Thanks so much for your post. I am planning a trip to Alaska this coming Summer and I know I will find the information from your experience helpful.My son and I took our 1st gen 650's to Alaska this summer. He was 18 at the time and is now gone for the next two years. We had an amazing adventure that will be with us our lifetime. I did a daily simple blog with photos and a few videos.
We had a handful of issues, most were preventable, but our two years of preparation made the trip a success.
I'm happy to answer any questions any of you might have regarding gear, routes, preparation and other general questions you might have.
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I am slowly updating my blog posting and will be adding a gear and Alaska lessons learned page eventually. I'm hoping to get back up there again in a few years, probably with folks more my age this time. Good luck with your preparation, feel free to use me as a resource for questions, etc.Thanks so much for your post. I am planning a trip to Alaska this coming Summer and I know I will find the information from your experience helpful.
The blog is done, I waited about five months to get back on it, I don't think there is much more I'll do to it. I will eventually add a page or two about our gear, what worked well, and what I would have improved upon. You can probably pick up some of that by looking at what we have and our blog, but I'm happy to share some of the lessons learned. The first gen 650 is very capable of doing the ride, I actually appreciate the 100 mph speed limiter, as it has probably saved me from all sorts of trouble.My apology, I already have the link to your blog. I’ve read it and will await your update. Thanks
One of my sons lives in Canada. When my wife and I drove up there to see him early October, 2022, the Covid vax was no longer required for US travelers to enter Canada. Check the website or app “ARRIVECanada” for any updates before going. Things could change I guess.Enjoying your blog one question is a covd vax required to pass through canada? I live in a semi remote setting and haven't done that.
Thanks for the list. It confirmed that my preparations are heading in the right direction.The blog is done, I waited about five months to get back on it, I don't think there is much more I'll do to it. I will eventually add a page or two about our gear, what worked well, and what I would have improved upon. You can probably pick up some of that by looking at what we have and our blog, but I'm happy to share some of the lessons learned. The first gen 650 is very capable of doing the ride, I actually appreciate the 100 mph speed limiter, as it has probably saved me from all sorts of trouble.
Put new bearings (double sided) in, goretex gear is better than adding a rain layer, I've yet to find the ideal rear tire, but it is hard to beat the Shinko 705 for the front. DEET 100 and Permethrin (coated clothing/tent ahead of time) are mandatory. Bear spray is good to have, never used it. Bring enough tools to deal with the unexpected, an extra gas tank gives peace of mind as much as anything. Jetboils are great, throw in some MRE's for good measure. We still like animal crackers. A small frying pan for cooking mixes things up nicely. Heated grips are almost mandatory, heated gloves and jacket liner helpful if leaving early in the season. Three sets of gloves. Get a good, 4-season tent that is waterproof. Rok Straps rock! Tank bags are great, I like the large touring Givi and a small one when not touring. Waterproof boots, just do it, Gortex > Leather. Layers of clothing. Extra USB batteries, on-bike USB charger. Darn tough socks. Motorcycle covers were an afterthought, but really worked well and were glad we brought them. Portable cots saved my back. Down sleeping bag with a second thick liner bag kept us warm. We used Google maps, it was adequate, but are likely better solutions. Rick's front RAM mount is great, as are his mirror extenders, fork brace and kick stand foot. Test everything as best you can first.... Anyway, all that is just off the top of my head. It is an awesome ride.
First, forgive the long winded reply, I am on a business trip stuck in an airport for a while....Thanks for the list. It confirmed that my preparations are heading in the right direction.
I had not thought about checking and/or changing out wheel bearings before leaving. I do not have heated grips on my V-Strom, but I do have Gerbing heated gloves. Will those suffice? My tent is a three season tent. Can I get by with it? Can you give me an idea as to your sleeping bags? I definitely want to stay warm.
I’m really looking forward to the ride.
First, forgive the long winded reply, I am on a business trip stuck in an airport for a while....
I would say do the wheel bearings, front and back. There are multiple writeups on this. Everything else is I posted is preferential, but the wheel bearings, especially on an older bike like the 1st gens just need to be replaced. They aren't that expensive except for the larger carrier one. Again, read the other posts and do it. That one thing (and a power wash in Fairbanks) prevented us from getting all the way up north. I felt that this was the one place my preparation missed. Do it. (Am I emphatic enough?)
Heated grips are a great addition to any bike. I had them on my VFR, all touring type bikes of mine get them now. There are just so many colder days where they come in handy. For most of our ride, heated gear wasn't really needed, especially if you leave later in June. For the 2-3 days we used our jacket liners and gloves, we were glad we had them. A big challenge is we didn't ride with the heated gear on all the time, and putting it on took time. The same thing goes for rain gear. We had Tourmaster jackets and lower-end over pants, they were not bad, but not really water proof. We had over pants instead of riding pants, and we had rain over pants to go over our over pants which went over our jeans... It all worked, but a nice set of Gore-tex (Klim Latitude as a possible example) pants and a Gore-tex jacket would have allowed us to more or less ride without stopping to take things on and off.
