What bike to ride to the South Pole?

As conversations about what bike to ride for any particular conditions go, this is a pretty good one. BBC Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton is aiming to be the first person use a bicycle to travel to the South Pole, a 500 mile (805km) slog across the most inhospitable land on Earth. And that beast pictured above is her chosen steed!

With the famous Iditabike, an event that forces competitors to cycle through similarly frozen conditions with snow, ice, frostbite and snow blindness regular obstacles to success, there’s no shortage of suitable bikes and equipment.

For her challenge, Helen will use a bike for stretches (along with snowkiting and walking) and has opted for a specially-built Hanebrink, designed in the US by Dan Hanebrink and Kane Fortune. They’re no strangers to developing custom bicycles for such conditions as the Blue Peter presenter will face, with 10 years of experience behind them.

They first designed an polar bike 10 years ago when NASA aerospace engineer, Dan Hanebrink was approached by an Arctic explorer looking for an alternative to skis that could take him and his equipment across the icy terrain of Antarctica.

Hanebrink created the “Ice Bike”, with no plastic parts and used super fat 20x8in low-pressure tyres to increase the surface area massively. Tubeless tyres will allow for lower pressures, and have a high degree of flotation to keep as much of the wheel above the snow and ice as possible, preventing them from sinking into the snow.

The bike pictured has been built as light as possible and weighs 40lb (20kg), which is just as well as Helen will be dragging some 13st (82kg) of supplies and spares on a sledge.

The presenter, who last year completed a 2,000-mile kayak trip along the Amazon for Sport Relief, has already been hit by bad weather and the start of her challenge has been delayed. She had hoped to start on 1 January, but is now planning to leave today.

“People keep saying a bike shouldn’t be able able to make it to the South Pole, but that makes me even more determined,” she says, speaking from Antarctica.

“The biking is going to be really tough. What I like about this challenge is that 90% of people know what it’s like to ride a bike, so will be able to relate in some way to what I’m doing.”

Helen’s Polar Challenge Diary


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