Author Topic: Alaska - Dalton Highway. Review and gearlist  (Read 5298 times)

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Offline BikeFreak

Alaska - Dalton Highway. Review and gearlist
« on: September 07, 2023, 07:38:55 pm »

I completed the Dalton Highway this summer in 5 days + 1 rest day due to heavy rain = 6 total days. I left Prudhoe Bay at 4am on July 7th 2023.

I met approx 1 cyclist on the Dalton each day. The same on the Alcan Highway from Fairbanks towards Dawson Creek. It is extremely popular. Later, when I did the ACA Sierra Cascade I met 1 cyclist on 2500 miles. ACA routes are generally dead in terms of touring cyclists.

A few notes:

1 I bicycled 40000 mi throughout the World and the Dalton is the piece of highway I would NEVER do again. I was not enjoying it. I was in constant survival mode: When can I get food, when can I get water etc etc.
2 When I left the airport building I was instantly attacked by the mosquitos since it was a fairly warm day, something like 15 degC.
3 I had booked a room at the Aurora hotel for something like 150 USD which was GREAT: Unlimited food throughout the day, free laundry, free internet, free sandwhiches, free fruits ... everything free except for sodas and chocolate bars. I loved it. Nice atmosphere.
4 In the general store a few miles away I bought my bear spray which was a little less than 100 USD. They generally stock many of them. They also have lots of bug spray.
5 Basically since you can get so much food for free you should be able to pack down all the way to Coldfoot ... and thats what I did.
6 On the Dalton I tried to stay away from DEET bug spray and use a headnet, full finger gloves and bug resistant clothing. However, the mosquitos were so big and could keep up with me even at 10 mph that out of desperation I was sometimes spraying my shoes and my gloves and sometimes my headnet as well.
7 I biked with my headnet approx 30% of the time ... which was annoying at times. When you reach Fox you can get rid of the bug net basically.
8. The temperature has a big influence on the mosquitos, in the morning when its cold there are few - in the afternoon a lot. I would say that an ideal biking temperature would be something like 10 degC.
9. Roughly 30-50% is paved now. For instance the 60mi south of Prudhoe Bay are paved and in perfect condition.
10. Besides mosquitos, rain is your worst enemy. The rain will turn the gravel roads into extra sticky mud with corrosive properties. With my fenders and rim brakes I almost could not move and had to walk some sections. All the sticky mud fell down on my chain and cassette and fucked up my gearing. As a result my bike needed at 200 USD overhaul in Fairbanks, new chain, new brake pads etc. The corrosive and sticky properties originate from the calcium chloride sprayed in the roads to keep dust levels low.
11. Since the road surface is so bad, I had to brake all the way down the hills maybe staying at 15 mph tops.
12. Of course there is the Atigun Pass, but the bad hills really start S of Coldfoot ... it is just an endless up and down.
13. Many people dont make it and have to quit and abandon. Parts breaking etc. I met a truck driver who had taken many cyclists to Fairbanks because they were mentally broken ... especially girls.
14. I did not see one single bear. I met a cyclist who met a bear while he was camping 0.5 mi away from the Yukon river crossing rest stop along the river bank.
15. I was not impressed by the nature and scenery. I have seen something similar in northern Norway. I found the Sierra Cascades much more beautiful.
16. There is a lot of semi traffic but its generally not a problem. The drivers mostly slow down and give lots of space. But you have to be observant when 2 semis pass each other right where you are: Step down into the ditch if necessary. Biggest problem are stones thrown around when the semis pass you - I was hit by a stone 1x on my forehead but luckily no injury.
17. Most drivers are friendly and wave at you when passing ... of course out of mercy. If you need to hitch hike it will not take long to get a ride and people are ready to bring you all the way to Fairbanks if necessary.
18. I spoke to many motorcyclists and most of them had leaking front shocks - it shows how bad the road is.
19. Camping in your tent at Coldfoot is free just next to the restaurant on the grassy area (the restaurant closes at 11pm). I also heard you can camp for free at the Yukon River rest stop between the motel buildings ... but not verified.

Equipment list:
1 I would do 29 inch wheels and at least 2 inch wide tires.
2 A frame with LOTS of clearance between the fork/frame and the tires so the mud can pass.
3 No fenders.
4 Disc brakes. Rim brakes are horrible with the mud. Maybe bring some new brake pads.
5 My transmission was 22-32-44 on the front and 12-23 on the rear. I used the 44 chainring for maybe 5 minutes on the entire Dalton. You will be cranking all the time.
6 Preferably get some ankle shoes/boots that are waterproof with no mesh. The bugs will attack your ankles and ankle boots will solve that problem. Maybe get rid of them and buy new ones at REI in Fairbanks later on. With all the mud its also nice to have a boot.

« Last Edit: September 08, 2023, 11:12:51 pm by BikeFreak »