I was sat at home a few weeks ago, thinking about where to cycle next, when it dawned on me. Why hasn’t anyone ever cycled to the North Pole? It can’t be that hard surely?
I did a little research and found that a few people had cycled to the South Pole, but no one to the North. I suppose this is what the boffins at Top Gear were thinking when they proposed to drive there in a huge Toyota Hilux pick-up truck. This was one of my favourite episodes and it was from this which started my thinking that it is really possible to do.
There has been a bike race at the North Pole, yet no one has decided to cycle there. Of course there are the obvious problems of the bike working at such extreme temperatures, carrying all provisions with you, the climate, landscape and not to mention the polar bears! However I think all these can be combated.
A mountain bike with really fat tyres is going to be a necessity here. Spreading your weight, so you don’t have the unthinkable and fall through the ice. Although this shouldn’t happen as if a car can make it, a bike should find it a piece of cake. If I were to do it my bike of choice would be the Hanebrink “ice bike”, designed for the first people to cycle to the South Pole it is an all-weather, all-terrain, beast of a bike specifically designed for polar expedition. With minimalist in mind, the less moving parts the less there is to go wrong, this is a basic bike which due to the low amount of features is nicely aerodynamic to battle those harsh polar winds. The huge tubeless tyres (8lb each) mean that it does carry some weight, 40lb! However a heck of a lot lighter than a car. Designed with simplicity and harshness in mind from handmade wheels and tyres to sealed bearings you can be sure that it won’t be the bike which will let you down.
I think the clear choice would be to carry everything you need on a sled. This way the weight would be spread out over a larger amount of ice reducing the risk of falling through. In essence this would turn you the cyclist into a dog pulling a sled and they go to the pole all the time, how hard can it be? I think a rugged sturdy tent with plenty guide ropes would be the accommodation for this trip, lightweight and robust. I think robust is the key for any expedition like this as you totally rely on your gear and the added stress of possible failure if one piece of kit goes wrong is not one you want to have to deal with. For clothing I think something to keep you warm would be useful, although not too warm whilst cycling because too much perspiration and it will begin to freeze, the last thing you want is frostbite.
A topic which any polar explorer I’m sure dreads. My only thought on this, not being an expert, would be that it would be good to cycle in a group or with a partner so whilst sleeping one can be on ‘bear watch’ with a sizable gun.
When Doug Stoup cycled 200miles around Antarctica he cycled in the desert as training with his bike. “Desert? Surely that’s the opposite of where you would want to train?” I hear you say. However sand is a very similar consistency to the snow because there is very little moisture with it being so cold. However for those of you wanting some cold weather training why not head over to Alaska and take part in the Susitna 100? Mental training is the key part though as ultimately the adventure will be more mentally tough than physically draining. You want to make sure that you know you can do it what you can improvise in situations that call for it and that you can keep pushing against that 100mph arctic wind.
I would choose to set off from Resolute, Nunavut, Canada, from here it is a mere 400 miles to the pole and depending on your sponsorship and financial backing you could organise a plane to come pick you up or alternatively cycle all the way back, I know which one I would choose. Realistically with the weight of all your provisions and bike etc. it will be hard to average more than 4-5mph. So with 10 hours of cycling per day, a figure which is pretty reasonable I think, it is a very achievable goal of making it in 10 days -weather permitting. Leaving end of April early May seems the opportune time to do it as by then the days are completely daylight, so long days on the bike will be possible and it is still cold so the ice is still frozen.
So why hasn’t anyone done it yet? It’s beyond me but I sure would like to do it. Sure it would be hard, but you’re going to be the first cyclist to the North Pole!