In 2014, Gordon Stuart rode his Suzuki GSX650F 6,000 miles from England up to Nordkapp, Norway – the most northerly point in Europe.
In doing so, he became known as the ‘Arctic Rider’ and raised over £5000 for charity in the process. This year, he will undertake a new challenge and will head to the Dalton Highway in Alaska on a 2018 V-Strom 1000XT. We asked him about his preparation, anticipation, and also if he had any fears when embarking on such a journey.
With the growing popularity of adventure biking comes the question of where on the globe to conquer next. Many people have selected the harsh, dry and barren lands of Africa or the long, twisting mountainous roads of Eastern Europe. For Gordon though, his next challenge had to be something different – something that few people have achieved.
The Dalton Highway in Alaska is a 414 mile stretch of road connecting the Prudhoe Bay Oil Fields on the North Alaskan coast to the country’s interior. It is one of the most isolated roads in the United States. It is a primitive, mostly gravel road which presents considerable risk to cars and bikes. Locals often advise that anyone travelling on the Dalton should bring survival gear.
The Dalton will be the last stretch in a 7,000 mile journey lasting three weeks that will see him pass through Calgary, The Rocky Mountains and the Alaskan Highway.
“I was looking around at what I could do next – I thought about Africa and Europe but wanted something different that was similar to my previous Arctic trip,” Gordon tells us when asked why he chose the Dalton Highway for his next trip. “I came across the Dalton highway and spoke to the few people that have ridden it and it sounded like the perfect challenge.”
“The road conditions can be difficult. If it’s a good day, then there shouldn’t be any issues. If it’s been raining however, stretches of the road – from what I have heard – can become almost unrideable even on a bike designed for it. I might have to make a decision on whether to ride on or not if that happens – at the end of the day, I’m no professional and it may be better to camp up and try again the following day.”
However, while no professional by his own admission, Gordon’s previous experience shows he is no stranger to long rides and dealing with difficult conditions: his 6,000 mile Norway trip in 2014 was only the start of his desire to ride long distances on two wheels. In 2016, he completed the Iron Butt Challenge – an 874 mile ride from Lands End to John O’Groats to be completed in under 24 hours. He did it in 18 hours and 33 minutes. So what about this trip has he never experienced before?
“Another big concern of mine, and this is no joke, is bears! I’m going to be camping a lot and I’ve had to study the particulars of what to do in an environment where bears are very common – things like burying food away from where you sleep!”
It’s not all negative though as he also spoke about the benefits of being out on the road, just man and machine, away from the stresses of everyday life.
“The scenery is one of the things I’m looking forward to the most,” Gordon explains. “The landscape along the route i’ve chosen is breathtaking and seeing the magnitude of our world along the way gives you a real sense of humility.
“I think being on the bike, having time to myself to think and reflect would be the second thing. When you’re out on the road, overcoming the challenges that come along the way, you get a real appreciation for how insignificant the stresses of everyday life can be.”
The stresses of everyday life will fall to Gordon’s wife in his absence as she takes care of their two young children for the three weeks he will be away. He spoke about how his family, although it will be a strain whilst he is away, support him in his decision.
“I have an amazing wife, who although she is nervous both for me and about handling things whilst I am away, supports me in getting out on the bike and doing things like this. She knows it’s for a good cause and the charities I’m raising money for have helped our children too. I will miss them dearly when I’m out on the road, but it makes me appreciate what I have even more when I get back.”
Like his last trip to Nordkapp, the further north he travels, the more the road conditions and weather will deteriorate and the more he will have to rely on the performance of the machine that carries him. However, the V-Strom 1000XT will be the perfect partner.
“My first thought after riding the bike was that I felt like it will make me a better rider, which has to be a good thing where I’m heading! But with its high stance and long-travel suspension, 19in front wheel – which is a good option as I’ll be riding both on and off-road – and tractable, user-friendly V-twin engine and power delivery, it’s the ideal companion.”
While the trip is certainly scratching a big itch for Gordon, he will also embark on this journey to again raise money for two charities – Cerebra and Tiny Lives Trust. Both charities have helped his family a great deal over the past 20 years and have become very close to his heart.
“Cerebra provide support to families of young children with brain injuries by helping fund the use of specialist equipment, give advice on disability rights like benefits and help with the emotional stress that comes with difficult times,” he explains. “My little brother, Robbie, suffered a brain injury when he was very young and Cerebra helped us a great deal, while Tiny Lives Trust have helped me and my wife hugely by taking care of our children who were both born premature.”
Gordon’s journey will begin on the 26th June where he will leave his hometown of Newcastle and trade two wheels for a flight to Calgary. Once on the ground, the hard work really starts.
To support Gordon’s cause and donate to Cerebra and Tiny Lives Trust, with 100% of the money donated going to the charity, go to https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=thearcticrider&pageUrl=4. Also visit arcticride.blogspot.com to stay up to date with Gordon’s progress.