Dalton Highway two up?

Discussion in 'Americas' started by krgorton, Apr 16, 2019.

  1. krgorton

    krgorton Adventurer Supporter

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    Hi folks,
    Non-rider wife and I are planning a bucket lister: Alaska in Summer 2020.

    Wondering about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of riding the Dalton Highway (Haul Road) two up. I cannot find any stories or posts of folks who've done it two-up although I am sure it's been done and probably many times. I understand that highway can be like pavement in dry weather, but can quickly get sloppy if wet. For safety reasons I would like to do this as part of a group but none of our friends are long-distance bikers so we will probably go by ourselves.

    Clearly there are a ton of variables that you cannot know like my skill level. I've been riding our GSA for 8 years and I'm a good rider. Yes, I realize 'good' quantifies nothing, but I also realize I'm probably not as good as I think I am, nor as good as I could be with more practice, so I tend to err on the side of caution, especially when riding with precious cargo.

    We ride a BMW R1200 GSA and usually run tires like Anakee Wilds or Heidenau K60s or something similar. She and I have logged many a mile together including some dirt/gravel roads, but never on dirt for such a long distance or in such a remote area.

    For those of you who have ridden it, especially if you've ridden it two-up, what should we expect, plan for, definitely do or don't do?

    Appreciate any insights.
    #1
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  2. X-wing fighter

    X-wing fighter Do or Do not, There is no try!!!!!! Supporter

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    Expect mosquitos! Its the only thing you can really plan for! I came up to Alaska in 2012, 2 up on a GSA. I encountered the worst road in my life during that trip(I cried in my helmet, that's how bad it was) and it wasn't the Dalton! But I've seen pictures of bikes on the Dalton that hit on one of those bad days and it sucks! Its a good solid gravel road on most days.

    During the summer there are bikes everywhere and I'm sure most of them are inmates here.....as well as a few of the local inmates. You should be able to tag along with another rider or a whole group.
    #2
  3. Gordon

    Gordon MC Rider Supporter

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    The Dalton is a pretty straight forward road. Two up should be no problem. Watch the pot holes on the paved sections they can be huge rim bending monsters. There was some construction with extremely deep gravel in a couple sections watch out for that. Make certain you have plenty of fuel on board there is one section I believe is at least 240 miles with no services. Cold rain or snow in Atigun Pass is possible. I rode the Dalton in 2018 from beginning to end and back the month was June. It rained and snowed on me for a while in both directions. The road did not seem to be all that slippery when wet. I never had any real deep mud or snow of any measurable amount. Normal caution and mind the truck traffic. I think you will be just fine. I found the truck drivers to be more than courteous and professional. I made a couple of stops along the Dalton going up and coming back down. Each time I was stopped a truck driver stopped and asked if everything was good. It is a long lonely road but I never felt truly alone. Be safe and enjoy the ride.
    #3
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  4. Bigbob1

    Bigbob1 Rain Rider Supporter

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    I have seen several two up couples riding the Dalton. The weather can be a crap shoot. I would just suggest stay flexable on your plans if it's raining a lot on the Dalton maybe check out some other part of our wonderful state. Gordon's tip about the trucks is good info. We always stop and put a foot down and the trucks always slow down. As to the gas north of Coldfoot the true distance is closer to 255 miles. The sign says 240 miles to next services but those services don't include gas. Bring electric vests/liners if you have them, it was 32 degrees and very windy in Deadhorse both times we have ridden there.
    The Dalton is a mix of pavement, old and new complete with the largest potholes I have ever seen. Along with dirt, gravel and marble like rock that DOT puts down. If those rocks are fresh they can be a handful riding thru....
    Plan two days each way. overnight in Wiseman and Deadhorse then back to Wiseman. That will let you have an easy pace. Most of the animals we have seen are north of Atigun.
    #4
  5. X-wing fighter

    X-wing fighter Do or Do not, There is no try!!!!!! Supporter

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    OK So I am a local and have many opportunities to ride the Dalton. This is what my next trip is going to be!

    3:30 pm Friday- leave work having had a late lunch Shooting for Galbraith lake for first camp!

    Saturday-Galbraith-Deadhorse-Galbraith

    Sunday-galbraith to Fairbanks

    That a fairly tight schedule that depends on dry conditions and not many construction areas.

    I have done Fairbanks to Atigun pass and back in 2 days, Friday evening back home Saturday. I have done Galbraith to Fairbanks in one sitting. but It was dead of winter and I was out shooting the aurora borealis and got frustrated with cloud cover blocking....Still haven't had a successful aurora photo trip north of the arctic circle!

