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This Christmas British adventurer Maria Leijerstam became the first person to pedal to the South Pole. The distance covered was 400 miles/650 km, starting from Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Challenging Maria were two other men - Spaniard Juan Mendez and American Daniel Burton.
All three people faced severe challenges the least of which included facing fierce 80 km/h wind, sub zero temperatures and the treacherous terrain. But what enabled Maria to emerge victorious was a key advantage she had over the other participants. While the men decided to opt for Fat bikes, regular bicycles with fat tyres, she went with a recumbent tricycle.
"Fat Bikes fail because they get blown over in the high winds, or can't ride fast enough through the snow to stay upright. I knew I needed something that would overcome these limitations." said Maria.
The tricycle was a custom "Polar Cycle" built by UK's Inspired Cycle Engineering, who modified their regular $3,000 recumbent trike into the approx $33,000 fat tyred that you see in the image.
The journey went on for nearly 10 days, at the end of which Maria was miles ahead of her opponents. Her modified tricycle enabled her to cover 40-60 km by cycling for about 12 hours each day.
The recumbent trike made it possible for Maria to climb slopes with relative ease, such as the Leverett Glacier which she had to cross in strong headwinds and deep snow. The trike's gears were twice as effective as those found in regular mountain bikes, allowing Maria to climb 1-in-3 gradients.
"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.
"The first five days will be tough, but I am well prepared. Then it will be the hardest climb of my life up the Leverett glacier that rises almost 2,500 metres above sea level which will slow my progress down considerably, especially as the weather conditions are so unpredictable. The weight of my kit will be approximately 45kg on top of the weight of the Polar cycle and my body weight which I have to be able to pedal up the glacier," said Maria prior to making the journey.
As for the recumbent ICE tricycle, it was built using aircraft grade steel for its strength and was fitted with 4.5 inch snow tyres to provide traction on snow and to enable the trike to float over snow and soft ice. This time lapse video shows the trike being assembled from scratch.