Sportster to the Arctic via the Dempster

Discussion in 'Canada' started by Wolfgang, Aug 7, 2006.

  1. Wolfgang

    Wolfgang Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    Oddometer:
    150
    Location:
    Mukilteo, Washington
    I just returned from my long-planned trip to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada. Well above the Arctic Circle. It's the end of the road. 470 miles or so (each way) of gravel, dirt, mud, speeding trucks, tundra, and great sights. Everyone we met were great, we had a ball. Wolfgang Junior accompanied me on his BMW K75.

    Stats:
    Stock 883R
    New Dunlop 404s for the trip.
    5,074 miles total from my door in Mukilteo, WA to Inuvik (and places in between) and back.
    Departed July 10th; back home on August 5th.
    Start mileage: 26,000 (about).
    End mileage: 31,074 (about).
    :eek1 Crashes: 1 for me, in the goldfields near Dawson City, not on the Dempster Highway. Broke the clutch lever, the left turn signal, the headlight, and the shifter toe peg; shredded the clutch cable at the bottom with resulting slight oil loss of transmission fluid. Duct tape and hose clamps got me back from Dawson City. Cracked a rib, got some road rash. Took a turn too fast on a gravel road. 1 for Wolfgang Junior, who was pushed up into a gravel pile on a turn on the Dempster by a couple of locals in a truck. Broke his turn signal, got a sore back, he bounced back the next day.
    :(: Breakdowns: 2 (broken wire to the coil under the gas tank; broken belt, both happened in British Columbia and yes, I needed tows to the nearest Harley dealer). The mechanic said it was likely I suffered belt damage on the 1500 or so miles of gravel roads we rode on. Would the Buell Ulysses belt have fared any better? Don't know.
    Wore out the rear tire and replaced it on the return to Prince George, BC. No flats on the road, though, despite lots and lots of warnings about sharp gravel on the Dempster. Actually, the gravel was like marbles - we slid all over.
    Wildlife: especially the Canadians and Alaskans in Dawson City - party town! [​IMG] Oh yeah, we saw black bears, grizzlies, moose, numerous marmots and small mammals, lots of German tourists (the Euro must be doing well against the Canadian dollar).
    What would I change on the bike: need a 6 gallon tank - c'mon Harley! The belt question (shaft drive like BMWs? Chain drive like KLRs?). Or bring an extra belt to change out on the road. Center stand (c'mon Harley!).
    Adventure factor: off the charts for me since I never rode dirt bikes before.
    Fun factor: tremendous!
    #1
  2. vegasphotog

    vegasphotog Las Vegas Cheechako

    Joined:
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    3,340
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    Covered in Desert Dirt since 2007
    Right on DOOD! Glad you made it and have fun....Your testimonial totally affirms my bad attitude about all these people that shop for a bike based on the ride. Versus shop for a bike you like to ride and make it happen.

    Come back up next year for the annual Dust-to-Dawson ride ending up at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson. :clap
    #2
  3. JayD

    JayD Been here awhile

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    True ADVenture riding
    on an 883 eh?
    Wow
    #3
  4. GSingWI

    GSingWI Long timer

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    That's pretty cool-takin an 883 on such a ride!

    How many miles per tank did ya get? Bring any extra gas along?
    #4
  5. Wolfgang

    Wolfgang Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    Oddometer:
    150
    Location:
    Mukilteo, Washington
    Thanks - Wolfgang Junior got the Sourtoe Cocktail and then the Sourtoe Foot Cocktail. :1drink I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Now I gotta go back and do it so I can have bragging rights like junior. Next year!

    I got 40 to 45 MPG. Yes, I had 2 2.5 gallon gas cans, but only needed one between the Klondike Hwy and Eagle Plains. I eventually got rid of the second one. Gas was available at Fort Mcpherson, so I was OK there. I actually ran out a few times on the highways down in BC. Sheesh. Yes, I was wishing I had a larger tank for most of the trip, but it all worked out.
    #5
  6. KL5A

    KL5A Bugs are the new black

    Joined:
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    Sounds like you and Wolfy Jr had the ride of the year. One has to wonder how many folks want to duplicate that ride but think they can't, because they have the "wrong" bike?

    I say the wrong bike is the one that get left in the garage becuase you don't have confidence in it to make the voyage.

    Congrats and onya to you and the boy. :clap
    #6
  7. Wolfgang

    Wolfgang Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2005
    Oddometer:
    150
    Location:
    Mukilteo, Washington
    Here's some more info:

    I really wanted to fit more agressive tires on the bike, but the back 16" wheel limits tire selections. I thought about getting wire spoke wheels from Trak Tek which would allow a greater variety of tires, but I really like the fact that my tires are tubeless. This allows using plugs to fix a flat and not having to take the wheel off on the road (all bets are off if the sidewall rips out, however). I can attest to using the Stop and Go plug kit to fix a hole caused by a nail - it works well.

