British adventurer Maria Leijerstam has braved savage conditions to become the first person to cycle to the South Pole from the edge of the Antarctic continent. Maria, aged 35 from Wales, raced two men for the title and arrived at the pole hundreds of miles ahead of her nearest rival.
After 9 days cycling Maria completed the 400 mile expedition at approximately 1am GMT on the 27th December 2013. Despite starting days later than her competitors Maria made quick progress on a recumbent trike designed specifically for the challenge by Inspired Cycle Engineering. The custom-made trike is stable and aerodynamic, which has allowed Maria to focus her energy on progressing through the gale-force winds and hazardous terrain.
The cycles 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, as standard, from aircraft-grade steel selected for its strength and fatigue resistance. It is fitted with 4.5 inch-wide snow tires for unsurpassed traction and float over snow and ice. The gears are effectively twice as easy as a standard mountain bike, which would allow Maria to climb 1-in-3 gradients.
The ability to climb hills with relative ease meant that Maria could take a shorter route to the pole than her competitors, which required scaling the formidable Transantarctic Mountains; a similar route to that of Scott and Amundsen in their legendary South Pole expeditions. On the recumbent trike Maria was able to ascend the Leverett Glacier, despite strong headwinds and deep snow, to reach the polar plateau.
"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.
With the mountains and glacier behind her Maria then faced over 300 miles of the polar plateau. The snow, wind and sastrugi made progress slow and arduous, but by cycling in 12 hour stints Maria continued to progress 25-35 miles (40-60km) each day.
After a well-deserved celebration, call home and rest, Maria will return to her home in Wales where she will no doubt start planning her next mammoth expedition. Huge congratulations to Maria from everyone at ICE Trikes!
Other South Pole Explorers on bikes:
The South Pole Epic, Daniel Burton
Juan Menendez Granados
Eric Larsen, Cycle South Expedition 2012