Dirt Bikes to the Arctic Circle

In July 2011, Anjel Van Slyke and Connal Hughes will load up their ‘98 Yamaha XT225 and ‘93 Suzuki DR350 with a tent, sleeping bags, cook stove and other travel gear and set off on a 4,000+ mile journey from the California Bay Area to the Alaskan Arctic Circle — traveling almost entirely on dirt roads.

Why are you going?
Traveling around the world last year was an amazing experience.  Returning to the States after visiting places like Nepal and Mongolia, New Zealand and Tasmania we thought we’d be disappointed to be back in such “familiar” settings – but we weren’t. As we rode from Colorado through states like South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana, we were blown away by the natural beauty right here at home; not to mention our truly unparalleled system of National Parks and public lands. So we thought it would be a great idea to explore the wilderness in our own backyard.

But there’s a little more than that.

As avid trekkers and motorcyclists we’ve seen available lands disappear or become ruined through abuse and neglect – both here and abroad. It doesn’t help that more often than not, outdoor groups seem pitted against each other, rather than trying to work towards their common goal – which is just to be enjoying and preserving the outdoors.

While land closures can happen for a number of reasons, garbage is always one of them. So we’re working with land use groups like TreadLightly to try to make a difference.

So you’re going to clean it up?
Yup. Well, at least we plan to do our part. Whether it’s trekking or motorcycling, you’re going to find garbage on the trails, but in both activities it’s a small percentage of people that are actually leaving trash behind. So we’ll be traveling with a dedicated bag for garbage, filling it each day (or hopefully, not filling it), weighing the result, and disposing of it properly. Hopefully we can encourage others to do the same.

Most trail riders travel with a small backpack to carry tools and water. If everyone carried a small trash sack with them and packed out the occasional empty bottle or discarded tube it wouldn’t impact the day’s ride at all and, we’d all go a long way to keeping lands clean, and most importantly, open.

So what’s your route?
Starting from the Bay Area we’ll be roughly following the Pacific Crest Trail which runs from Mexico up to Canada; we’ll be traveling mostly through National Forest backroads and 4×4 trails with (unfortunately) the occasional stretch of pavement thrown in.  From there we’ll enter Canada, head up through British Columbia, cross the Yukon and finally make our way into Alaska and north to 66˚N Latitude and the Arctic Circle

Don’t you need bigger bikes?
Nope. Giant adventure bikes are awesome, but can be pretty unruly in the really tight stuff and it’s a lot harder to throw around a 600 lb bike all day than one that’s closer to 300.

If our goal was to be covering 600 miles a day on freeways we’d have the wrong bikes. Luckily that’s not our goal.

What if you break down?
What if? You mean when. Flat tires, broken cables, bent handlebars, running out of gas… that’s all part of it. Prepare for what you can, improvise for the rest.

Where will you stay along the way?
We’ll be camping most of the time, staying with friends at a couple points, no doubt meeting people along the way and yes, occasionally splurging on a night of hot showers and the kind of luxury that only a cheap roadside motel can provide.

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