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Thread: Calcium Chloride Corrosion on Alaska Trip?

  1. #1
    JohnWC
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    Calcium Chloride Corrosion on Alaska Trip?

    I was just reading the interesting article in the current MOA News about Chris Wilson riding through Alaska. It appears that just about every GS owner dreams of riding to Alaska. Fair enough. But what struck me is that Chris repeatedly talks about riding his 650GS through these Alaskan roads that are just a complete slush of dirt, grit and Calcium Chloride. It is, I gather, put on the "roads" in Alaska to firm them up (when dry). When wet, it's apparently a sloppy mess. My reading of that chemical says that :

    "While these antifreeze salts are water soluble for deicing applications, the calcium and magnesium chlorides get quite viscous as water evaporates, collecting sand and dirt and form compacted deposits in recessed areas. These difficult-to-remove deposits are the source of major chloride corrosion. To complicate the situation further, if the road salts are not removed from the vehicle, MgCl2 and CaCl2 will pull moisture out of the atmosphere, rewet and continue their corrosive actions."

    My question is , that by soaking every nook and cranny of the bike with this corrosive mix, aren't you inviting some serious problems down the road? Is it worth the couple of days ride to do this to your bike? That is, of course, if you plan to keep it for a while? It makes me think that if I was to ever buy a GS and the guy said " Yep, took her to Alaska two years ago," that I might well look for another bike.

  2. #2
    Survivor akbeemer's Avatar
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    I lived in Fairbanks for 16 years and have ridden back up there multiple times since we retired. The calcium chloride is not used all over Alaska. The major roads where a traveler will run into it is on the Dalton Highway (Haul Road) and over in the Yukon on the Dempster Highway. I cannot say unequivocally that it is not used on other dirt highways, but I've ridden the Elliot, Steese, Taylor, Top of the World, Denali Highway and the Denali Park Road all the way into Wonder Lake and Kantishna and never saw any indication of it being used on those roads. My wife and I were on the Dalton 6 or more times and encountered the stuff in rainy conditions and while it was being applied during road maintenance operations. When encountered in wet conditions it can coat your bike in a cement like slurry that can be very hard, but not impossible to remove. When it dries on the exhaust it is particularly hard stuff. On my 93 GSPD it did dull the finish on the wheel hubs and engine somewhat. They were fairly oxidized when I got the bike, but I think it exacerbated the oxidation somewhat. On Annie's F650GS (which she still rides) there does not appear to be any long term effects from the exposure to calcium chloride. It is important to clean it off as soon as possible and to be patient while doing so. Allow water to soak into the accumulated slurry to soften it; you can do as much damage chipping and scraping. I've heard of people preparing their bikes for riding in calcium chloride by spraying exposed metal surfaces with WD40 or using a spray on plastic protective coating designed for automotive use. I read claims of this helping a great deal but I have never actually seen it done. When I worked in Fairbanks I oversaw the dorms at the University as one of my responsibilities. Each summer we had 3-400 riders stay on campus and many if not most were headed to Deadhorse. They all came back covered and they all seemed to get most of it off soon after returning. Ultimately, however, it will require a detailed cleaning of a partially disassembled bike to get it all off. I never heard any of my riding friends in Alaska complain of any mechanical failure they attributed to riding in calcium chloride. I imagine it can cause a failure if it gets into an electrical contact or bearing, but cosmetic damage seems to be the major concern. But, if one rides a dual sport bike with the intent of keeping it looking like a showroom bike, then I think that person is missing the point.
    Kevin Huddy
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  3. #3
    Benchwrenching PGlaves's Avatar
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    Kevin is far more familiar with the area than I, and other than Hyder I've only been to Alaska twice - 1991 and 2008. But both times we encountered calcium chloride in construction zones on the Alaska Highway. I can't remember exactly but am fairly sure this was in the Yukon in the area between Beaver Creek and Destruction Bay. Elsewhere too, where serious reconstruction was happening (as opposed to a little crack sealing or seal-coating).

    That said - if you get it on/all over a bike you want to get as much off as soon as possible. It sets up like concrete and is indeed quite corrosive.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
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    Registered User AKsuited's Avatar
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    Calcium chloride is used for dust control on road construction projects, usually on temporary unpaved sections of road. It does pull moisture out of the air and this serves to keep a gravel detour from drying out and making dust, and helps keep an unpaved detour from deteriorating. On most road projects, this would usually involve a very short section of road.

    Harry
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  5. #5
    Benchwrenching PGlaves's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKsuited View Post
    Calcium chloride is used for dust control on road construction projects, usually on temporary unpaved sections of road. It does pull moisture out of the air and this serves to keep a gravel detour from drying out and making dust, and helps keep an unpaved detour from deteriorating. On most road projects, this would usually involve a very short section of road.

    Harry
    And it turns into corrosive slime when rained upon.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
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  6. #6
    Registered User dieselyoda's Avatar
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    It's also used on highways all over the planet to control ice. Dried, it will form a white powder. When used as dust control, they will add other agents, usually used oil, that gives it a distinct brown color.
    Keep your stuff clean and try your best. It's still nasty but cheaper than other products that are way better for machines, animals and the environment.
    1997 R1100RT (Restored Basket Case) , 1981 KZ 440 LTD (Restored Basket Case)
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    Quote Originally Posted by jconway607 View Post
    I was just reading the interesting article in the current MOA News about Chris Wilson riding through Alaska. ...roads that are just a complete slush of dirt, grit and Calcium Chloride. ...
    My question is , that by soaking every nook and cranny of the bike with this corrosive mix, aren't you inviting some serious problems down the road? Is it worth the couple of days ride to do this to your bike? ..
    Yes.

    I enjoyed Chris' story too.
    --
    Doug Raymond
    R1150RT '02
    Ambler, PA

  8. #8
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    I've ridden to AK twice on my GS's. Last time it took me a couple of days to get it clean. Was it worth it...of course or I wouldn't be going back again this summer.
    Marty Hill
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  9. #9
    Survivor akbeemer's Avatar
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    First picture is what it looks like on a bike...

    Second picture is a maintenance operation where it is soon to be applied. The vehicles are not part of the maintenance op, just some heavy equipment headed to Deadhorse. They grade the road and create the berm. Sometimes the berm is in the center of the road, other times it is on a shoulder. They will will let you ride through while grading, but you may have to cross the berm a time or two. Right behind the heavy equipment came the truck spraying the calcium chloride. Creates a slippery mess to ride on.
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    Kevin Huddy
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