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Alaska Primer

Discussion in 'Alaska' started by Alcan Rider, May 6, 2012.

  1. Tom S

    Tom S Can I ride it? Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2004
    Oddometer:
    5,401
    Location:
    Anchorage Alaska
    I wouldn't blame his ignorance on the teachers. Some people just don't pay attention. Maybe somebody should be or should have been slapping him!
    Spicy McHaggis and XXMe like this.
  2. wannabehippy

    wannabehippy I'll risk it!

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2013
    Oddometer:
    86
    Location:
    Walker LA
    "Go out and find yourself a used bike in the $2000 - $3000 range, one that has a good reputation for reliability, that will haul you and about half the gear you think you will need for the trip (because what you think you'll need is twice what you really need)"

    I'm pretty much just bringing a tent and a sleeping bag.... which should I leave at home! Lol

    Sent from my SM-G930V using Tapatalk
    SyrKrobar likes this.
  3. THogland

    THogland Back in Alaska!

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2011
    Oddometer:
    160
    Location:
    Wasilla-ish, Alaska
    (This is thinking in a "first trip" mentality - after once or twice coming up you'll have your own ideas...)

    The "half the gear" note is slightly misleading, but designed to keep the relatively inexperienced from overpacking. For example - say your trip is riding from somewhere Mid-west, up through Calgary/Edmonton, then to Fairbanks. Day trip to the Arctic Circle sign (to visit the mosquitoes), then down via Denali Park to Anchorage. Then visit the Kenai Peninsula before heading back home via Valdez. You're riding a big square loop of Alaska - Fairbanks upper left, Kenai lower left, Valdez lower right, and Tok upper right. You'll probably experience weather ranging from sunny upper 80s (or warmer) to high 30s/low 40s and rain (and anything possible in between, including possibly snow/hail). You'll need gear to keep you comfortable and protected in all of that, but realistically you'll probably only run into *some* of it... Most trips tend to either be gorgeous, with a few foggy/drizzly days, or mostly rainy/drizzly with a few sunny breaks. You end up packing for weather you don't ever see, but couldn't realistically ignore.

    So, you'll end up using half of your gear most of the time. Best bet is to *think* about what you can re-use, combine, and layer. (Ex: Most people, me included, hate the idea of a riding suit with insulated liners and a rain suit over it, but the rain suit packs down to the size of a coffee cup, and the liners can come out as needed.) *Best* is something like an Aerostich Transit suit - protective, fairly warm, rainproof, vented - and add insulating/heated layers to warm it up if you're cold. But, that's $2k (if you can find one these days). The other Aerostich suits (and equivalents - my experience is with Roadcrafters and Transits) work almost as well - a lighter RC and LDComfort base layers would work nicely.

    For other gear, think backpacking, not camping or traveling. When you have to carry stuff on your back, the only thing that counts is size and weight - not cost or anything else. If you're planing to hotel it, leave *all* of your camping gear behind. If you're going to part-time camp, skip the sleeping pad and bring the blanket - sleep on it instead. Bring the tiny camp stove, but get one that uses gasoline - bring a 1L fuel bottle and tap it for fuel, both camp stove and extra for the bike. One pan, one pot, one coffee/tea cup (if necessary) and a spork - skip all the rest, cook and eat with the spork. Keep space for a few canned or dehydrated meals and a gallon of water. (If your "cooking" is "open can, set on fire/stove, heat, eat" you don't need the pans at all.) Or, save some money and more hassle - camp some night, but eat locally. (There's lots of places to eat up here - get a Milepost and you'll see.) Speaking of fuel bottles, I just drove up two weeks ago (so everything summer-only was closed) and the longest stretch between fuel stops was from the Shepherd's Inn (75 miles north of Dawson Creek) to Ft Nelson - 210 miles. There's two fuel stops in there during the summer, both closed after mid-September. One is 40 miles farther north, and the other is 30 miles past that I think. Cuts the longest stretch you'll see to about 175 miles, and that's anywhere along the main roads in Alaska or western Canada... If you're riding up in the summer, and can get 200 miles of range, you'll have no fuel problems. (Last bike I had, I carried two 1gal spare cans to push me over 200 miles range. It works.)

