2019 The Dempster to Tuktoyaktuk

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

  1. jmclaren12

    jmclaren12 n00b

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    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
  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
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  3. MOAC Man

    MOAC Man Adventurer

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    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

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    Excellent recap and videos!

    cheers :beer
    #4
  5. jmclaren12

    jmclaren12 n00b

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    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

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    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'

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    Absolutely .... I'm still cleaning it off my 1200GS 6 months later!
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  8. Rollin'

    Rollin' does it come in black? Supporter

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    Yes

    [​IMG]
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  9. ztaj

    ztaj Inmate 526

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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

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    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
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  11. Ventoux753

    Ventoux753 n00b

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    I’m a new rider, but I would really like to ride a motorcycle to Tuktoyaktuk. Any advice would be appreciated. Let me know what you think.

    A little background on me….

    After a life time as a bicycle racer, and ultra marathon bicyclist, I purchased a my first motorcycle in February of 2021. I’m 65, and health problems have finally made it impossible for me to continue to bicycle other than short recreational rides. I purchased a 2017 Yamaha V-Star 250. I live in the central area of the United States, so when we had a warm spell in March, and I had received my second Covid vaccine, I headed south for my first trip on the V Star. Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to warmer weather. Then across Texas, through New Mexico, Arizona, and then circled through southern Colorado and on home. Just under 4000 miles in 3 weeks. About a month later, after a round of doctors appointments, completing the MSF course, and acquiring my motorcycle endorsement, I headed for the Pacific Northwest. Another 4000+ miles, and 3 weeks later I was home again. I’ve done several 2-4 day rides of less than 1000 miles, and I just a few weeks ago returned from a 2600 mile, 1.5 week trip, through North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. As experence, the 100’s of thousands of miles on a bicycle probably also helps a little.


    I’ve done desert dirt roads in Arizona, and gravel and rock roads across the western plains. Probably less than 100 miles total, but I have ridden the V-Star other than on paved roads. I’ve ridden in temps below freezing, pouring rain, and 100°+ temperatures.


    My instinct is to just keep maintaining and riding the Yamaha V-Star 250, and go with the same equipment, and dry-bags strapped to the motorcycle dirt bag style, that I’ve been using so far. I have no time constraints, no desire to ride muddy gravel in pouring rain, and I have nothing to prove to anyone. So, I would almost certainly (I never know for sure until I get there) wait for good weather or stay on the tarmac and ride on to Fairbanks, Anchorage, or some other interesting destinations. All my rides so far have started with a general idea for destinations, but were made up, and the route changed, day by day. This trip to the Arctic would be no different in that regard.


    I do have this life long problem of always thinking, “this can’t be that hard”.

    With that in mind, any advice? Anyone?

    978F6E62-F8A3-4671-807F-F522E27B2FA1.jpeg
    #11
  12. txbear55

    txbear55 Been here awhile Supporter

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    Go for it! Might be a good idea, though, to take an off road class ( Rawhyde, Dragoo, etc) and learn better how to ride loose surfaces. Bike choice sounds good as it is light weight and should be easier on tires...just take extra gas. You may have no choice but to ride a muddy road as weather can be unpredictable. We got into a heavy snowstorm in BC on the way back from Deadhorse (in mid June). Prepare properly, use good judgement, and it should be awesome!

    Oh yeah, it CAN be that hard!
    #12
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  13. Ventoux753

    Ventoux753 n00b

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    Thanks for the advice!

    One thing that concerns me is that I cannot stand on the pegs on the V-Star. The forward controls make that impossible. Standing was how I handled really rough roads, and technical terrain, when riding a bicycle. But, my racing bicycles had no suspension at all. Your body is the suspension. Usually I find just slowing down can get me through bad sections on difficult gravel on the motorcycle. I’m old, so slowing down is always a good choice. Technical terrain would be a different thing, but I’ve never found even bad gravel to be what I would consider technical terrain.

    Do you think not being able to stand on the pegs will be a problem? Would you consider the gravel roads of the Arctic “technical terrain” ? Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    I do need to look at carrying extra fuel. I had thought about that at one time, but hadn’t really worked it out. The 2.5 gallon tank on the V-Star can get me 180 miles, but I believe there is a section on both the Dempster and Dalton Highways of 240-250 miles without services. I didn’t see anywhere else between the US Border and the beginning of the Dempster that carrying extra fuel would be necessary. Are fuel cans readily available in Dawson or elsewhere close by? It would be nice to avoid carrying the fuel can any further than necessary.

    I’m sure they are great, but I’m not much for taking classes. I was a licensed bicycle racing coach at one time, and it is well known that teachers are the worse students. :)

    I will plan to go back to the southwest this winter and do more riding on the dirt, and rock roads they call gravel. (Once the stones are as large as my fist, I generally don’t think of that as gravel) :). I did a little “gravel riding” on my very first trip with the motorcycle, and I really enjoyed it.

    I no longer have any time constraints, and that really changes everything as far as if you ride or wait for better weather. It’s always amazed me that waiting just 24-48 hours for the weather, can change a mountain pass, or any road, from almost impassable, to a pleasant ride. We can’t roll up the windows, and turn on the heater or AC :)

    Thanks again for your help!
    #13
  14. Ventoux753

    Ventoux753 n00b

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    You were in British Columbia, on your way home from Deadhorse, in mid June? How early did you start your trip?
    #14
  15. txbear55

    txbear55 Been here awhile Supporter

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    We departed Dallas Tx May 31...road hard, BTW. Snowstorm experience was closer to 3rd week of June. We were gone about 3 1/2 weeks.

