ICE Trikes race to the South Pole
This Christmas a British woman will attempt to become the first person to cycle to the South Pole.
Racing over 400 miles from the edge of the Antarctic continent Maria Leijerstam hopes to beat two other male contenders to claim the world record.
Maria, aged 35, will face savage conditions with temperatures as low as -35°C and wind speeds up to 50 miles per hour. She will have to overcome dangerous obstacles such as crevasses, shifting ice shelves, glaciers and snowstorms.
This audacious challenge has been attempted before by riders on standard winter bikes known as Fat Bikes, but none have yet succeeded. After two years research Maria has taken a radical new approach that could help win her the title and re-define the future of polar expeditions.
“Fat Bikes fail because they get blown over in the high winds, or can’t ride fast enough through the snow to stay upright. I knew I needed something that would overcome these limitations.” said Maria, who runs Multisports Wales.
Maria will ride an extraordinary polar cycle (now called the White ICE Cycle) designed specifically for the challenge by Inspired Cycle Engineering.
The custom-made machine is a recumbent trike, which is stable and aerodynamic. Riding in the recumbent position Maria can focus her energy on progressing through the gale-force winds and hazardous terrain.
“The trike is amazing. It’s completely stable, even in extreme winds and I can take on long steep hills that I’d never be able to climb on a bike” said Maria.
The design is based on a standard ICE Sprint recumbent trike, with modifications to ensure it can tackle the rigorous challenge ahead. The frame is made from an aircraft grade steel selected for it’s strength and fatigue resistance. It is fitted with 4.5 inch wide snow tyres for unsurpassed traction and float over snow and ice. The gears are effectively twice as easy as a standard mountain bike, which will allow Maria to climb 1-in-3 gradients.
“This is a beast of a trike. It’s very special and there’s nothing else like it in the world. Our standard trikes are highly sophisticated and they retail from £2000. Maria’s trike would cost in the region of £20,000” said Chris Parker, director of ICE Trikes and designer of Maria’s polar trike.
Maria’s preparation has included training and equipment testing in Siberia, Norway and Iceland. To replicate the severe cold of Antarctica she has endured a day cycling in an industrial freezer – much to the surprise of factory workers who continued to stack shelves with frozen food.
Maria has identified a route to the South Pole virtually untested by polar explorers. She will start her bid for the world record by climbing the Leverett Glacier before heading due south for the South Pole some 400 miles ahead. The route she will take is used by American scientists based at the McMurdo Research Station on the Ross Ice Shelf to transport fuel to the South Pole.
The radical approach of using a recumbent trike on a new route could re-define the future of polar expeditions. Maria predicts that extreme tourism companies will offer trike expeditions in the near future.
“In a few years’ time companies who now run polar ski tours will also offer polar trike tours” said Maria.
As manager of a company that organises adventure races and training, Maria knows the industry well. She is accustomed to extreme sports and in 2012 came second in the Black Ice Race – a 400 mile winter cycle along the entire length of Lake Baikal in Siberia.
Maria is now well and truly prepared to take on the challenge ahead.
“I have met Maria, seen the polar cycle and spent time with her on her training trip in Iceland. I am convinced she has a very good chance of making it” said Emil Grimmsson, CEO of Arctic Trucks who will support Maria during her world record attempt.Watch the drama unfold live on Maria's website www.whiteicecycle.com, and on the ICE Trikes Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels.