2019 The Dempster to Tuktoyaktuk

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jmclaren12, Feb 11, 2020.

  1. jmclaren12

    jmclaren12 n00b

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2018
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    Medicine Hat, AB
    This is my first post so take it easy on me.
    I figured I'd post some of my learnings from riding the Dempster to Tuktoyaktuk and what we had seen.

    My bike of choice was a 2014 Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX and my riding partner was on an Africa twin.

    When we arrived in Dawson we had talked to a fellow who had just come back from Tuk and his advice to us was "If it's good just go for it". This is some of the best advice for doing the trip due to the never ending daylight. When we arrived at Eagle Plains it had started to rain so we decided to shut it down for the night and head out in the morning. When we got up the road was closed and we had to wait till I believe 11:00 for it to reopen.
    Once it did reopen we decided to try it out, I mean how bad could it be? Really bad, especially when you're on a 600lb+ adventure bike. Initially it took us 4 hours to cover 100km(60 miles). We had actually passed a guy on a tenere that was riding at walking speed with both feet out. I believe he eventually made it but that would have been a long day. Talking to people after we had found out that quite a few people just hung out for a day and waited for the weather to clear. Riding in that goo was a constant feeling of your front tire washing out and thinking this is it. We did manage to stay upright though. Even the Africa Twin was having trouble. At one point Colton said to me "this is for dirtbikes. Ah nevermind I wouldn't even want to ride a dirtbike in this crap".
    As we headed North the roads slowly got better. I do remember on the way back seeing one valley we had come through and thought how the hell did we go up and down that.
    Once we hit the NWT the roads became substantially better. So if you're riding this route just remember the roads get better further North.
    We ended up making it to Inuvik at around 11:00pm and grabbed a hotel. They do have a convience store that was open late as well as a restaurant. People seem to be out at all hours. We had been warned about the Northern communities and from what we could see and the people we talked to they were great. Never felt like anything was going to go missing, no one resented our presence.
    The next day we planned on going to Tuk and back to Inuvik. It was slow going that last 200kms. Freshly graded roads with thick deep gravel. I was continually driving all over the road looking for the best route, not to mention it was just above freezing and raining. Once we made it to Tuk we ended up meeting a local guy and his family and had some drinks with him so we had to spend the night. He gave us a tour of the town. When we asked about leaving all our stuff with our bikes he said don't worry about it, nobody's gonna touch it.
    On a side note if you plan on bringing something up there to make some friends they do enjoy their Marlboro Reds. I guess they're hard to come by.
    On a good note: due to the bad weather and it being July 1st we were pretty much the only ones there. Which I believe helped us meeting some of the people.

    By the time we had left the next day there had been quite a bit of traffic and we ripped all the way to Inuvik due to the gravel being pushed aside. The weather cleared up and we were on track to drive all the way to Dawson in one day but ended up getting a flat causing us to miss the gas station at Eagle Plains.

    Bikes:
    I feel my Guzzi stood up pretty good. For all the potholes though a 21 inch front tire would have helped a lot. The Africa Twin could leave me in the dust at any given chance if he decided to. I am a cautious driver though. (Got a few accidents under my belt)
    Another issue I ran into was bad gas. Right when we left Dawson my bike stalled and my service engine light came on. A local guy stopped to help and asked where we had filled and he told us that gas station shuts down in the winter so it's probably the gas. (If I remember correctly it was on the outskirts of Dawson on the east side). To solve this issue I ran octane booster that I had got from there.
    Once in Inuvik the gas station there has every kind of Amsoil, as well as their fuel conditioner. We also ran some sea foam that we picked up at the convenience store in Inuvik. My bike ran a lot better after that. The AT didn't miss a beat though. He did run some sea foam for preventative measure.
    The AT did end up blowing out both fork seals which is a known problem. We had some fork cleaners with us that helped him limp along for a few hundred more KMs but by the time he got back to Edmonton I'd bet they were dry. Colton's pretty easy going and he said the bike really didn't handle much different.

    Another thing that was of concern was that the people at Eagle Plains had told us that there would be graders and road construction all along the way and they run everyday no matter what. We didn't have a satellite phone or Spot. We relied on there being more traffic in case something happened. Maybe due to the weather and it being a long weekend but there were long stretches where we didn't see anybody. All the graders and trucks were just sitting with no one around. The way home was different as there was lots of traffic. By the time we got back we had heard of 5 bikes being hauled out of there with a few of those riders getting a helicopter ride. Actually just as we left Eagle Plains the chopper was taking of to pick someone up. It seemed like some of the accidents were on the better stretches of road. Riders trying to make up time and just getting caught in some gravel. So there's really no point in rushing if you don't have to. I'll post a video of a guy that had just crashed ahead of us at the end. Thankfully he was ok, other that than a concussion. His helmet was toast.