    Electronics - wire your GPS through a locking Touratech mount, leave on bike. Use a Zumo or equivalent that's weatherproof... Cell phones work, but coverage can be spotty when you're 100 miles from anything. Don't *need* a GPS, but it's handy to know how far you are from places. (The trip I described at the start - you're only missing two semi-major roads in the entire state by riding that way - Denali Hwy from Paxson to Cantwell, and the Richardson from Glennallen to Delta Jct. If you make the right turn from Glennallen to Tok, you won't get lost otherwise.) GPS is handy to find places in Fairbanks, Anchorage, etc. but Google Maps on your phone will work just as well. Bring a point-and-shoot camera and a few spare memory cards, skip the DSLR. If you're a GoPro person, figure out how to bike-mount it and hardwire power - stopping to swap and recharge batteries will get old fast. Ditto for music/books - recharging your iPod and headset will get old if you aren't used to multi-day trips. I use a SPOT tracker (keeps the wife happy), mounted on bike and modified to power via USB.

    Once you get home, you'll have a MUCH better idea of what worked for you and what didn't. You can buy almost everything in Anchorage and Fairbanks, and probably 80-90% of everything in most other towns. Heck, if you ask on here in the Alaska forum, you'll probably find out that there's one of us almost everywhere and we either have a leftover you can use/buy cheap, or we can pick something up new and meet you. :-)
    bigjohnsd, Kerrizor, purdytj and 6 others like this.
  4. keith in alaska

    keith in alaska Valley Gruver

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2003
    Oddometer:
    811
    Location:
    Iditarod Trail, Alaska
    We store bikes in a gated, heated, secure warehouse. Let me know if we can help.
    SyrKrobar, Nice Goat and lmg like this.
  5. 1200gsceej

    1200gsceej wanabee overachiever

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,616
    Location:
    San Francisco Peninsula
    I echo what THogland said (above) about GPS. I made some self-announcing POI files for gas and sights. See this post in my 2015 Alaska trip report for the files and link to POIFactory instructions and other Alaska POI files.
  6. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2003
    Oddometer:
    4,550
    Location:
    Over the rear wheel
    March 4, 2020: Wish I could go back and edit Post #1 and delete most of what it has to say about the Alaska ferry system. It looks like that system is going through some serious upheaval this year, that may last for several years. This might require that South 48 riders actually ride their bikes both directions coming to and returning from Alaska. For many, that will allow one direction on the Alcan, the other via the Cassiar. In years past I have found them both to have their draw, although neither offers the splendid coastal scenery visible from the ferries. And, having lived in both Juneau and Ketchikan in the distant past, I can lament the fact that you'll be missing the unique character those cities (and their residents :hmmmmm) offer the visitor.

    But fear not - the rest of the state will still be open for business (and the usual summer nonsense :rofl:clap:photog), so it will still be an enjoyable (or at least memorable :p3rry) trip.
  7. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    Oddometer:
    208
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    When I rode up there, I absolutely did the Alcan, the Top of the World Hwy and the Cassiear coming home. It was a motorcycle trip, afterall, not a cruise. Still planning to take the ferry up to Alaska, but that will be a very different journey and probably in the company of my wife, who thinks Motel 6 is camping out.
  8. Solarmoose

    Solarmoose electric Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,106
    Location:
    Fairbanks
    Hi Alcan, sad but true about the ferry. I've used it several times for the down leg or the go home portion (northbound). Love the ride. Going to be interesting this summer with fewer boats in service.
    Hope things are well in your neck of the woods. Winter reminding us what its supposed to be like. Wonder what spring and summer will bring? might be keeping my snow suit handy...
  9. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2003
    Oddometer:
    4,550
    Location:
    Over the rear wheel
    Until just over a week ago I was wondering what had happened to the winters we used to have. At that time we had experienced a couple of days of nearly 40 below temps, but nothing really cold. And very little snow - maybe a foot total. Then we got 11" followed by high E winds. Yesterday I was walking around on the crust, nearly two feet above ground, and barely leaving footprints. But I'm clinging to the old saying "March comes in like a lion..." and preparing to pick daisies the first week of April. :lol3
    Tewster2, Bigbob1 and CavReconSGT like this.
  10. KHud

    KHud Survivor

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2008
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    4,727
    Location:
    Big Sky Country
    Jack , you are ever a man of dreams, or is that delusions?
    Solarmoose likes this.
  11. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2003
    Oddometer:
    4,550
    Location:
    Over the rear wheel
    That's one of the kinder things that has been said about me. :lol3
  12. Old-n-slo

    Old-n-slo Burnin' fossil fuels!

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    Oddometer:
    208
    Location:
    SE Michigan
    It's snowing hard in southern Michigan right now! Not much snow all winter and not much cold temps except for a couple of weeks when it got as cold as a warm February day in Fairbanks.
    svtride and Bigbob1 like this.