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Thread: Tips for riding the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, NWT, Canada

  1. #1

    Tips for riding the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, NWT, Canada

    This past weekend, I returned from my ride to Alaska and Northwest Canada on my GS. Having first attended the Hyder Seek in Hyder, Alaska, I headed north to the Yukon on Highway 37 for a couple great weeks of hiding with another BMW MOA member.

    Most of the roads to Alaska or the Yukon are easily accessible with any BMW road bike. However, the Dempster Highway is a gravel road to Inuvik, Northwest Territories and do not advise attempting on any bike not designed for long stretches of gravel. Also, the Top of the World Highway west of Dawson City is now mostly gravel. From Tok, AK to Dawson City, about 1/2 of the 280 miles is now gravel. Also, there is a approximately 230 miles of gravel on the Campbell Highway north of Watson Lake, Yukon.

    Since this was my first ride on the Dempster Highway, I would like to offer some lessons learned that I will certainly use the next time. The Dempster Highway is a 456 mile dirt and rock road with the first gas stop at Eagle Plains (239 miles) with two Canadian free ferries on the Peel and Mackenzie Rivers before arriving at Inuvik. Check the ferry schedules before heading north since they only operate in the summer months.

    1) Recommend sending a set of off-road knobby tires to Dawson City and changing before riding the Dempster. The owner of the Downtown Hotel is a GS rider and will store your tires. (867) 993-5346. Both of our GS's had new Michelin Anakees when we left Kansas. The rough chip roads in BC and the Yukon wore our tires down by 75% by the time we entered the Dempster. This caused us to take a 1000 mile side trip to Fairbanks to purchase the only tire George had available at the BMW shop.

    2) If you do not know how to break the bead on a tire using the side stand on your bike while on the center stand, purchase the Helge Pedersen GS 1150 video and learn how. You will get flat tires and may need to install a tube. Take a spare tube(s) along with tube repair kit since you may puncture the tube. Recommend taking a Plug and Go kit along with extra CO2 containers to set the bead. Purchase a small electrical pump to fill the tire (save your CO2) and practice removing and reinstalling the tires in your garage. You will have to demonstrate at a later date. In our case, we had to replace both rear tires with only the tools we brought along. You will experience flat tires from the rock chips that are as sharp as arrowheads. The filling station at Eagle Plains has two full-time guys that fix up to 100 tires every day during the height of the tourist season. Cars were in line for tire repair. The locals recommend carrying two spares on all autos heading north. I recommend carrying a spare tire strapped to your bike.

    3) Take your time. This is not a race. Nobody cares how fast you get to the Arctic Circle or Inuvik. There is no medical services for 456 miles.

    4) Take care if camping. This is Grizzly Bear country. On three occasions, we were stopped waiting for a Grizzly (one with a cub) to cross the road. They have no fear of people and you want to do nothing to show a threat. If a bear is in the road, have patience and if possible, get yourself in a position to turn your bike and return in the direction you came. The tundra is frozen 1600 feet deep. However, the top mossy covering cannot be ridden on without getting quickly stuck. Not a problem for the bears. If you stay at Eagle Plains, be prepared to pay a minimum of $150 for a night for a less than stellar hotel.

    5) You can change oil at Dawson City NAPA. They stock Penzoil Motorcycle Oil ($6 a quart) which is better than BMW oil with 5-6 k. They will provide a place to drop the oil in a pan that they provided along with a collection barrel. You can bring a filter, however we decided before hand to reuse the same filter until we got home.

    I was really surprised to see riders at Dempster Junction heading north on RTs without a spare, with street tires, and no knowledge on how to repair a tire. I could only think that this well be their worst nightmare since the tires will not last and will not stick when the road turn into 6 inches of mud with only a 1/4 inch of rain. This is an experienced riders ride. Know your limitation, along with the limitations of your bike.
    Last edited by kenk; 07-11-2007 at 03:03 AM.

  2. #2
    RIDERR1150GSADV
    Guest

    Thumbs up

    Thanks for sharing that information! I will be on that road in beginning of July and planned to bring spare tires already. Your report confirms what I read on other forums.

  3. #3
    pixelman
    Guest
    Kenk..
    Thank you for the help full information..I will be on Dempster in August.
    i order reedy the TKC80.
    cheers
    Adam

  4. #4
    Recommend staying in Dawson City the night before and night after riding the Dempster. All the hotels will be over $100 night in July and August. Expect to pay over $100 a night for all hotels along the ALCAN on the way up. If your camping, the campground at Dawson City along the banks of the Yukon is a safe place. Easy access to the downtown area and generally bear free.