    We did take our time which I feel helped us not wreck anything on the bikes. The only flat we had was due to a nail that the AT picked up. Go figure there wasn't a house within 200kms.

    I ran Mitas E07 Dakars from Medicine Hat to Inuvik and back. Total kms was around 8000. I ended up getting 2000kms more out of the rear. We did find though that the chip seal they put on the actual highways up there really wears them down. Once they got to a certain point though they seemed to just hold.

    Previous to leaving I had ordered some special relays that would be impossible to find if one went. I also had pulled all my relays and put dielectric grease on them as a precaution.

    For fuel the Guzzis huge tank (32L) was more than enough to get from Dawson to Eagle Plains. Of course it handled way better when it was below half. Talking to another guy with an AT and he attempted it and almost made it. Colton carried 2 extra gallons with.

    Another thing that had really worried me was having to get my bike towed and hearing that it would be thousands of dollars. I ended up getting AMA which would cover a portion but only at their rates. On a positive I was talking to a guy in Inuvik about it and he said that's only true if you get it towed out. Semis go to Inuvik 3 days a week I believe he said and leave empty. The last quote he could remember was $600 from Inuvik to Edmonton for a bike. So if your bike ever did crap out that is a really good option. I'm sure they could drop it anywhere along the route as well.

    Doing it again and the AT seemed like a very good option. I mean the Guzzi on the highway was perfect for that. In the mud and dirt it did ok. But we met a lot of cool people that would come up to talk because they noticed the Guzzi. Actually at one Pub a guy walked in and said who's got the Guzzi. He sat down and told us stories from all over the world. So in that aspect the Guzzi was gold.

    If you have any more questions I'll try and answer them the best I can. Also if I forgot anything I'll try and update it.

    2 hour video of the ride


    Crash on the Dempster


    Arctic Circle, bike tipover
    #1
    LeMaitre, td63, bobw and 4 others like this.
  2. Rollin'

    Rollin' does it come in black? Supporter

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    Nice writeup! It was an adventure!
    Thank you for your help! I hadn't heard about the other crashes at the time.
    #2
    bobw likes this.
  3. MOAC Man

    MOAC Man Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 13, 2013
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    Calgary.
    Brilliant! Invaluable information. Thanks for sharing it.
    We were up there in 2017. My partner had a crash before EP in deep ungraded gravel which had just been laid. I put my bike down to stop running over him.
    His triple trees were both bend and he rode back to Calgary with "crooked" bars. We made it to EP where Stan the owner was just fantastic to us.
    Other riders also tried to straighten the bars out but we all came to the same conclusion it was the triple trees, and it was. We were both on KLR's.
    I may be back this year but on a AT and your report has given me insight in how that machine handled the conditions.
    What tyres did the AT run please?
    #3
  4. bobw

    bobw Harden the phuck up

    Joined:
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    Location:
    God's country, Western North Carolina
    Excellent recap and videos!

    cheers :beer
    #4
  5. jmclaren12

    jmclaren12 n00b

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2018
    Oddometer:
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    Medicine Hat, AB
    He ran a Mitas E07+ and a heidenau k60 scout on the front. At the time he couldn't get a matching pair. He said the bike handled awesome on pavement and dirt.
    #5
  6. Mark.Winton

    Mark.Winton Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2018
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    London
    Sounds like a great trip. Wondering does the dempster have the same calcium chloride crap as the dalton that sticks everywhere?
    #6
  7. iCD55

    iCD55 Still Kickin'

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2014
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    PacNW, USA
    Absolutely .... I'm still cleaning it off my 1200GS 6 months later!
    #7
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  8. Rollin'

    Rollin' does it come in black? Supporter

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    Yes

    [​IMG]
    #8
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  9. ztaj

    ztaj jatz

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    It's an interesting road for sure. Thanks for taking the time to post.
    In planning for my trip I wondered why there was so many accidents on that stretch of road, I thought it was "just another gravel road". I've riden thousands of k's on gravel.
    I think it's because it changes quite often, the deep loose dust we had on the way up, which almost caused 2 of our group to pull pin, was gone on the return journey.
    As soon as you think "yeah, I got this" and loose focus, which is easy to do, it'll bite you :p3rry
    #9
  10. jmclaren12

    jmclaren12 n00b

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Medicine Hat, AB
    The one guy that got flown out was on a good dry stretch. I think he just decided to giver and must of lost it. Lots of big potholes and washboard as well. Also the first half is quite scenic, so if you get looking around and miss something on the road you could lose it pretty quick

    I remember one group we met in northern BC who had just done the Dalton and wouldn't attempt the Dempster. They said the risk for an accident or bending a rim in a pothole was too much for them.
    #10
    Mark.Winton likes this.