Ride To Tuktoyaktuk, Canada: Part Two


Warning sign at the beginning of the Dempster Highway, Yukon. No emergency services.

The Fallout

The Honda Bikes

How did the Africa Twins fare on the 1800 km (1118 mile) ride to Tuk and back?

They didn’t miss a beat. No mechanical issues, no flat tires, nothing at all. Honda has made an excellent adventure bike and I’m now a huge fan of it. If they had heated grips and cruise control I would happily own one without any complaint.

The Africa Twin Tires

The Mitas E10 and E09 impressed me a lot. They handled the nasty Dempster like nothing and were a large part of the reason none of us dropped any of the bikes. Full credit to Mitas’ designers.

Mitas E09 and E10 tires after riding the Dempster Highway.

Mitas E09 and E10 tires after riding the Dempster Highway.

The photos show that the road wasn’t kind and after closer inspection, I found the tires were close to 50% worn. There were also cracks forming around the lugs and chunks missing from a few too. The Twin that carried Carolyn and Pat the whole way only showed slightly more wear on the tires than the ones on my bike.

Mitas E09 and E10 tires after riding the Dempster Highway.

Dawson Adventure Riding Expeditions

DARE truck and trailer support vehicles on the Dempster Highway.

Wade and Tammy were excellent tour guides. They kept us upbeat, focused and safe without being overbearing. They let us all ride at our own pace the whole time and trusting us to take care of their motorcycles. I owe them great thanks for making this ride possible.

Many times over the course of this trip after witnessing the carnage from crashes and hearing about serious injuries I couldn’t help wonder whether running this tour was a good idea from a liability standpoint.

Wade and Tammy didn’t miss that either, and after this, the very first ride for DARE was over the couple looked hard at the reality of the situation and reluctantly decided to close the tour group and pursue other opportunities.

They chased a great dream in creating this venture and I’ll definitely never forget the experience, but the Dempster at this point is just too erratic for motorcycle tours and I think it’s a wise decision on their part to back away.

I wish them all the best in the future and hope we ride together again somewhere.

Riders Gotta Ride

As for me? I went home the next day.

I had originally planned to camp out in Dawson City for four days leading up to the Dust To Dawson celebration, but the next morning I couldn’t resist the urge to get back on the bike and hit the road instead. After logging so many thousand miles and living such excitement the prospect of just hanging around playing tourist couldn’t keep me interested.

The view from the Midnight Dome overlooking Dawson City.

Besides that, my patient wife and children were understanding enough to let me be away this long without complaint, but I genuinely missed them and wanted to get home to enjoy the summer together. A wise man knows not to push a good thing too far.

My Kawasaki Ninja H2SX SE on top of the Midnight Dome in Dawson City.

I rode up to the Midnight Dome which overlooks Dawson City before leaving town for one last look at this unusual destination, then headed southward and home.

Keep Reading
Homeward Bound

18 Comments

  1. Matthew
    August 23, 2018
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing the story. Inspiring. On my bucking list 🙂

    • Jim Pruner
      August 24, 2018
      Reply

      Thanks for the feedback Matthew! You definitely owe a trip like this to yourself.

      Life changing experiences like these are what make it worth waking up in the morning.

  2. Rob
    September 9, 2018
    Reply

    Just back from Tuk two weeks ago – the Inuvik to Tuk road was the single best gravel road I’ve ever been on – perfect condition and fast. The Eagle Plains to McPherson however was one of the hardest bits of riding I’ve ever done both ways – wind, rain, zero degrees, no traction. A tremendous, difficult, challenging, and ultimately immensely rewarding journey .

    • Jim Pruner
      September 12, 2018
      Reply

      Unbelievable eh?! It’s the road that’s never the same twice. I’m glad to hear it’s gotten somewhat safer now and that you made it there and back in one piece.

      • anthony klatt
        April 1, 2020
        Reply

        Thanks for taking all the time and effort to create this vlog. I plan on riding this July with my 16 AT if Covid 19 is clear. I really enjoyed reading all your write ups as a fellow Albertan myself!!!

        • April 1, 2020
          Reply

          Hi Anthony!

          I’m thrilled to hear you enjoyed this piece. It has great sentimental value to me because that trip changed my perspective on life. It sounds perhaps like an exaggeration, but after I stood in the Arctic Ocean in Tuk and realized what an incredible journey it had been to that point I had an overwhelming sense of contentment come over me that I’ll never forget.
          I hope you get to go, if not this year another sometime. It’s worth the effort, expense and risk. July will be very rainy and there’ll be plenty of bugs after you, but that’s part of the fun… sort of. I’d still recommend going in June instead! hahaha
          Cheers!

  3. Nathan Stueber
    December 7, 2018
    Reply

    Wow! I just came across your article. I’m the Louisiana boy that trashed that BMW. I was surprised to see it!

    • Ben Smith
      January 30, 2019
      Reply

      thanks for sharing your experience in such detail! Me and my riding partner are in the planning stages of this trip for the summer of 2020. Your journal is invaluable! Thanks again and I look forward to reading about your next adventure. California to Tuk 2020

      • Jim Pruner
        January 31, 2019
        Reply

        Ben are you and your partner ever in for a treat! Do yourself a favour and take your time getting there. Really stop and smell the proverbial roses along the way.
        I can’t believe I’m actually thinking about going back! I promised myself when I made it there without any issues that I wouldn’t push my luck by attempting it a second time, but I admit I’m considering a return.