  5. #5
    pixelman
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by kenk View Post
    Recommend staying in Dawson City the night before and night after riding the Dempster. All the hotels will be over $100 night in July and August. Expect to pay over $100 a night for all hotels along the ALCAN on the way up. If your camping, the campground at Dawson City along the banks of the Yukon is a safe place. Easy access to the downtown area and generally bear free.
    Thank you ..
    most of my trip i will be camping .. just any 5-Th. day i will take motel
    Best regards
    Adam

  6. #6
    LDR Poseur! d_day_6's Avatar
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    Question Dempster vs Haul Road

    From the ride reports I have read, it appears the Dempster is a little rougher on tires than the Haul Road. Is this true? I am a little concerned as, I am leaving for Anchorage, AK., Saturday morning from western Wisconsin with a new set of Metzler Tourance tires on an R1100GS, front and rear. I will be traveling solo with minimal gear, gas can, 2 changes of clothes, tool kit, plug kit with tire pump, ultra light tent and sleeping bag, camera.....not much weight. I have gotten mixed opinions on whether I could get by with one set of tires. I have talked to experienced riders from Alaska and they indicated I won't need tires if I take it easy.
    I want to do both the Haul Road or the Dempster, depending on weather. If it is a beautiful day when I get near the Dempster, I would like to do it. But not at the expense of chewing up my tires prematurely before attempting the Haul Road.
    Opinions? Thanks.
    d_day_6
    ____________________________________________
    "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure"
    Helen Keller

  7. #7
    If you plan on doing both the haul road and the Dempster highway, recommend you pack an 18" tube for both tires and/or a 17" tube for the rear and 19" tube for the front. You may have better luck with the Metzler tires. The Michelin Ankee is frankly crap!!! I will never buy another one. The T66 I mounted at Eagle Plains 20 miles south of the Arctic Circle is a much better tire. I'm back in Kansas and I have little to no wear. The Anakee was shot at this point.

    Recommend if you plan on do both the haul road and Dempster, you send a pair of Dunlop Knobbies or other brands to Dawson City Downtown Hotel (phone number above). The Dempster is a rougher road and don't recommend riding to Inuvik with dual-sport tires. They may work if your lucky...however, a 1/4 inch of rain turns the Dempster into 6" of mud. Not a problem in Kansas, however your in the Yukon hundreds of miles from the nearest hard ball when this happens in Grizzley bear country. It's hard to explain how dangerous this road is. I don't recommend camping anywhere on the Dempster. Recommend if you ride the haul road, you stop in Fairbanks at the BMW shop (trailer) and purchase a spare from George to strap on the bike. I assume you already know how to remove a tire on the side of the road in real crappy conditions. If you don't, practice before you depart because you will have to demonstrate.
    Last edited by kenk; 07-04-2007 at 02:01 AM.

  8. #8
    pixelman
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by d_day_6 View Post
    From the ride reports I have read, it appears the Dempster is a little rougher on tires than the Haul Road. Is this true? I am a little concerned as, I am leaving for Anchorage, AK., Saturday morning from western Wisconsin with a new set of Metzler Tourance tires on an R1100GS, front and rear. I will be traveling solo with minimal gear, gas can, 2 changes of clothes, tool kit, plug kit with tire pump, ultra light tent and sleeping bag, camera.....not much weight. I have gotten mixed opinions on whether I could get by with one set of tires. I have talked to experienced riders from Alaska and they indicated I won't need tires if I take it easy.
    I want to do both the Haul Road or the Dempster, depending on weather. If it is a beautiful day when I get near the Dempster, I would like to do it. But not at the expense of chewing up my tires prematurely before attempting the Haul Road.
    Opinions? Thanks.
    Dday- think about TKC80 then send the tires to Dawson City ..I think the tires is the best for the Demster
    cheers
    Adam

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by pixelman View Post
    Dday- think about TKC80 then send the tires to Dawson City ..I think the tires is the best for the Demster
    cheers
    Adam
    Agree. TKC80 is a great tire and my choice as well. Recommend allowing about 4 days for the Dempster Highway. It takes about 6-7 hours to get to Eagle Plains. So it shouldn't be too much of a problem to get to Inuvik by the end of the day. However, you have to figure in the fatigue of riding dirt and gravel, compared to a hard surface. I would plan on two days in Inuvik just to recharge.

    The bottom line...take your time on this road. Again, it's a dangerous road since there is no medical for 456 miles and no cell phone coverage. If you go down, it could be hours before someone comes along and much longer before medical arrives. Keep an eye open for Grizzly Bears, especially along the river bottom areas.

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