    The drive belt may be the most problematic feature. The mechanic that changed it out for me in Chilliwack, British Columbia, showed me how to replace the belt without taking the back wheel off. Other parts, including the muffler, have to come off, though, but those are simple bolt removal issues. Now, if the Sportster had a center stand, like Wolfgang Junior's BMW K75, repairs to wheels and belts out on the road would be much easier. I wonder if one could be adapted from another bike?

    The small gas tank really wasn't a problem, because I just strapped an extra can or two onto the luggage on the back, but it is inconvenient to stand alongside a busy highway pouring gas into the tank, which is what happened twice in British Columbia. And, of course, I needed the extra fuel on the Dempster.

    Power: the 883 motor pulls like a tractor, and that was good for the heavy load I carried and relatively slower speeds on the gravel, but I could not keep up with Wolfgang Junior's K75 on the paved highways. When we rolled on the throttle up in 5th gear he just rapidly pulled away and I would spend the next 50 miles trying to catch him. So....maybe a 1200 upgrade is in the works.

    Suspension: a couple of years ago I put on Progressive 14.25" shocks. The forks are stock. I found the suspension to be absolutely great on the gravel and pot holes, but I wasn't trying to jump logs or anything. This setup worked great with my bulk and the camping gear. I did get airborn a few times, but I never bottomed out the shocks. Wolfgang Junior blew out his single Progressive rear shock, however, and one fork seal. He will fix when he gets to Edmonton, Alberta, sometime this week.

    Tools: I carried all the right hand tools to work on the bike. The broken wire problem was up under the gas tank, and I believe it was the power lead to the coil. I didn't think to pull the gas tank while on the side of the road, and figured the coil or ignition module had fried out. I got a tow into Prince George, BC (an expensive tow) and the Harley mechanics spent a lot of time trying to find the problem. In desperation, they pulled the tank and started inspecting the wires. All at my expense, of course. Now I know - next time I'll look for broken wires (yes, on the side of the road I did isolate the problem to no spark, and I did pull all electrical connections and check for corrosion - I just didn't think to pull the tank to look for a broken wire - aarrgh).

    Camping: we camped about 75% of the time, and used motels the rest of the time. I carried a good small dome-type tent and a down sleeping bag. The bag I kept wrapped in a plastic bag; I also wrapped my spare clothes in a plastic bag, since my PVC coated luggage (inexpensive stuff I adapted for the bike) were "water resistent" meaning that after a couple of miles in the rain they started to leak. Plastic garbage bags work well, however - no need for expensive kayak style waterproof bags.

    I carried a water filter kit and we used it several times because the provincial campgrounds are primitive and a couple of them had no water other than what you took out of the nearby streams.

    I carried a 1 burner stove that screws down on a standard Coleman style propane bottle. That worked well and was about $25.00 at REI. The propane bottles can be found anywhere up north. It all fit into my ammo cans, as did my trusty Boy Scout mess kit, utensils, soaps, and mosquito repellant. Oh yes, try to find the 100% DEET stuff - it worked great.

    The bottom line: the Sportster motor and single carb are rock solid dependable, but other parts of the bike are maybe not quite right for an extended rough trip like I just did. However, Wolfgang Junior and I talked about our next adventure - around South America. I have no doubt the Sporty can do it, I now have some ideas to make the bike better for the trip.

    The attached photo is at the Salmon Glacier near Hyder, Alaska and Stewart, B.C.
    #7
  8. Wheeldog

    Wheeldog Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2006
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    Wasilla, AK
    Enjoyed reading about your trip!!:clap

    There was a Harley dealer who did a UCC (Key West to Deadhorse) on a 1200 sportster. He had a solo seat and Road King leather saddle bags and trunk. The trunk doubled as a back rest and he had a fuel cell in there. To my knowledge, he didn't have any problems with the bike.
    #8
  9. Cheap Ryder

    Cheap Ryder Ride for enlightenment

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    576
    Location:
    Montana great divide
    Duro makes a 130/90-16 dual sport tire. It lasted me from montana up to inuvike and back down the dempster. Then I had a flat and rather than mess with it I just put my spare tire on . It still had tread left.
    #9
  10. Wolfgang

    Wolfgang Been here awhile

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    Oddometer:
    150
    Location:
    Mukilteo, Washington
    #10
  11. toothy

    toothy Grin

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    Fuel range and the rear suspention were my two main questions for you- myself being an 883 owner as well. I bottom out my Sportie over potholes with it unlaiden.

    I enjoyed your write up.
    #11