Even More Dalton Highway Dos and Don’ts

January 30, 2014
By Phil Freeman
5. Don’t: Forget About Fuel

The Dalton Highway has a 245-mile stretch without fuel. Most 5-gallon tank bikes will not make this if the rider is going over 60 mph. Therefore, bring a small, 2-gallon fuel container and strap it to you bike for your ride north out of Fairbanks. You won’t use in until Coldfoot, but you will be glad you brought it! Running out of gas on the Dalton is a bummer, and usually includes voracious mosquitoes… to be avoided if possible!

6. Do: Clean Your Radiator

The consistency of dirt on this highway is like clay.
The consistency of dirt on the Dalton Highway is like clay.

The consistency of dirt on this highway is like clay. They mix the road surface with Calcium Chloride to keep the dust down in the summer. It also acts as a natural hardener so when the road surface is dry the heavy truck traffic forms it to have the characteristics of pavement – when it is dry… When wet, a thin layer of mucky clay begins to cake onto your bike. Once it sticks to your engine, it heats up and dries like ceramic. Once this happens, you can’t get it off, even with a chisel. To be sure, one you ride the Dalton, your bike will never be the same – that stuff will never come off your bike completely.

This muck will cover your engine and cause it to heat up. It will also clog your radiator, and if gone unchecked will cause your engine to severely overheat, to the point that it will stop you in your tracks. I picked up a Japanese rider who had this happen to him, and he had spent a couple of miserable nights out with his mosquito friends.

To counter any problems, find a hose in Coldfoot on your way up and down… and see if you can find one in Deadhorse. This is not an easy task, but you’ll find one if you ask nicely, you’ll be able to clean out your radiator in that lonely outpost.