain I had, they were seriously jealous I had them.

    I wore Olympia gear and was really happy with it, but I also met a number of people in Klim gear who really loved their stuff. It is all Gore Tex and will keep you totally dry. I wore Gaerne boots, as did another rider I met (male) and neither of us were happy with them. :huh

    I had three pairs of gloves, but after the first couple of days, I rode solely with the Gerbings until hitting the lower 48 again. It was seriously cold at that time of year--most lakes were still frozen and hadn't hit break-up yet when I rode through Canada.

    ROADS
    I completely agree that the stretch between Ft Nelson and Watson Lake is the most gorgeous stretch of road on that trip. Be watchful for wildlife!! I saw something like 13 bears, a couple herds of bison, moose, dear, horses, etc on that day. I came around a bend and a baby moose was in the middle of the road. Be aware! You don't want to hit them (and I know...I hit a deer 3 days ago and it sucked!)

    I didn't ride the Robert Campbell Highway because a huge truck had fallen into a sinkhole a few days before I was there. I decided not to join him. Instead, I stayed on the AlCan to Whitehorse, then headed north to Dawson City (which seemed like it could be a cool town, but it was Sunday afternoon and everything was closed down)

    I rode Top of the World Highway to Chicken, then over to Tok that night. You can ride that stretch all the way through Tok to Fairbanks in one day if you want to though.

    From there I rode the Dalton Highway. Riding up was the warmest sunniest weather I saw up to that point. The trip back, however was rainy! The calcium chloride they put on the dirt/gravel section of the road makes it really slippy and makes the mud stick to your bike in a way mud never has before. This was the only place I really saw mosquitoes and I needed a head net and Deet to deal with them.

    I rode all over interior AK, then headed down to Haines and caught the ferry back to Bellingham, WA. If I had it to do over, I would have gotten off at Prince Rupert and ridden.

    Other than the dirt/gravel roads I chose to ride, the others were in relatively decent condition. I had heard horror stories, and was pleasantly surprised to find that my imagination was WAY WORSE than the reality. The worse sections of paved road were in Yukon Territory, but they are super good at marking bad spots with orange flags on the sides of the roads, and warning you early on when sections of road were completely gone and just gravel. There was one section not well marked--not bad for the hundreds of miles I road in that territory.

    I ran Metzler Tourances and had no problems doing all 8200 miles on them--on and off road. I changed my own tires in my front yard before leaving and it reassured me that I REALLY DIDN'T WANT A FLAT. If you haven't done it already, do it once at home. The spoked BMW wheels are a BITCH to change!!! I don't think I can emphasize that enough. But, I knew what I w up against should I have the problem. (I didn't, by the way)

    If you're camping, let me know and I'll fill you in on great campgrounds. If you're hotel-ing it, just know they will be pricey. Gas is pricey too, especially in Canada, but it's true-- it is everywhere. I am used to getting 230-250 range on my 650gs, but my range really dropped to 170-180 while loaded. It was a bummer, but I only really worried about making it once. No biggie.

    Here's the thing with this ride. Other than a couple of three day motorbike camping trips, none of the days over 200 miles long, i set off on this trip. It was great--easier than I thought it would be, to be honest. But not easy! Being well prepared helped a lot. I blogged about it as I went--feel free to check it out. Http://louisesbmwbike.blogspot.com
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  13. FotoTEX

    FotoTEX Long timer

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    Rain Gear
    DEET
    Good Attitude
    Camera
    All else is just extra weight. Just do it.
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  14. LuluOfDenver

    LuluOfDenver The peanut gallery.

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    I second that, but I was kicking myself for not having bought a GoPro. Something to think about....
    :clap
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  15. runnin4melife

    runnin4melife Been here awhile

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    GoPro is a must as well as perhaps a slightly better digital SLR. I have ran many forms of self maintenance in a variety of locations and understand tire issues to an extent I wish I did not. Once I have the bike put together, next week or so I am going to setup an inventory of what I have and what I want to get and will post it. I will be doing a decent drive this January (Rockville, MD to San Antonio, TX) as a test bed for a long trip under less than favorable conditions. I am covered on gear as I have a full BMW rally suit, water proof sidi boots, handlebar gauntlets (not girly, smart!) and electric jacket/pants. I do not need electric gloves in my experience with the gauntlets on.
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  16. Pantah

    Pantah PJ Fan from Boston

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    Sounds like you know a lot more than me. You should do well if you can get a few extra days. Luck and fun.

    -P

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  17. runnin4melife

    runnin4melife Been here awhile

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    Awesome blog Lulu, I am scrolling through it now (while I should be studying endocrinology...) sucks about the bears eating on your bikes and helmet!

    FYI: you can use your bikes side stand to break the bead on a tire, it takes a bit of positioning so you dont crush the rim but it is a ready sourced lever with ample weight that doesn't require packing. I carry a simple ratchet strap tied from the frame guard to the side stand so it doesnt collapse while tilting the bike to break the bead, then you can use the ratchet strap to cinch the tire when you are trying to get the bead to re-seat. This video is somewhat like what I am talking about but I do it a bit differently.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSZnqzLKfso
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  18. runnin4melife

    runnin4melife Been here awhile

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    Wouldn't say I know more ;-) I am obviously looking for information and knowledge gleamed from experience. I just know a little bit about stupid things you can do to tires. When I was a poor little MX rider I did a bunch of really silly thtings to scrimp by, some worked and some didn't. Tubes in MX tires full of wholes were a few of those things that worked... sometimes haha. I will never ever put a tube in without talc from some of my early experiences though

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  19. LuluOfDenver

    LuluOfDenver The peanut gallery.

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    If you have questions about Alaska itself and some of the roads, ask AKDuc. I met him when I went into REI in Anchorage. He saw me walk in wearing all my gear (needed a new neck gaiter cuz I lost my fave in Talkeetna:cry) and he immediately came over and chatted. Cool guy.
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  20. LuluOfDenver

    LuluOfDenver The peanut gallery.

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    Thanks, glad you like it. About the bears--they are everywhere and love petroleum products and chewing on seats and tires. Thankfully they never chewed on my tires, and the one in Seward missed the wires for my com system by about 1/8". They didn't really get close to people, though--so that's a positive, right!?

    And I did learn about the side stand trick for the tires--just not until after I was done! Didn't know the talcum powder trick, so I also pinched my tube the first time. Luckily I figured it out before being able to set the bead. Seriously, why don't people pass on ALL the tips before I try doing stuff....:huh

    I'll go back through my maps and let you know where all the hot springs stops are too. If you can swing an end of the day stop at them, it's really nice! Oh, and if youre a beer drinker, i can tell you where to stop for breweries. Those are nice at the end of the day too. Talking about the trip is totally making me want to do it again!!
    #20