Blue Peter's Helen Skelton will cycle to South Pole

She's using skis and a kite too but that's her plan for January

by nick_rearden   December 13, 2011  

Helen-Skelton-of-BBC-Blue-Peter-to-attempt-South-Pole-by-bike

The BBC's intrepid Helen Skelton who is already a heroine to the UK's schoolchildren on account of paddling a canoe the length of the Amazon is now to attempt a 500-mile mission across the ice to the South Pole using a bicycle.

According to the BBC her date with the Antarctic will start tomorrow (Wednesday 14th December) and will entail spending January dragging an 82Kg sledge with all her food and camping supplies 500 miles to the South Pole in aid of Sport Relief. Presumably accompanied by at least one other person with a camera, she will be partly towed on skis by a kite "for the fast parts" and will use a specially adapted bike for the more technical stuff.

She admits to the BBC, "I didn't really think this one through. I've never done anything like it. I just didn't think about what it would entail - camping in the snow, using the water to cook your food, lugging all your stuff around, so yeah, it's been a steep learning curve."

If she succeeds, Skelton will have achieved a record for the longest bicycle journey across snow although we're now off to research the distances achieved for the legendary Iditarod races which include a category for bicycles as well as dog sleds and snowshoes.


Will Helen Skelton be riding the massively-tyred Surly Pugsley we saw at Eurobike? No, as it turns out.

16 user comments

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Some variants of Iditabike are over 1,100 miles, so this'll be nowhere close. Best of luck, though Smile

[edit: http://www.aidanharding.com/2011/12/celebrity-adventure/]

posted by David Portland [89 posts]
13th December 2011 - 15:33

2 Likes

Many people have completed the 1000 mile on a bike....BUT how much of it is snow? as i have never heard of that race before i have no clue

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8938 posts]
13th December 2011 - 15:35

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I guess one essential difference is that with Iditarod for example, although conditions sound like they are often horrendous, the route passes by a number of settlements of various sizes plus the terrain and geography differ - she's just going to be out on her own (+ crew) on the ice and snow?

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8261 posts]
13th December 2011 - 15:59

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You should read Jill Homer's book, 'Ghost Trails', it's about her ride on the Iditarod (and how she got there). Or just start with her blog - http://arcticglass.blogspot.com/ - the older entries where she lived in Alaska feature a LOT of snow biking.

Iditarod sounded grim. 1000 miles of that'd be hard graft.

posted by bazzargh [144 posts]
13th December 2011 - 15:59

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I remember reading an interview with john stamstad whose iditabike training consisted of five-hour stints on the turbo staring at a blank white wall and trying to maintain a heart rate of 155bpm... Thinking

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7435 posts]
13th December 2011 - 16:10

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Fair point about Iditarod. Competitors are required to be self-sufficient for several days if needs be, but there are resupply points on route.

posted by David Portland [89 posts]
13th December 2011 - 16:19

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Well, after the informal chat with the BBC about just this kind of thing last year that's quite annoying.

Fair play to Helen though, if she can pull this off she's certainly earned respect from 'serious' adventurers.

posted by Velo_Alex [65 posts]
13th December 2011 - 16:56

2 Likes

posted by rcinferno [1 posts]
13th December 2011 - 17:15

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let's hope there aren't any kerbs in the antarctic then, eh Big Grin

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7435 posts]
13th December 2011 - 17:18

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Iditarod is all ice and snow with the added fun/danger of running water in places where the weight of the ice has push river/lake water up through cracks.

Mike Curiak rode the whole 1000+ miles last year without any external support. No resupply at villages and no taking shelter in buildings of any sort. I think he could make a pretty good claim to having the longest snow bike ride ever.

Good luck to her, but I don't think she'll be getting far with that bike!

posted by AidanH [1 posts]
14th December 2011 - 10:27

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http://www.aidanharding.com/2011/12/celebrity-adventure/

Here's some thoughts on her "record breaking" adventure by someone who did the full Iditarod (in addition to having done the Tour Divide a few times).

posted by pjt201 [99 posts]
14th December 2011 - 11:09

1 Like

Damn, Aidan beat me to Mike Curiak Wink Rather lovely video:

http://lacemine29.blogspot.com/2010/12/iditatour-part-one.html

posted by David Portland [89 posts]
14th December 2011 - 11:38

2 Likes

Hmm, with the small diameter wheels the rear mech is close to the ground. Yes those are LGP tyres but unless the snow is hard packed, the bike will still be sinking into the snow to a degree and that means the rear mech will be dragging through powdery snow on a regular basis, which will affect chain lubrication and the operation of the gears. I've never ridden a bicycle for any great distance on snow in proper Arctic (or Antarctic) conditions though I've used my mountain bike in the snow in the last two winters here. I have done quite a bit of snowmobiling in the Arctic in Sweden, Finland and Spitsbergen though and I know how much those can sink in when the snow's powdery, although admittedly they are somewhat heavier. But if it was me riding that bike, I'd want a larger diameter rear wheel. For my money, the Surly looks the better machine.

I wish her the best of luck. She is going to need it.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2241 posts]
14th December 2011 - 12:49

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...but nice to see Dan Hanebrink is still making crazy great designs. Smile

posted by Pierre [81 posts]
14th December 2011 - 22:25

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Will she cycle back - another 500 miles?

posted by Old Cranky [276 posts]
15th December 2011 - 9:01

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OldRidgeback wrote:
Hmm, with the small diameter wheels the rear mech is close to the ground. Yes those are LGP tyres but unless the snow is hard packed, the bike will still be sinking into the snow to a degree and that means the rear mech will be dragging through powdery snow on a regular basis, which will affect chain lubrication and the operation of the gears. I've never ridden a bicycle for any great distance on snow in proper Arctic (or Antarctic) conditions though I've used my mountain bike in the snow in the last two winters here. I have done quite a bit of snowmobiling in the Arctic in Sweden, Finland and Spitsbergen though and I know how much those can sink in when the snow's powdery, although admittedly they are somewhat heavier. But if it was me riding that bike, I'd want a larger diameter rear wheel. For my money, the Surly looks the better machine.

I wish her the best of luck. She is going to need it.

At the Pole itself the snow is mostly rather hard. Fresh snowfalls are surprisingly rare, though there is wind-blown accumulation around anything standing proud of the surface.

posted by Captain Beaky [32 posts]
15th December 2011 - 17:34

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