This global expedition cyclist is training to cross Antarctica in 2021 on an AWD Christini bicycle.
What will it take to cross our planet’s final frontier by bicycle? That’s the question uppermost in the mind of expedition cyclist Dr. Kate Leeming as she prepares to make the first bicycle crossing of the Antarctic continent on a Christini all-wheel drive (AWD) fat bike late in 2021. The 1,850-kilometre journey from the Leverett Glacier on the Ross Iceshelf to Hercules Inlet on the Ronne Iceshelf via the South Pole will take approximately 45 days at temperatures plummeting to -40C.
Prior to planning this quest, Dr. Leeming had already pedaled a distance greater than twice the world’s circumference and achieved four world firsts on her major journeys through Europe, across Russia, 25,000 kilometres through Australia and 22,000 kilometres west to east across Africa (from Senegal to Somalia).
In 2013, she started her Antarctic quest and has done four polar training expeditions in Svalbard (Norway), Northeast Greenland, Arctic Canada and Iceland to test each Christini AWD Fat bike as they were being developed, and to learn how to deal with the extreme cold.
Since 2018, Dr. Leeming has undertaken to do a preparatory expedition on each continent (except Antarctica) in either polar conditions, on sand or at altitude. She’s now completed journeys down the Baja Divide in Mexico, Iceland, the Finke River in Central Australia, the Indian Himalaya, Namibia’s entire coastline (the Skeleton Coast) and lastly in the Andes, where, pedaling on a Christini 27.5 AWD MTB, she had to postpone her mission in Bolivia after 1,100 kilometres due to COVID-19.
Throughout her journeys Dr. Leeming always contributes, particularly through her ‘Breaking the Cycle’ education program, to improve understanding about poverty and inequalities and support the environment. She has written two books and co-produced two feature films about previous expeditions.
“Real exploration cannot be done through a screen or second-hand,” says Dr. Leeming. “True perspective must be obtained first-hand as primary evidence. The great explorers and creators of history have known this, and it remains the same today.”
Her accompanying camera crew needs to be hearty as well and includes Claudio von Planta, documentary filmmaker for the motorcycle productions of Long Way Around and Long Way Down (and coming soon, Long Way Up) featuring Ewan McGregor.
Dr. Leeming’s Breaking the Cycle education initiative is aimed at helping our future leaders make informed decisions to create a better world. Monies raised by the Breaking the Cycle South Pole Project will go toward ventures in Kenya and South Africa that support access to education. She is also a role model inspiring young girls and women who demonstrate resilience, determination and commitment to aim high achieving their whole potential.
All-wheel drive bicycles and off-road motorcycles have been manufactured for the market by Christini since 2001, but now these traction-grabbing, pedal-driven machines are available in several different mountain bike configurations which excel over slippery rocks, wet roots and ice.
The driveshafts and universal joints needed for the AWD functionality add only 1.4 kilograms of weight. Having a driven front wheel which pulls the bicycle and rider forward in addition to the traditional rear-wheel push-drive mechanisms will make this feat possible for Dr. Leeming.
The five-inch flotation tires keep her on top of the snow-covered ice while all-wheel drive gearing should transport her across just about any Antarctica terrain.
“We are ecstatic to be a part of this incredible human endeavor,” says Steve Christini, founder and owner of Christini Bicycles and Christini Motorcycles.
• CANADIAN BIKER Issue #349
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