Again, personal preference, yes, heated gloves will make it not really necessary for heated grips, but having both is nice (and most heated gloves do not heat your palms). If you go that route, look into the Easter Beaver connector, it makes things easier. Also, if you add pants and socks to your heated gear, you will start to possibly run short of watts, so converting a few bulbs to LED and a voltmeter is handy. While your at it, make sure you battery is of good quality and fresh enough... I've had more breakdowns due to bad batteries than anything else.
I picked up a 3-man, 4-season (Eureka Mountain Pass 3). It came with a bottom tub (light, attached tarp) and has vestibules on both sides, which allow you to put your boots in a dry place without having them in the tent. We also added a couple of small, thick tarps under the tent. It was one of the gear purchases that worked very well for the two of us. I can heartily recommend it. That being said, there are many other tents, even 3-season that will do just fine. You will get rained on, a lot. I think it rained about half of our nights, sometimes massive down pours. Make sure your tent is up to it, can work with your gear, etc.
We use portable cots which fit nicely in our Givi tail bag. They aren't for everyone and they do add extra wear to the floor of the tent. My back wouldn't allow for any other type of sleeping. The cots are the Hitorhike Compact Folding Cot. They are easy to setup and tear down, provide more comfort than anything else I have used. However, they do put a layer of air under you, which is not ideal in the coldest of temperatures. When combined with our sleeping bags, down to 30 degree weather, we were warm, even though there were two nights we had to double up on the outer bags.
For sleeping bags, I picked up two Kelty Galactic 30 Degree Down (Long version) and two Coleman Fleece 50 Degree sleeping bag liners. The down bags were a bit expensive, but I got them on a sale and they really performed well. Both of us are 6 feet tall, having a few extra inches for our feet was appreciated. Most of the evenings we slept with both the liner and the bag, on our own. Both bag styles can zip into one larger bag, there were two nights that we were cold enough to zip the outer bag into one large bag, and we both slept with our inner liners separate, all while on the cots that were side by side. It was amazing how that worked so well. We purchased a few stuff sacks and used those for the bags. After the first day or two, we just stuffed all four bags into one XL stuff sack and put that in our dry bag. It made for quick setup and tear down.
Oh, we also used the FIllow Nemo Pillow, one for each of us. It folds down to the size of a soda can and having a proper pillow makes for much better nights. A bit of a splurge, but nice.
We had a small portable table for the tent and for camping, that was very handy. The table is the Sportneer Small Camping Table, we also picked up two Sportneer Camping Chairs. We didn't need the chairs much on this ride, as we often had camp tables, but the small portable camping table was nice.
We also have two 70L First Gear Dry Bags strapped to our rear seat, those worked well enough that we didn't have to worry about water proofing our tail or side luggage. Our sleeping bags, clothing an electronics all went into the dry bags or the front tank bag (with an inner dry liner).
There is a lot more I cannot think of at the moment, we did two years of rides before doing Alaska. That included one Iron Butt, a 7 day trip to Rushmore, two trips to Area 51 and one trip to southern Utah. It gave us a chance to find out what worked. I find it is really helpful to know your limits, your bikes abilities, and your gear, prior to a long journey where you will need to depend on all of that.
We passed a lot of BMW GS's out there, and while their bikes were much stronger, I don't feel that we had a less of an adventure, and the cost for us was a fraction of what they had spent. Yes, we probably had to do a lot more upfront leg work, but that was a lot of the fun.
Thank you for your kind words, I hope I don't sound too forceful. Our rain gear was second hand ebay finds, it worked. Our jackets were closeout models, they did the job. My overpants were 10 year old First Gear ebay. All in, for both of us, we probably were only $400 into jackets, pants and rain gear, that will not get you a single new Klim jacket. Your sleeping bag sounds warmer than ours. Dry bags can take the place of side luggage, just throw a few more on and strap them down. Our old Givi worked well, but no shame in doing what works and sticking to a price point. We do ride V-Stroms for a reason.Again your posting was very helpful.
Ok, wheel bearings are now on my pre-ride maintenance list. I am in good shape on heated gear. My rain gear is marginal. My riding pants are water proof. My riding jacket I would say is water resistant, but I will need something on top of it. I will likely upgrade, but Klim is not going to be in my budget. I have a 20 degree down sleeping bag which is in fact more like 50 degree bag. I can put a woobie ( USMC Poncho liner ) in my sleeping bag to make it warmer or put that sleeping bag inside another sleeping bag. Thoughts? I use a compact cot also. However mine weighs about 9.5 lbs., and it’s awkward to pack as it’s about 30”s long with relatively sharp metal legs. Thanks for recommending the Hitorhike Compact Folding Cot. Given its weight ( about 1/2 of the weight of mine ) and it’s packing size, I may upgrade to one. I have a Thermarest pillow that I find satisfactory. I have a small camping chair, but the one you mention is lighter. I may be upgrading my chair As well. I’m in great shape on dry bags. I have two heavy duty Watershed dry duffel bags. Everything stays totally dry. I have done a couple of Iron Butts. I made two long trips where the round trip mileage exceeded 4500 miles. Those trips were 7-10 day trips. I plan to take at least 30 days on my trip to Alaska. I am hope the extra trip time will enable me to make the extra miles ( I plan to log about 10,000 to 12,000 miles on my Alaska Trip. I hope and pray I am up to it. 🙏🏻
As I close, I commend you for making this trip with your son. Im sure it will be a great memory that he can hold onto for the balance of his life.