  4. Troy
    February 17, 2019
    Reply

    Nice report Jim, I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Your friend Greg was planning to ride an HD Crossbones on the trip across the Arctic Circle twice, but later you mention he was riding a Triumph Tiger? Did he make his entire trip on the Tiger to both Deadhorse and Tuk?

    • Jim Pruner
      February 17, 2019
      Reply

      Hi Troy!

      I guess I may have been a bit unclear in the write up so here’s how it is.

      Greg has ridden his Harley Crossbones all the way to Prudhoe Bay a couple of years ago and later took his Tiger all the way to Inuvik. His plan last year was to ride to Prudhoe Bay first and then to Tuktoyaktuk in the same trip on his Tiger.
      When we parted ways in Whitehorse his Tiger was starting to act up and by the time he got to Fairbanks it was worrying him enough that he turned around and went home instead.
      He’s traded the Tiger in for a new F850GS now and plans to do the ride this June so if you go this year you may bump into him.
      If I can by some miracle get delivery of my KTM 790 adventure R before June I’m toying with the idea of following him to Prudhoe Bay too, but it looks doubtful at this point.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the read. I think it’s my best work to date and have reread it myself once or twice to relive the experience.
      If you get to go yourself you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when I say it was life changing.

  5. Bj
    June 22, 2019
    Reply

    Great to read about your trip (up and down). I’m debating doing a similar trip up north this year and it was good to read about your experiences!

    That rear tire on the Ninja was definitely on it’s last legs coming home 😉

    One tip: If you go back with a bike loaded down with gear, try and get out and offroad with it a bit beforehand. Having ridden dualsports for 10+ years, they behave very differently with a load on!

    • Jim Pruner
      June 22, 2019
      Reply

      Hi Bj thank you for reading the whole thing! This series is my favorite piece of work to date and it makes me really feel justified putting the effort into it if it inspires and helps others to follow that same path.
      It’s very much worth the trip. I hope you go.

      Ya totally agree about the tire and the loaded bikes!

      Cheers.

      • Regan Davis
        November 13, 2020
        Reply

        Jim I have just read your journal. What a great adventure. Im planning the same trip the summer of 2021. Given the tour company you went with has closed their business are you aware of anyone else that provides bikes from Dawson? My plan would be to ride my BMW k1600B to Dawson from Calgary and then ideally use a tour company for the tuk leg.

        Thanks
        Regan

        • November 14, 2020
          Reply

          Regan thank you for appreciating the work I put into this one. To date, I think it’s still my magnum opus, lol!

          I hope you get to make the trip in full next year. COVID19 made it all but impossible this year unfortunately with northern communities closing up to the outside world which is such a shame. It’s truly the trip of a lifetime. I’m considering another ride up next year myself if borders stay closed as they are now to the south.

          Yes, to answer your question there are other alternatives to take advantage of to ride north. Get a hold of my good friend Lawrence Neyando who lives in Inuvik and runs Arctic Motorcycle Adventures: https://www.arcticmoto.ca/ He can meet you in Dawson City with one of his KLR650s and help as much or little as you like on the trip to Tuk. He’s a great resource even if you go it alone (and can provide rescue if needed). Arctic Moto is also on FaceBook if you are on that platform https://www.facebook.com/arcticmoto.

          If I decide to head up that way I’ll post something on the site and maybe I’ll see you along the way.

  6. Wayne Laczo
    December 28, 2020
    Reply

    Hi Jim,
    This is the second time I have read this. It’s a great read! I had plans in 2020 to go to Prudhoe Bay but because the boarders were closed that didn’t happen. For 2021 I booked five weeks off, the last week in May and all of June and decided I’d have a better chance on making it to Tuk this time. Spent all of 2020 outfitting my new bike for it and met more people that want to go too. We spent most of the summer tearing up forestry trunk roads in southern Alberta practising for the trip.
    Reading this article really helps with the planning. Thank you!

    • December 29, 2020
      Reply

      Hi Wayne!

      Greg has ridden both the Dalton and Dempster on the same trip since I wrote this piece and he agrees with me that the Dempster is more challenging and Tuk more enjoyable as a destination than Prudhoe Bay. I know you’ll find the same thing if you can get up there in 2021. The borders to the NWT remain closed at this point to my knowledge and there’s a 14 day quarantine even for residents that leave the territory. That would be a huge bummer if it doesn’t change now that the vaccine is rolling out.

      I’m considering a return trip in 2021 myself since I didn’t ride Top of the World Highway neither did I get to explore so many side routes due to being on my Ninja for most of the trip. If the US border stays closed (and I expect it will) this will become even more enticing for me. Are you in Calgary, Wayne? I think I found you on FaceBook after a quick search. Keep me in mind for your plans if you want another person to tag along. There are a number of riders that have commented on this piece who are also planning to ride up in 2021, but I imagine the timelines will vary so depending on availability our plans might align.

  7. Wayne Laczo
    December 29, 2020
    Reply

    Yes I’m in Calgary. I don’t really use facebook anymore.

    That would be great.!

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