American Daniel Burton will soon set off on what promises to be one of the coldest and most difficult bike rides in history. Burton, who is a veteran of long distance cycling events, is preparing to take on his most difficult challenge yet. Over the course of the coming weeks, he hopes to become the first person to ride more than 700 miles from the Antarctic coast to the South Pole.
Burton is currently in Punta Arenas, Chile where he is preparing for the start of his expedition. In a few days time he’ll catch a flight from South America to a base camp located at Union Glacier in Antarctica. Once there, he’ll spend an additional day or two prepping his gear before boarding yet another short flight to his starting point at Hercules Inlet on the Ronne Ice Shelf. From there, only 700 miles of frozen expanse will separate him from his goal.
In order to ride in the difficult conditions that he’ll face in the Antarctic, Burton will be pedaling a fat-tire bike that is designed for handling snow and ice. The unique surface conditions on the frozen continent are far more conducive to cross country skiers than cyclists, and he’ll need to be on a constant look out for patches of ice and dangerous crevasses that could quickly spell an end to the expedition. Additionally, deep snow, high winds, incredibly cold temperatures and blizzard conditions will all work against him in his quest to complete this ride to the South Pole.
Burton isn’t the first person to attempt to ride their bike to the bottom of the world. Last year, veteran polar explorer, and Wenger Ambassador, Eric Larsen attempted the same ride but was forced to abandon his quest after just a few weeks. Surface conditions were just extremely treacherous and high winds prevented him from covering the miles that he had hoped for. It remains to be seen if Burton will have any better luck this year, but he’ll certainly face many of the same conditions that Larsen did in 2012.
Even now the weather is having an impact on Burton’s expedition and he hasn’t even started yet. The big Ilyushin aircraft that fly Antarctic explorers to their starting point on the ice can only leave Punta Arenas when they have a proper weather window. That means he’ll only be able to leave when his expedition logistics team tells him it is safe to go. That should come in the next few days however, and then the coldest bike ride ever will get underway. You can follow Burton’s progress on his website.