Dalton Highway Dos and Don’ts Continued

January 30, 2014
By Phil Freeman
7. Do: Choose the Right Bike.

Many riders figure that they can take their comfortable cruiser up the Dalton. This works well, until you hit that 700 yards of terror. A couple of years ago, some adventurous Harley riders chose to take on this highway after the annual HOG rally. What happened after that was a disaster: some of the riders were airvaced out and some of the bikes never rode again. Though there are riders that make it all the way to Deadhorse on their large street bikes, many will tell you that they would not do it again.

My suggestion is that you leave your street bike for the street, and ride a dirt-oriented motorcycle on the Dalton. All of the BMW GS models do well up there and any 650cc dual-sport style bike will be the most appropriate.

The dilemma for many long distance tourers is sacrificing the comfort of their street machine for the long miles it takes to get to Alaska. Why do that for just the couple of days it takes to ride to the Arctic Ocean? A safe solution for this is to ride to Anchorage and rent a motorcycle for that portion of the trip. Both MotoQuest and Alaska Motorcycle Adventures offer this service. You can take your street bike to them for storage, and rent a well-equipped adventure bike for that portion of your adventure.

8. Don’t: Push It

During the long summer days  the rider on vacation who has drawn up an aggressive schedule to see it all in Alaska will not stop until the sun goes down. In the land of the Midnight Sun  this wont happen for a couple of months!!
During the long summer days, the rider on vacation who has drawn up an aggressive schedule to “see it all” in Alaska will not stop until the sun goes down. In the land of the Midnight Sun, this won’t happen for a couple of months!!

Most accidents I have encountered on the Dalton involved the most insidious of evils: fatigue. The nature of the Dalton Highway plays into the hands of this very dangerous condition. There is nowhere to stop, no places “to see”… so the rider keeps on going. During the long summer days, the rider on vacation who has drawn up an aggressive schedule to “see it all” in Alaska will not stop until the sun goes down. In the land of the Midnight Sun, this won’t happen for a couple of months!! Therefore, these riders push themselves to the brink of exhaustion…and then a little more. This is when a rider loses a second of concentration, drifts to the soft shoulder of the road, and then gets flung into the bushes. It does not take much for a rider to completely change their trip and life on this road.

To avoid this, I recommend that riders budget four days from Fairbanks to Deadhorse and back. Stop in Coldfoot or Wiseman for the night on your way north and on your way south. Stop in Deadhorse for the night and get some rest. I have come across too many accidents of even experienced riders who have made the ride from Coldfoot to Deadhorse, only to turn around and try to make it back to Coldfoot that evening. This is when the danger of fatigue is at its strongest. The north slope of Alaska is not a place to run the risk of an accident. You are best off spending the $200+ for a night at a hotel in Deadhorse and getting your rest. This road taxes your senses and your ability to concentrate. Be smart: don’t push it at all.