British adventurer Maria Leijerstam, 35, has braved savage conditions to become the first person to cycle to the South Pole from the edge of the Antarctic continent. Maria raced two men for the title and arrived at the pole hundreds of kilometres ahead of her nearest rival. It took her ten days, 14 hours and 56 minutes to complete the 640 km expedition.
Despite starting days later than her competitors, Maria made quick progress on her recumbent trike, designed specifically for the challenge by UK firm Inspired Cycle Engineering (ICE). The custom-made trike is stable and aerodynamic, which allowed Maria to focus her energy on progressing through the gale-force winds and hazardous terrain.
Its design is based on a standard ICE Sprint recumbent trike, with modifications to ensure it could tackle the challenge ahead. It features an aircraft-grade steel frame selected for strength and fatigue resistance, 11,5 cm-wide snow tyres for superior traction, and gearing that allowed 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. Maria was able to ascend the Leverett Glacier, despite strong headwinds and deep snow, to reach the polar plateau. She said afterwards: “The polar cycle is amazing. It’s completely stable even in extreme wind, and I can take it on long, steep climbs that would be difficult to tackle on a bike.”
Watch the White Ice Cycle expedition documentary preview…