SYMBA Ride to Alaska: Post Ride Bike Debrief
Got home with 7819 miles minus 72 at the start equals 7747 miles for this trip.
I used less then $400 in gas, closer to $350. It cost over twice as much to
feed me then the bike.
Just washed the bike and did some maintenance. Boy that Alaska dirt is really
hard to wash off, there were spots where I used a brush and it still would not
come off, still some dirt left. Dirt got in every nook and cranny on the bike.
I was told that once a vehicle does the Dalton it will never be the same again,
I’ll have to agree completely. The calcium chloride they use on the “haul road”
is very corrosive and I didn’t see the corrosion until after the wash. Every
nut/bolt on the underside of the bike is corroded, the sleeve (made of cast
iron) is corroded, pretty much any metal part that is not painted has some level
of corrosion. Good thing the painted parts are okay and looks good clean.
Everything on the bike was stock except the spark plug. Normally it is a NGK
C6HSA. I first used a CR7HSA then put on a CR8HIX (iridium) cause it last
longer and wanted a cooler plug for prolong high speed riding. I also made some
adjustments to the carb and oiled up the foam air filter (it came dry).
List of inventory: used
2.5 rear tires used, half a front
one puncture rear tube
10 oil changes (1 bottle each)
an iridium spark plug
swing arm pivot point nut (loose/lost)
exhaust manifold bolt (broke) and nut
What the bike needs now:
rear wheel flange damper
The chain is completely stretched out and has many kinks in it. The rear axle
has been adjusted back by about 3/4″ normally on a chain drive 1/2″ adjustment
is the life of a chain.
Foot pegs, both are bent from drops, twice on the shifter side and once on the
throttle side. I can’ take the muffler off without taking off the pegs now
cause of the bend. Also I can’t heel shift cause of the bent peg, I have to use
my toes on the back shift lever. Better if it had folding pegs. Foot brake
lever is slightly bent up from hitting things cause by lack of ground
clearance. The foot brake lever touches the exhaust header which causes lots of
noise and vibration.
Having put almost 8k miles on the bike I really like it. The only thing I don’t
like is the clunky shifting. You have to use firm pressure on the shift lever.
If light pressure is put on the 1st to 2nd shift there is a tendency for the
gear to pop back to 1st. This caught me off guard many times and still does. I
don’t up shift with my toes cause I’m not able to put enough pressure lifting my
toes up. I use the heel shifter for up shifts, stomping down on it with my
At first I wasn’t sure about the gearing, think it was too short then too tall
but now I think it is perfect.
The brakes on this bike is very strong much more then I expected. I can easily
lock up the front wheel, makes threshold braking exciting.
The suspension has much more travel then expected and performs very well both on
pavement and dirt. I use a combination of 1 and 2 person on the rear shock
during the trip with all the gear and one person with no gear. The frame handles
really well too. The geometry makes the bike very neutral. With such a good
combination of frame and suspension, the bike handles technical twisty roads
The ride is not Cadillac smooth but feels very sporty with a neutral riding
Wheels stayed true this whole trip.
The seat wasn’t as bad as I thought. My rear didn’t bother me much. What did
was the edge of the saddle, it digs into the back of my thigh. That part needs
An annoyance was the gas tank. The opening just isn’t very practical. Gas gets
sprayed up everywhere if not careful. Also it is very easy to over fill the
tank and eventually flood the engine, happened twice.
Speedo is about 3mph optimistic. I ran by countless road side radar and they
mostly show that I was going about 3mph less then the speedo indicated. There
were a few that showed the same speed and a few that showed 5mph optimistic.
I’m gonna go with the majority of about 3mph off.
The clutch only needed the break in adjustment and it hasn’t been out of
adjustment since. Part of what makes shifting clunky is that the clutch has
full engagement once you shift unlike a manual clutch where you can ease on the
The motor runs strong but can get a little buzzy at higher rpm. One of my main
concern was when I was using 10w-40 and had what sounded like viscosity break
down and possible piston/rings on cylinder contact from prolong periods of high
load on the motor. The motor still ran fine but after each of those events I
had more metal particles in the oil draining then other times besides the first
oil change. 20w-50 works best for this motor under prolong load. Also It seems
like the motor consumes a little oil. I pour in a full bottle of oil each
change but can never get out the same amount. It usually consumes about 100ml
if using mobil 1 20w-50 up to 200ml if using something else. Once I figured out
the oil issue I did a change about every 1k miles.
The carter made rack (an accessory) is great, very high quality, fits
perfectly. It didn’t bend, distort or anything. The SYM front rack (also an
accessory) held up just as well.
The leg shield doesn’t cover much. If you tuck your legs in you can mostly be
covered but your feet will always be exposed. If you look at the bike from head
on you’ll see that the foot pegs extend well past the leg shield. Even with my
feet against the engine at least half of my feet is still exposed.
Grips. At first I didn’t like the contour grips but found that they help me keep
throttle position. I reposition the grips to fit ergonomically while near WOT.
Stock front tires works surprisingly well in all conditions, I prefer them over
the Gazelle up front. The stock back is okay but feels a little flexy compared
to the Michelin Gazelle.
The gas gauge has 5 lights the first/last will give about 25 miles each, while
the thee middle goes about 15miles each. The last light will stay solid for
about 5miles then start to blink then you’ll have about 20miles left. The
longest I went on a tank was 110miles, shortest was 90miles.
I’ll give a non bike summary of the trip later…still feel a little beat up.