The physical mission of the Breaking the Cycle South Pole expedition is to make the first bicycle crossing of the Antarctic continent via the South Pole.
There are several route options, the shortest, simplest being an 1800km journey from Leverett Glacier, (Ross Ice Shelf), 650km to the South Pole and then 1150km down to Hercules Inlet (Ronne Ice Shelf).
Antarctica is the highest, driest, windiest continent on Earth. The continent is almost twice the size of Australia or the USA mainland. Kate will face katabatic polar winds as she pedals toward the South Pole, (maximum altitude 3000metres) and benefit from a tail wind on the way back to the coast. Temperatures are expected to range between -15C and -45C in the extreme case.
To turn this exciting challenge into reality Kate has been facilitating the development of some innovative technology such as the first all-wheel drive fat-bike, custom made clothing and the communications strategy.
Christini all-wheel drive polar bike
Kate trialled the very first Christini AWD prototype in Svalbard, Norway in 2013. This video shows the first all-wheel drive being assembled and then ridden for the first time in Longyearbyen, the main town in Svalbard. It was a very excited team! Watch here
Kate was impressed by the prototype but it could only accept a 10cm wide rear tyre and this did not provide enough flotation in softer polar conditions.
In Northeast Greenland, (May 2016) Kate tested her custom-built Christini all-wheel drive fatbike, mark II, that was specifically engineered to accept 12cm wide tyres. Here’s an image of Kate cycling beside the tracks of a polar bear and her cub in Greenland.
This bike was a great success, however a third, slightly improved version will be put through its paces in Arctic Yukon, Canada in March/April 2017.
Here’s a video by Steve Christini, the inventor of the all wheel drive system, explaining the story of the polar bikes. It shows very well how the technology works.
Watch here (the first 3min30 is best)
Kate’s highly experienced support team includes renowned Swiss filmmaker, Claudio von Planta, best known for his work filming Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman on the hit TV series’ ‘Long Way Round’ and ‘Long Way Down’, multi-skilled British cameraman and editor Stuart Kershaw, himself a world-record breaking adventurer, and Australian polar explorer Eric Philips OAM as advisor.
To ensure that Kate and her team are fully prepared for the Antarctic crossing, a series of smaller expeditions and test runs have been undertaken with more scheduled during 2017. These are all significant and totally unique expeditions in their own right.
Svalbard, Norway – The first test where Kate determined that her dream of cycling across Antarctica is possible. The team – Kate, Eric Philips, Claudio von Planta and Phil Coates – spent a week travelling (cycle/snowmobiles) a circuit on the island of Spitsbergen. (2013) Take a look at this amazing video of photographs taken by adventurer/photographer Phil Coates during the expedition: Watch here
Northeast Greenland – A supported bicycle journey through Jameson Land and Liverpool Land in Northeast Greenland. It was a major preparatory expedition for Breaking the Cycle South Pole and a credible expedition in its own right. This was the first ever bicycle journey in the Northeast Greenland region (26th April-18th May, 2016). To find out more about the expedition: http://www.kateleeming.com/expeditions/breaking-cycle-greenland/
Arctic Yukon – A 4-week extreme cold training expedition through the Canadian Arctic is due to begin on 8th March 2017. Working with local expert Bob Daffe, who has been exploring and guiding in Yukon for more than 40 years, Kate will follow a cross-country 1200km route from Eagle Plains on the Dempster Highway to Herschel Island on the Beaufort Sea and east to Aklavik and Fort McPherson near the MacKenzie River Delta. This route is very adaptable because it is difficult to predict how much distance Kate can cycle each day due to unpredictable weather and snow conditions.
Indian Himalaya – Altitude expedition in the Ladakh region; 2000km+ journey, average altitude 4100m, 3-4 weeks. The Indian Himalaya is a region often referred to as the “Third Pole” because, like the Arctic and Antarctic regions, it is twice as susceptible than all other parts of the world to the changing climate (September 2017).