    If I ever do a summer Alaska tour from the lower 48 again, I would book a B&B in Wiseman and Deadhorse as bigbob1 has suggested.
    #5
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  6. motokeith

    motokeith Long timer

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    Did it in 2014 on a 990 Adventure, but not 2-up.

    The paved sections can be worse than the gravel sections as they can develop ginormous sharp-edged potholes and severe washboarding of the surface. Some of the gravel/pavement transitions can destroy a wheel if you don't slow way down for them.

    If the weather is good you can fly on the non-paved sections, we cruised around anywhere from 60 to 80 mph for much of the road. If it's raining a little traction is still fine and you can still make some good time. If it's raining to the point where you have standing water the road can turn into a muck that is the consistency of oatmeal and slick as snot.

    You don't need crazy tires for the Dalton. Just about any 80/20 "adventure" type tire will do just fine. My group of three all had Shinko 705's mounted during our run up and down the Dalton.

    The extended daylight hours during the summer basically means your daily riding distance is limited only by your endurance. We did Fairbanks to Deadhorse in one day and returned from Deadhorse back to Fairbanks the following day.

    The longest stretch between gas is the 255 miles from Coldfoot to Deadhorse. When figuring out how much fuel you need don't forget to account for your mileage being less due to wheelspin on hundreds of miles of gravel. I nearly burned through the last gallon I had included for padding my range. You did say you're on a GSA, so this is probably not a convern for you and your 8 gallons of gas on that thing.

    Access to the actual Arctic Ocean is through the oil facility, so you will need to make arrangements and submit some background check paperwork ahead of time if you wish to go dip anything in the icy water.

    Be sure to make your lodging arrangements in Deadhorse and check on them before you depart Fairbanks. As a "tourist" you kind of have to deal with the fact that oil field workers have priority over you. We stayed at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel and it was simple rooms and communal bathrooms, much like a dormitory.

    Dan Armstrong runs Adventure Cycle Works out of his home as a 24/7 first come first served operation. If you need any maintenance or tire changes done on your way up or down you can get the work done in line with your schedule instead of working around dealership hours. We hit him up for tires and oil changes as we returned to Fairbanks. You can also have stuff shipped to his place and he will hold until you arrive, like if you have some particular tires or bike-specific parts that you want to have when you hit his shop. http://www.advcycleworks.com/

    Generally speaking, trucks heading North are loaded so they are a little slower but they also tend to avoid moving over close to the soft shoulder. Trucks heading south are pulling empty trailers so they are hauling ass but they will also get over to the side a little more as they pass. Those guys are out there doing a job, respect them and they'll respect you.

    Biblical amounts of mosquitos. We packed mosquito head nets that fit over our helmets and they were a lifesaver at the construction zones where we had to sit waiting for a pilot car or our turn through a single lane area. This is us...

    #6
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  7. Gordon

    Gordon MC Rider Supporter

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    I wouldn't worry too much about riding two up on the Dalton Highway. If the weather is good anything can be ridden up the Dalton. IMG_0220.jpg
    #7
  8. Alcan Rider

    Alcan Rider Frozen Fossil Supporter

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    As others have pointed out, it can be done, and has been done by quite a few pairs of riders. From my observations over the years, most will depend upon the rider's familiarity with riding on gravel, and, perhaps more important, how practiced the two are at riding together. It sounds as though you have those two covered fairly well. Still, a bit more practice close to the trip won't hurt.

    Road conditions change rapidly on the Dalton. Weather has it's effect, and there is always construction and/or repair ongoing. Erring on the side of caution is a good thing, and an admirable quality for doing the Dalton two-up. There have been far too many riders who have ridden beyond their competency and come to grief. Falling over at low speed can mean a dirty bike, some minor bruises, and embarrassment. Falling over at high speed can mean a totaled bike, a helicopter ride to the nearest hospital, and sometimes worse.

    But with proper caution, it can be a great ride; an enjoyable and memorable ride. The variety of terrain between Fairbanks and Deadhorse is remarkable; from narrow valleys along streams to broad expanses reminiscent of Kansas.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There can be sloppy mud (or muddy slop)
    [​IMG]

    And there can be dust -
    [​IMG]

    Animals small -
    [​IMG]

    And animals large -
    [​IMG]

    Trucks moving along briskly -
    [​IMG]

    And trucks barely moving -
    [​IMG]

    Incidentally - when meeting approaching trucks - if you slow down and pull well to the right (safely!, stay out of the loose gravel), most truckers will do the same. Give them respect and they will do the same for you.

