Prairies to Permafrost – Trip Summary

Details of the trip:

Distance Traveled: 9347 Kilometres (5808 miles)
Approximate Cost of Fuel: $450-500 dollars (fuel is very expensive up North)
Lodging Costs (Camping and Hotels): approx. $1,100-1,300
Number of Days on the Road: 17 (15 on the bike)

Lowest Temperature: 0 Celcius (Destruction Bay, YT – sleet and snow-like conditions)
Warmest Temperature: 24 Celcius (Carmacks, YT and Liard River, YT)
Repairs/Maintenance: New Tires in Fairbanks, AK – $350 USD
Least Expensive Accommodation: Tie – Sealaska Inn (Hyder, AK) $65.00/night – What a deal! and Tara Vista Motel (Hinton, AB)
Most Expensive Accommodation: Best Western (Homer, AK) – really, not worth more than most of the 65-85 hotels
Worst Accommodation: Downtown Hotel (Prince George, BC) – honestly, Prince George’s downtown is one of the scariest places I’ve been next to East LA

Best Road: The Dempster Highway – hands down the most challenging, beautiful and interesting ride of the trip
Worst Road: The ALCAN/Alaska Highway in Yukon Territory – the Alaska side is beautiful, the Canadian side looks like it has been in constant decay since it was made during WWII – parts of this highway are worse than the infamous Dempster Highway.
Honorable Mention for Best Road: Tok, AK to Valdez, AK on the Tok Connector Highway – high passes, mountain ranges, wildlife and beautifully paved

Impressions of the Trip:

The North is absolutely outstanding in every way. It’s remote, isolated, stunningly beautiful and a challenge to travel through. These are all the attributes of a great adventure. The weather can be abysmally bad and quite the opposite really quite mild. There is no shortage of scenery and wildlife on this trip. I’d hazard a guess that anyone traveling this area will see more wildlife in a few weeks than they’ve seen in their entire lives (unless they work at a zoo).

I’m quite happy with how things unfolded during this trip. I’ve only had some off road experience for day trips into gravel and forestry roads. I think as I got more comfortable riding in this terrain I’d be more likely to venture off on to more gravel, dirt and abandon roads.

This is a type of trip you could be a lot more adventurous if you had a riding partner or two. Being out on the Dempster Highway 400 kilometres from help is a bit unnerving when you’re riding solo. Having a serious accident could literally be life or death – having help would certainly make the trip less risky. Although, it’s been very hard for me to find anyone that will take on these types of challenges or that has enough vacation time.

The North is definitely a place you could visit again and again and still only scratch the surface of what there is to see. I think I can safely say that at some point I’ll return by motorcycle to the North. If you’re looking for an adventure and place that not many will see – this is it! Go and see for yourself – it’s amazing!

Equipment:

  • SW Motech Crash Bars – essential for a dual purpose bike – these prevented hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of damage in my get-off
  • Barkbusters Hand Guards – on the cold days they helped keep the wind and rain off, also prevented major damage to my bike during aforementioned get-off
  • Tires – The Pirelli Scorpion Trail did very well on the highway (4500 kilometres and still going) and fine on the Dempster (in the dry – they’d be scary in the wet); Heidenau K60 Scouts – I’d definitely use these tires again – they were excellent highway tires and superb off-road
  • More Tires – In spite of what people say – bring a second set. Road tires for the trip up, knobbies or good 50/50 for the Dempster or trips off road
  • Oxford Heated Grips/Jett Hawaii Heated Vest – I would have been miserable and cold without these. The Jett Vest is unreal – on low it will keep you warm for the entire day, and, it’s got no wires tethering you to your bike
  • Good rain gear – You may not need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you brought it
  • Trax Panniers and SW Motech Racks – Hard luggage is the best investment you can make in any bike – they kept everything dry, there’s tons of storage, and they are excellent crash guards 🙂
  • Camping Gear – really helped on the days where it was nice to get in touch with nature, also the days where I arrived late and didn’t feel like seeking out expensive accommodation (you can save a bundle of cash traveling with camping gear) – on average 15-18/night.

The Bike:

The KLR did the job it was asked to do. After traveling up and down the west coast so many times on my VFR this pales in comparison. It was passable as a highway bike, moderately capable as a dual-purpose bike, and required nothing to keep it going for the trip except gas and 1/2 litre of oil. It gets superb gas mileage (45-50 mpg on the highway /53+ on the low speed stuff like the Dempster Highway)

I must have tried to switch up into sixth gear about 45,000 times during the trip. Really, Kawasaki, would it be that hard to add another gear for cruising on the highway. It drove me nuts after thousands of kilometres vibrating along at 5,000 RPM. I’ll consider a larger front sprocket to lower the revs if I was to do another long trip on the bike.

To me this seems like a bike that would lead me to purchase a larger adventure bike – BMW GS Adventure. It seems like a perfect bike for trips like this. The KLR has been a bargain bike to equip for the trip and I easily could have bought two completely kitted out for the price of one GSA.

Hotels:

I can’t believe there are still ‘smoking’ rooms in hotels. Most municipalities in North America don’t allow smoking in public places, why in hotels? Also, non-smoking seems to mean that there is no one currently smoking in the room with you. Many of the hotels stunk of smoke even in their ‘non-smoking’ rooms.

If you can hit the major towns or trap towns mid-week you’ll save a bundle. Most will gouge you if they can on weekend rates.