    Every bike imaginable has made it to Deadhorse and back. That said, I would recommend a dual sport bike, like a KLR, to do the trip. Reasonably light and has superior suspension than a full on street bike. Being able to stand while negotiating miles of potholes enhances both bike control and comfort.

    Again, the weather can catch you unexpectedly. We had no warning of a snowstorm, just rain, and there was no place to stop, no shoulders on road, etc. We were lucky to stay upright.

    No disrespect, but you seem to have a rather casual attitude towards the potential difficulties of this trip. I recommend you read all the trip reports you can on journeys to Deadhorse (similar road conditions) and Tuk. We had 500 miles of cold, rain soaked gravel and potholes from Coldfoot to Deadhorse and back. Others will have a nice sunny dry trip. It may be a piece of cake or a life threatening endeavor. I wish you luck!
    #15
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  16. Ventoux753

    Ventoux753 n00b

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    You have no idea how much I appreciate your response.

    I will take your advice and read all the ride reports I can find. So far, you have confirmed what I had suspected. The biggest obstacle, and danger, is the harsh unpredictable weather. The weather of course always being compounded by the remote challenging terrain. Wilderness survival is an area I’m confident in, so you may be picking up on that. The most important aspect of wilderness survival is to avoid getting into that situation in the first place. No disrespect intended, but for instance, I’ve been in so many cold mountain rains I doubt I would leave camp, or the motel, in those conditions. Or, I would immediately start looking for shelter when those conditions arise. Call me a coward, or call me lucky to be a person who can afford an extra two weeks to get home if he wishes, but once everything is wet and cold, the snow and deteriorating conditions are much more difficult to effectively deal with. That’s when most people put their nose on the handlebars and hope for the best. (we used to say “nose on the stem” in bicycling) When I was young, and had no other responsibilities, I would ride my bicycle through the conditions you described. Ice freezing the shifters and hanging from my helmet. I envisioned myself as an animal that nothing could stop. I’m old and timid these days, and painfully aware of my limitations.

    I have read several ride reports where bikers left all of their camping equipment in Coldfoot. The rationale was to make the bikes lighter and therefore the riding quicker and easier for the last leg to Deadhorse. My survival instincts are always triggered by that decision.

    I hope you had a life confirming experience from your trip to the Arctic. I hope I’m able to do the same.

    Thanks again for your response and insight.
    #16
  17. eemsreno

    eemsreno Super Tenere Rider.

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    Atigun Pass , Aug. 11th or 12th.
    Like others have said, get a real bike made for a trip like this.
    But by all means do it! I have rode to Inuviik twice but need to go back now that it's open to Tuk.
    eemsren_Alaska%202015_Alaska%202015%20pocket%20camera%20038_zpsagrmipby.jpg
    #17
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  18. Gone_Ridin

    Gone_Ridin Been here awhile Supporter

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    The advice "If it's good, just go for it" is spot on. Not a weather forecast I saw was accurate; thawing frost under the road is what catches most people who've never experienced it. As you will read in many reports, rider panic in the mud/ruts and dumping the throttle too quickly will often lead to a drop. Gain some sand/mud experience so that getting the front end up when needed become a natural reaction.
    A large portion of the Dempster is crushed shale so air down on your tires North of Eagle plains to avoid flats and you can air up again after the McKenzie. The Dalton is a far easier ride and the road more forgiving.
    This was my experience; did both on the same ride and saw every type of weather. https://advrider.com/f/threads/adve...sh-i-had-gone-alone-to-tuk-deadhorse.1367886/
    Go for it


    #18
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  19. 2wheellifer

    2wheellifer Adventurer

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    394959FB-63EB-4D19-911F-70407FF76980.jpeg 4971D19E-6105-467F-915A-A2E46655AE84.jpeg This was my ride.If the weather and the roads are good travel as far as you can safely travel. There’s no guarantee what the weather will be tomorrow. I had plans to stop at EP both ways. Weather and roads were great and did the trip to and from Inuvik in one day each way. Ride the bike you’ve got.
    #19
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  20. Pete Pilot

    Pete Pilot Been here awhile

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    Been to Deadhorse and Inuvik on a Dr650 . Planning to do the Dempster in August on another DR that has more extensive improvements than the dr i used the last go round.
    If I may make some suggestions. Its clear that your bicycle background has well prepared you for this expedition.
    (1) get the proper tool for the task. Granted almost any bike will go up this road, but under 400 lbs with a proper suspension and good knobbys that work in mud will make the project more doable and much safer. (2) go up the Dempster first 2 weeks August, the reason, road maintenance starts late May thru June and July. Now it’s still happening in August, but most of work is done. (3) and this may be most important, you need 3 dry days. My buddy and I did both Deadhorse and inuvik up and back in 2 days. But with the addition of Inuvik to TukTuk I would think 2 days to do the Dempster might be impossible. Don’t roll if a large amount of rain is forecasted for any one of the three days. Sit in Dawson for 1-2 days than go and yes the forecast could still get it wrong.
    O,the liquid grease (calcium they spray). Yep it’s liquid grease. I suggest having tires shipped to Dawson. Good quality full on knobbys so that you start up that road with fresh tires. Do not half wore out tires. Spend the $$$$$.
    By the way , I am a retired Pete Pilot. Run trucks in 48 states, 9 provinces and Yukon. Bikes both road and dirt in to many places to list. Although there have been 6 Mexico peddles. I’ll be riding dirt in Baja this winter again.
    But above all do go because it’s simply wonderful!!!! The SILENCE IS SPECIAL
    One more thing, don’t worry bout the large trucks cause they work up there in winter conditions. Summer driving they find real easy. Take Care Petepilot
    #20
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