    There's hills -
    [​IMG]

    And there's mountains -
    [​IMG]

    And you'll find plenty of pavement breaks -
    [​IMG]

    As well as bumps -
    [​IMG]

    But overall, it can be quite an experience. And offer many photo opportunities -
    [​IMG]
    #8
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  9. Bayner

    Bayner Long timer

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    Some words of wisdom can be found HERE
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  10. wingtraveler

    wingtraveler asphalt to dirt

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    planning the same here but with a wing and 2 up with a trailer going as far as wiseman marion campground then return to Fairbanks next july will we survive? only going if i have 2 good days .
    #10
  11. oclv454

    oclv454 Been here awhile

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    If time and weather permit, spend a night in Manley. Book some time at the hot spring! Nice side trip.
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  12. travlr_45

    travlr_45 Long timer

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    Words of wisdom from someone with experience!Alaska is a trip I’ve been wanting to do for awhile now. I have many years of riding experience, mostly street. Last few years have gained some off road riding experience. Your comments on the weight issue are dead on. Right now I’m riding a triumph explorer but giving serious consideration to a mid size duel sport. Being my first trip to Alaska it would be nice to find a group to travel with ( safety in numbers) the part about the gravel dust becoming a part of the bike is a bit concerning for sure, A lesson I learned on a trip through western Montana. Wide open exspanes can produce remarkably long work zones. Will be keeping up with this thread for sure.
    #12
  13. Alaskahack

    Alaskahack Adventurer

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    If your hauling a non-rider precious I would pick up a Sidecar from DMC. I've seen quite a few two-up riders getting sideways on dirt roads. Just my thoughts
    #13
  14. Dan Lorenze

    Dan Lorenze Been here awhile

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    I think turning around at Coldfoot or Wiseman is probably the worst thing you can do, because you're so close to the Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range which is the rockstar section of the Dalton (imo). If you're not interested in experiencing the Atigun pass just ride up to the Arctic Circle sign, take some pics and return back to Fairbanks. Two up with a trailer and a lot of rain and road construction will not be fun on a Goldwing. The road itself is easy, riding it in the mud, not so much.
    #14
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  15. wingtraveler

    wingtraveler asphalt to dirt

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    i was considering that also it all depends on the weather for that day i could leave the camper at the campground i think its whitefish we were going to stay at the night before the circle trip.
    #15
  16. wingtraveler

    wingtraveler asphalt to dirt

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    i'll look into it
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  17. travlr_45

    travlr_45 Long timer

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    A question for those who have done this ride. As someone who is contemplating a trip up the dalton what should I expect in terms of expenses for a room, gas, food etc in the Alaska north country? I basically have 3 options for doing this trip. Fly out and rent a bike, ship one of mine out to the northwest and ride the area then ship it back, or just do the ride from home ( south ga ) if I do the ride from home i it would be on a 2017 triumph explorer XCX. I also have a 2010 tiger 1050. The explorer has more creature comforts for sure but the 1050 is lighter and basically just as capable under the conditions the dalton presents.
    #17
  18. Bigbob1

    Bigbob1 Rain Rider Supporter

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    Costs will be high compared to down south.

    Some basic costs:
    Gas on the Dalton was $5.50 at Yukon River Camp, $5.00/gal in Deadhorse.
    On the Alcan two days ago gas ran $1.19 cdn/liter to $1.26 cdn in Whitehorse
    Lodging in Deadhorse was $225 for a couple, that included large meals. Along the Alcan you can spend $150 or more each night easy.
    Provincial Campgrounds are $12 per night and that includes firewood. Camping in the Jasper National Park runs about $32 for a tent and $7 for a wood permit.
    Food varies quite a bit. We spent $29.00 cdn in Fort Nelson for a quick lunch at A & W. Soup with 2 inch thick home made bread was $10 cdn at a roadhouse.
    #18
  19. travlr_45

    travlr_45 Long timer

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    Those prices do seem high compared to my neck of the woods but not surprising given the remoteness of the territory. Would be nice to travel with a group or others making the trip if possible being my first time in Alaska. From this distance it’s hard to find people with both the time and the $ to make the trip. At this point I’m leaning towards flying and renting. I have a niece that lives in Anchorage. Be easy enough to ship my gear there for the trip.
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  20. Dan Lorenze

    Dan Lorenze Been here awhile

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    Flying in, renting or shipping is expensive. If you have the budget and not a lot of time it would be pretty easy to fly into Anchorage and rent a bike, people do it all the time and you could be in Deadhorse in 3 days of riding. But, Im glad I rode up there because getting there was the adventure and BC is totally spectacular on its own.
    #20
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